How to spot a man over forty – the definitive guide

Porsche Boxster, a rear mid-engine, rear-wheel...

Porsche Boxster, a rear mid-engine, rear-wheel (RMR) drive sports car (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A little while ago I wrote a blog post about how to tell whether a woman is over 40.  But how do you tell if a man is over 40?  Easy, you say, he manifests all the signs of a mid-life crisis – he buys some ridiculous, utterly impractical 2-seater sports car, or worse a motor bike; he starts wearing a dodgy leather jacket and too-tight jeans; he flirts outrageously with girls half his age in the delusional belief that they find him attractive when in truth they find him pitiably sad.

These things may all be true or they may just be a cliché. It got me thinking however whether in fact there are some more subtle signs which herald the onset of the 40s in a man and I believe there are.  After much observation, here is my list of the signs of an impending mid-life crisis:

– Firstly, in one of Mother Nature’s more cruel jokes, men appear to lose the hair on their head and grow it elsewhere on the body. For some reason Mother Nature seems to think that men no longer need hair on their heads but instead need more hair on their backs and in their ears and noses.  I fail to see what biological reason this body hirsuteness has – perhaps it is just a sort of rough (bristly?) justice to compensate women for the decades of plucking, waxing and depilation that we have to endure. Note – the borrowing of a woman’s tweezers by a man or a sudden interest in waxing are common initial manifestations of the onset of increased body/nasal hair.

– Secondly, the onset of male hypochondria and the diminishment of the male immortality belief. In my experience this male hypochondria often stems from the over 40 health MOTs which many men undergo.  I wholeheartedly endorse such health checks but I strongly believe men should not be given access to any of the results unless absolutely necessary.  Why?  Because men who have never ever shown the remotest interest in health (believing in their immortality), the same men who dismiss all female health problems as either “something down there” or related to the “her time of the month”, suddenly become minutely interested in the details of their own health.  They pick through the smallest print of every blood test – “My phosphate level is slightly high – do you think this is serious, am I going to die?”.  In my opinion, men are best left blissfully unaware of such things, obviously with the exception of any serious illness, and only given information about their health on a need-to-know basis.

– Questioning immortality and insecurity about future health is what drives another sign of a man moving towards middle age – exercise.  I know that I am not one to speak as I frequently wear exercise kit as a way of vicariously exercising and making others believe I have exercised when I have not, but it seems men of a certain age have all the gear and absolutely no idea. They have lycra, expensive trainers and hi-vis clothing coming out of their (hairy?) ears but how often do they actually go out and exercise? Infrequent at most would be my guess.  Although, do note, there is a sizeable subset of men who after the age of 40 take exercise to extreme levels and start competing in iron man competitions and the like (you can spot these men by their eagerness to post race times etc on social networking sites).

– Another sign – falling asleep on the sofa almost every evening at a time that could not reasonably be called bedtime.   This falling asleep can happen almost immediately upon sitting down and is usually accompanied by noisy exhalations.  These narcoleptic tendencies often go hand in hand with the automatic denial the morning after that he fell asleep on the sofa the night before. Sometimes it only becomes undeniable when a man sits down to watch an episode of a programme (having slept through the previous episode) and asks “can you remember what happened in the last episode?” to which a woman replies “Yes thanks and so would you if you had been awake”.

– Watch an over 40s man’s face the next time he is told that a social engagement has been cancelled.  He will almost certainly say things like “What a shame – I was so looking forward to a huge night out” but look carefully at his face because the relief will be almost tangible, his words are just bravado.  The truth of it is that even the most hardened of male party animals secretly enjoys his nights in with a takeaway, a beer and the TV to watch (or sleep in front of…).  In fact, given the choice most over 40s men would rarely go out except for the odd night out with a few mates – the proverbial old man in the pub evening.

So there you have it – he may not buy some wildly inappropriate car or think he is impressing girls half his age but the signs will be there if you look.  The sad truth for men over 40 is that they have now entered the realm of dad-dancing-at-a-wedding and we should probably cut them a bit of slack as they come to terms with all that represents.  It cannot be easy for the male ego to admit that he is not the man he was at 21 and actually pottering around the garden centre of an afternoon is not all that bad…

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turningtwicetwenty plus one

English: Miley Cyrus' signature Español: Firma...

