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….

When in Rome…

Villa Borghese gladiator mosaic Español: (obit...

Villa Borghese gladiator mosaic Español: (obitus)// Iaculator// [——]/ Rodan[—] (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today is “Roman Day” at my eldest’s school.  There is nothing that makes the heart sink further than the thought of dressing up an unwilling gladiator on a Monday morning.  Off he went, gladiator-clad (with school blazer over the top), whinging that his Geox sandals were not very gladiator-like (I explained, patiently, that the alternatives were Crocs or his Hi-tops (which incidentally look utterly ridiculous on my thin-as-a-pin child, great galumphing shoes with two little stick legs but he loves them)  and it was my feeling that the two latter would seem rather too 21st century for Roman Day).  His general mood was not greatly improved when both his brother and friend who comes on the school run with me mocked his “skirt”.  I tried to tell him that for the Scots, men in “skirts” were totally normal and very manly. I don’t think he bought it and I’m pretty sure he is probably now at school wearing his tracksuit trousers under his gladiator skirt – a Roman with an urban edge?

Now for the first time in living memory, the sun is shining so it feels a bit mean-spirited to complain – but I’m afraid I’m going to anyway.  I HATE all these dress-up days at school.  With three children I am perpetually producing a Roman one week, Harry Potter the next, Princess Whatever the following week and, oh yes, world wildlife day – a turtle.  These costume days seem to have been specifically designed to yet again show up my parenting inadequacies.

When the children were younger, I sweated over making costumes myself, being all “Blue Peter” and “double-sided sticky tape” about it – it never worked because I am not creative like that and nor am I competitive enough.  I remember the Easter Bonnet parade (supposedly a parade of hats made by the children) at my children’s old school being more like a Philip Treacy catwalk show – don’t try and tell me that your children had any input in those creations – don’t believe it for a second. I am never going to be able to compete in that arena so my children would turn up in creations which hadn’t been made by them either but had been made by me – whose artistic abilities rival a 3 year old’s – and were therefore disastrous, bordering on pathetic.

Then I had a thunderbolt moment.  One of my sons was a shepherd in his school play and I had to provide the costume. I could feel the familiar sense of dread and panic setting in at yet another test of my creative skills and just while I was musing whether I could get away with one of my husband’s ties as his belt (answer: I could have done in the 70s but not now when school plays are as slick and professional as Broadway productions), it came to me.  Why am I doing this?  What am I trying to prove? My skill sets lie elsewhere so why am I wasting my time on something which always make me feel useless and which the children equate with ritual humiliation as the models for my “creations”?  Buy them…BUY THEM….of course, that’s what I should do.  And I did. Off to the supermarket, £7.99 for full-on shepherd’s outfit including rubber crook – bargain.

I haven’t looked back since then and now my first stop when the inevitable letter arrives home from school about some or other dress-up day is “Amazon” – a couple of clicks and problem solved and not any more expensive than buying all the