English: Miley Cyrus’ signature Español: Firma de Miley Cyrus Português: Assinatura de Miley Cyrus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Back by popular demand (well anyway thanks to the couple of people who have asked why I haven’t been blogging). The title of my blog is no longer strictly true – I am now turningtwicetwenty plus one. I am now in the less appealing position of being “in my forties” rather than “forty”.  So what has changed in the year since I turned forty…well, here’s a couple of things for starters:

The wrinkles on my face have increased in quantity and depth with an acceleration which is nothing short of frightening.  I am particularly hating the “expression” lines between my eyes which are less expression and more trench.  Frankly, if they are expression lines, then I must spend the majority of my life frowning and looking grumpy which is also rather disappointing as I have always thought, clearly mistakenly, that I was one of life’s laughers.  I have to admit to moving slightly more in favour of the botox approach and I might even be tempted if it wasn’t for the extremely high likelihood of being the person whose face is plastered on the front page of a Red Top with the headline “Botox botch – woman, 41, scares local children”.

Until fairly recently, I felt that I was quite “up to speed” (I know the fact that I have used that expression demonstrates the complete opposite) on popular music but I can feel my grip slipping.  There have indeed been occasions of late when I have found pop music frankly bewildering:  Miley Cyrus and “twerking”, Lady Gaga prancing bizarrely around the X-Factor stage in some seriously unpleasant flesh-coloured granny-bags (large Bridget Jones pants if you’re wondering). Perhaps most worryingly of all, I actually enjoyed watching Gary Barlow perform his new single because it had a good “tune” (something my parents would have said which would have made me cringe and vow never to be like that when I grew up).

This has definitely been the year that I have started to fall behind with regard to popular culture.  I heard on the radio this morning that the Oxford Dictionaries word of the year is “selfie”. Now I am not so behind that I don’t know what a “selfie” is (although admittedly the clue is in the name) but I have absolutely no idea why taking random photos of myself and sticking them on some social networking site is something in which I would wish to participate. As far as I am concerned it is quite enough of a shock seeing my face in the mirror first thing in the morning without wishing to share that sight with several hundred other people.  Perhaps it is some form of narcissism, I am  not sure, but it seems at best utterly pointless to me. It is rather like karaoke – I know I can’t sing so why would I inflict my talentless tuneless caterwauling on a bar full of people who are hoping for a good night out without the soundtrack of their favourite songs being mullered?

In terms of my home life, not much has altered really over the last year.  I am still employed on a full-time basis as a mother, chef, taxi driver, laundry woman and cleaner.  If anyting I would say that my duties have been increased over the last year as my bosses have got still more demanding. One of my bosses asked me the other day what I get paid on a weekly basis.  I smiled benignly, ruffled his hair and said that I did it all for love not money (as I reached for that large self-medicatory glass of white wine). Although, big boss if you are reading this, some sort of pay rise/time off would be appreciated. The only slightly concerning change in my personal circumstances is that my youngest child is now at full-time school so I am running out of excuses not to do something worthwhile with my days.  Predictably I can think of a thousand things I don’t want to do but am struggling with that one elusive thing that would “fulfil my potential” blah blah blah.  I mustn’t do myself down, if nothing else it takes a certain sort of person to move seamlessly through as many different careers as I have managed in the last twenty years and still not manage to stick at any one thing for any length of time.

So there we have it – not much change over the last year since I started this blog, just a gentle degeneration…oh yes, and the horrifying discovery of my first ever grey hair – yanked from my head with such ferocity that if I was that grey hair, I wouldn’t be making any sort of re-emergence in the near future without serious consideration of my survival potential. Perhaps I’ll continue with this blogging malarkey – I’m not sure.  What do you reckon?  It’s either that or start perusing garden websites or the daily bargains on Achica…

My phantom pregnancy…

A pregnant woman

A pregnant woman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am back in the “office” and rather gratifyingly my clients seemed to have missed me.  The week started well largely because Monday signalled the end of half term and a return to sanity.  I muddled through the week until Thursday when my sense of humour was tested to its full.

Let me explain.  Thursday started innocuously enough.  I did some exercise – yes, I know what you’re thinking…that doesn’t sound that innocuous considering that I am the girl who dresses for exercise when I have absolutely no intention of exercising in order to appear as though I have been exercising.  Confused?  So am I a lot of the time.  Anyway, that morning I had actually been exercising and in order to maximise my post-exercise smugness, I wore my exercise kit for the rest of the day.

That afternoon I went to a meeting with a friend as part of my class rep duties.  At the start of this meeting, I was introduced to someone who is helping us with a class party.  I was still attired in my exercise clothes (arguably not that suited to a meeting).  The man to whom I was introduced seemed rather fascinated with my stomach – or at least that was where his eyes were focused (makes a change, I guess, from another part of one’s anatomy!) and he said hello and then said something on the lines of “Who’s been eating lots of chocolate then?” – yes, I kid you not, this was his opener.  Those who know me well will attest to the fact that I am very rarely lost for words…on this occasion I was literally struck dumb.

First reaction:  what the…? Second reaction:  I must be wrong, he must mean something completely different. Third reaction: surely not…he can’t mean that…perhaps he does mean that.  No worries, he soon clarified what he actually meant by digging himself into the most extraordinarily large hole with the immortal words “Oh sorry, I thought you were pregnant!”. Yes, you read that right, he did say that and not for the first time in that few minutes, I was once more left entirely speechless.

Let’s face it, you wouldn’t really take the pregnancy option with a complete stranger unless you were fairly confident that they were well into the gestation period, would you? It’s not the kind of thing you want to get wrong, is it?  By my reckoning, that would make me at least 5-6 months pregnant…I don’t know who was more mortified  – me or him when the error of his judgement was pointed out to him.

Suffice to say, the best thing to do in such circumstances is laugh and hold your stomach in ad infinitum – both of which I have been doing since Thursday last week.  It must be said that this little  incident could not have had worse timing as Friday signalled the start of a weekend in France for me, my husband and some friends and that weekend clearly meant swimwear horror.  I didn’t let it put me off and in fact I just milked it all weekend…”eating for two”, “need to put my feet up in my condition” etc.

However, every cloud has a silver lining and mine came on Friday evening at 3.30am outside a french nightclub.  As I sat outside the club waiting for our taxi,  I was approached by a man (in front of husband) –  a good-looking man in his mid-twenties I should add.  He asked me if I was tired as I was sitting down and I replied that at my age, 40, (and in my condition!), tiredness was an occupational hazard if you dared to go anywhere after midnight.  He looked genuinely surprised and said he couldn’t believe I was 40 and had thought I was 29 tops. OMG, distended “pregnant” stomach immediately forgotten as I basked in the ultimate (although clearly ludicrous) compliment.

I of course related this to my friends in the taxi with great glee – divine retribution, I thought, for the earlier horror visited upon me on Thursday. My husband and my friends were less convinced.  They pointed out the obvious (which I was trying to ignore) that it was 3.30 am, dark outside and the man in question was almost certainly wearing a very strong pair of “beer goggles”  Thanks guys!

The Jeans Diet

English: Mannequins wearing jeans in Sânnicola...

Finally we are having some good weather here in the UK…don’t get excited, the rain is returning tomorrow.  It seems to me that David Cameron et al are missing a trick here.  When you have just been trounced in the local elections, why not just go for a really cheap but effective publicity stunt – make today a spontaneous bank holiday.  After all we have fewer bank holidays than most other countries and let’s face it, the sun only makes the odd rare appearance in the UK of late. I am not suggesting that we are fickle voters, but an extra bank holiday in the sun might just get a few more people off their politically apathetic behinds.

Anyway, it’s not like me to get political, so let’s return to much more important matters  – not matters of state but matters of weight.

When I was in my twenties, I could eat anything…and I mean anything, as often as I like and in whatever quantities I liked and I never put on an ounce. All to do with metabolism apparently.  I would happily eat an entire box of Cadbury’s chocolate fingers (a personal favourite) in one sitting.  Now, even if I look at a chocolate finger, I can feeling it pointing accusingly at me and saying, “go on, eat me, I dare you,  you know you can’t just eat one and even if you manage to stop at 3 or 4, you will immediately gain a pound”.

It doesn’t seem fair that as well as having to deal with the injustices of ageing, we also have to deal with a slowing metabolism. For women, this weight likes to sit around the waist sort of like those rubber rings you had for swimming as a child.  Apparently, we’ve got to build up our cores (which incidentally, biologically did not exist before the year 2000). Well, I’m sorry but my core is less steel and more jelly and I don’t believe that will ever change.  My theory is that anyone born before 2000 is at a distinct disadvantage in all this core business as we were born without the genetic modification required to have a core.  Having a core will be seen in generations to come as a part of the evolution process and I was very much born pre-core.

My problem is that since I don’t even have the discipline to stop myself having two large slices of swiss roll (at 9pm last night), how am I ever going to have the discipline to follow a diet. In any case, most diets are so flipping complicated, you need a degree in nutrition to follow them.  Also these diets always tell you to have one day off to eat whatever you like.  The problem is that whenever I read about celebrities on diets, what they eat on the day off (the naughty day) is usually what I would be eating on the diet days – they allowed themselves a piece of bread…shock horror.

So I have decided a new approach is necessary.  As my husband said yesterday, I am 40 and I have had three children, so just accept that I am not going to look like I am 21 ever again.  OK so that’s not rocket science (my eldest son’s favourite expression at the moment) but it is completely true.

We women stress so much about weight, do men?  I don’t see many men calorie counting obsessively, or eating quinoa (or whatever that stuff is) or substituting beef mince for quorn (frankly, a crime against bolognaise in my book).  I am not suggesting that I am going to go back to eating a whole box of Cadbury’s Chocolate Fingers in one sitting (tempting as it is) but nor am I going to starve myself for the next 20 years in an attempt to get down to some magical weight that is totally unrealistic.  Anyway, until someone invents a low calorie white wine which doesn’t taste like rats’ p***, then I haven’t got a chance in hell – life is too short to give up all the pleasures.

One practical thing I have done to put my new attitude to the test is that I went through all my jeans (I have (or rather had) more pairs than the average Levis shop) and threw out all the impossibly small pairs that I really am never ever going to get into again.  I did the knee test – i.e. if I had trouble getting the first leg above the knee without cutting off the circulation, out the pair went. Very therapeutic. The jeans diet – cut out all the pairs you will never wear again. Slim down your wardrobe rather than yourself. Don’t cut out all the foods you love, just cut out all the jeans that will never ever fit you again.  Much simpler and I can highly recommend it.

How to tell if a woman is over 40…

a-ha 11

a-ha 11 (Photo credit: thierry.cote)

Do you think she’s in her late thirties or early forties?  How often do we guesstimate someone’s age? All the time.  At my age, the obsession of looking young/old for your actual biological age becomes fanatical.  So to make this job easier, I thought I would devise a little test which will accurately pin down whether a woman is under 40 or over 40. I realise this is of no great consequence nor life-changing in anyway but it’s kept me amused for the last half an hour and on a Monday I’ll run with anything that I find semi-amusing.

So, here goes, a woman is over 40 if…

– she has begun to express a desire to or has actually started to visit garden centres on a regular basis.  The odd trip to a garden centre to buy a ready planted-up hanging basket does not count and should be taken as a sure sign that a woman is still in her thirties. The sign to look out for that this has been replaced with regular and much longer visits is the acquisition of a garden centre loyalty card.

– she suddenly cuts a fringe into her hair.  This budget Botox alternative is a desperate attempt to cover up the wrinkles on the forehead but is almost as obvious an admission of ageing as the inability to raise your eyebrows after Botox.

– she has a glass of water for every glass of wine. This is a combination of middle age sensible, responsible behaviour and a morbid fear of the forties’ hangover. Although largely effective at avoiding the “hammer in the brain” feeling the next morning (and for the next 5 days when you are over 40), it does have the rather undesirable side effect of requiring numerous bathroom visitations through the night.

– she visibly shudders at the mention of wearing little shorts with opaque tights underneath. Never in the history of fashion to my mind has there been a trend which is so not designed for the over 40s. Any woman sporting this trend is either under 40, an ex-supermodel or frankly delusional.

– she knows exactly who Morten Harket and John Taylor from Duran Duran are. Say no more. Enough said.  She also knows who Harry Styles is but is acutely aware that she is old enough to have gone through school, university, two years of a job and then given birth to him.

– she remembers writing SWALK and LOL (original meaning) on letters. She also can’t quite bring herself to writing ‘u’ for ‘you’ and ‘4’ for ‘for’ when texting and always texts in full sentences – noun, verb, object etc.

– she always tries to stay in on either Friday or Saturday night.  The ability to manage two nights out in a row significantly diminishes after the age of 40 and becomes nigh on impossible after 45.  Anyway, staying in with a bottle of wine, a takeaway and Ant and Dec on the TV is ideal, isn’t it?

– she remembers when the Blue Peter garden got vandalised and it couldn’t just be fixed with double-sided sticky tape and “who shot JR?”.  These were her first encounters with crime.

– she suddenly understands the point of a lip liner pencil. Having always thought it was yet another one of those beauty cons, she now realises that without it she runs the risk of being mistaken for a clown in Billy Smart’s Circus.

– Finally, she starts blogging and banging on about it being her time now….

Things I shall never do (or never do again)

Cartwheel - Evolution #1

Cartwheel – Evolution #1 (Photo credit: Thomas Z. Photographie)

The  sun has at last been out this weekend and my children have come blinking mole-like into the daylight from enforced indoor imprisonment for the last 5 months.  Hurrah!  Finally they can partake in wholesome activities like cricket rather than the definitely less appealing screen-based activities which form such a large part of their lives, particularly in winter, only relieved of course by the odd game of Cluedo (see previous post).

As I sat outside and watched them play, my daughter who is currently going through a purple-gymnatics-rapunzel stage (sometimes all at once), attempted a roly-poly (technically called a forward roll I believe).  For one insane moment, I thought I might show her how it’s really done and then thankfully I remembered the “cartwheel incident”.

A couple of years ago, showing off, I thought I might demonstrate my childhood gymnastic skills by cartwheeling on the beach.  It became abundantly clear half way through the cartwheel that this was possibly one of my more foolish decisions.  Too late. 38 year old women who only irregularly partake in exercise should never attempt anything that they did with ease in childhood.

My cartwheel was less beautiful circle in motion and more immediate and somewhat explosive irreparable puncture.  As my son pointed out at the time, he had learnt something from my cartwheel demonstration just not what I had intended – how not to do a cartwheel and how to keep a straight face when your mother starts her gymnastic demonstration with the grace and flair of Olga Korbut but ends it splattered on the sand looking as though she has been run over by said cartwheel. Utter humiliation.

So somersaults are something I shall never do again. It got me thinking. What else will I never do (or never do again)?  I will never dive or even jump off a diving board again. My relationship with swimming pools has definitely changed over the last decade. When I was young and on holiday, you could never get me out of the pool – pools and I had a largely harmonious relationship.  Now, it’s a little bit more fractious, and honestly I’d be perfectly happy to spend 2 weeks in the sun sitting around a pool without ever getting in it.

Why? Well for the reasons outlined above with regard to my gymnastics prowess, it would be potentially mortifying to dive/jump/bellyflop off a diving board at my age – the permutations for embarrassment and humiliation actually make me shudder.

As for swimming itself…I know it sounds a bit pathetic but I don’t really like putting my head in the water now – not because I’m precious about my hairstyle (far from it…largely as I don’t really have a hairstyle as such to be concerned about) but I just don’t really like it.  A nice leisurely, but regal, breaststroke is about all I can manage these days with my head firmly out of the water.  I’ll leave the more energetic strokes to those a little younger than me.  To be honest, I never really got the point of backstroke anyway – why would you swim on your back, unable to see where you are going, towards a concrete wall?  Backstroke is pointless and to my mind potentially dangerous.

What else?  Oh yes, I am unlikely to spend an entire day (unless ill) watching back to back soap operas like I (obviously occasionally) did at university.  There was a brief period after the birth of each of my children when I dabbled in Neighbours, Home & Away, Hollyoaks and even, on a particularly bad day,  Doctors, but I managed to wean myself off them once I no longer had the excuse of sitting on my sofa for hours ostensibly feeding a baby.

However, at university, (obviously occasionally) soaps determined my daily schedule and it was not unknown for me and my best friend to spend an entire afternoon watching back to back soaps just because we could. Now however I have much more intellectually challenging tasks to complete such as deciding whether pesto pasta is on the cards for dinner (which it is today incidentally) or driving my “taxi” around the local area, picking up my non-fare paying customers and depositing them at their various required locations for tennis, football etc.  I do allow myself one little indulgence though – EastEnders.  Love it.  I always watch it and feel so hugely lucky and grateful for my little life – however miserable my day has been, at least I don’t live in Albert Square.

There are, of course, hundreds of other things that I shall probably never do or do again equally as trivial as the above.  There are lots of things, not just trivial things, which I wish I could do or wish I had done.  Equally there are lots of things that I can do now which I couldn’t have done when I was younger and that’s where the focus should be I suppose.  What would you never do now or never do again?

Woman, 40, makes anti-ageing discovery of the 21st century…

Shar Pei

Shar Pei (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

OMG (heavily into my text lingo now that I’ve finally realised that LOL is “laugh out loud” and not “lots of love” which I am fairly sure everyone of my generation thought it was) – today has been a revelation.

I have discovered something totally life-changing.  I feel like I imagine Isaac Newton felt when an apple fell from a tree on his head and he formulated his gravity theory. OK, my discovery is not sort of life-changing in an understanding-the-world sense which gravity clearly is, but for me it was a Damascene moment.

What you’re asking?  What have I discovered?  Well, you know me, always keen to share.  I’m not going to keep my little secret from you like a scientist might with a new theory until he had tested it fully.  I don’t need to do that because it is so beautifully simple, so utterly straightforward…the “retouch” button in iPhoto.

As you know I have been sweating all the turning 40 stuff over the last few months and one of the things that has caused me serious angst has been the appearance of wrinkles, sneaky little things creeping up on me so that I have seriously begun to question whether I part-share the same genetic coding as a Shar Pei.

In a previous blog post, I debated to B or not to B – to Botox or not to Botox. I concluded that it wasn’t for me although I have been sorely tempted. In yet another desperate attempt to halt the ageing process (I’ve given up on reversing it to any visible degree), I have been trying out these CACI facials.  Apart from having a name which it is extremely tempting to mispronounce – it is pronounced “CAYSEE” rather than “CACKI” – it is yet another ridiculously expensive way of not having Botox. I think although I can’t be sure (far too much technical lingo for me) that a little probe thing delivers micro currents to your face and reduces wrinkles and yanks up your jaw and cheekbones.

It hurts. It is not supposed to but that is complete rubbish, it hurts. Also your teeth feel as though you are rubbing a metal spoon over them repeatedly. Does it work?  Well, I’ve had five sessions and only ONE person has said “you are looking well” – which of course could be referring to the fact that I have bothered to apply make-up that morning and so do not look like an extra from the Rocky Horror Picture Show rather than a comment on a reduction in my wrinkled forehead.

I had resigned myself to five more sessions and then a monthly “maintenance” – until today that is.  Today I discovered the “retouch” feature in iPhoto.  No more CACI facials for me, no Botox, just au naturel.

I downloaded my holiday photos this afternoon and for the first time started playing with the editing features (just the simple ones) and used the retouch button in what would be a particularly nice photo of my daughter without the piece of chicken nugget on her chin.  To my amazement – one minute chicken nugget on chin, next minute no chicken nugget on chin.

In a state of rising excitement, I flicked to a photo of myself – could it be…could it just be that this would work for my wrinkles.  Hardly daring to breathe, I started to “scrub” at my forehead with the retouch button – all gone, smooth as when I was 21.  Admittedly, I did have to be quite enthusiastic with the retouch button in order to erase all the wrinkles but it was so worth it.

For the next hour, I scrubbed at my face in every photo and watched the years rolling away.  This discovery was right up there for me with when I discovered eyebrow waxing a few years ago after years of painful plucking. The beauty of this is that most people in this internet crazy world will only see photos of me, not the real thing.  Let’s face it my friends and family know what I really look like and would know if I had Botox so I might as well not worry about them and just put out these ever so slightly doctored pictures of myself to the rest of the world.

However excited I am about my discovery, I suspect I am not the first but I don’t care if everyone has been doing it apart from me as I feel re-juvenated and exhilarated (although perhaps ever so slightly too smooth foreheaded).  Try it!  I highly recommend it as both an anti-ageing measure and as a natural serotonin booster.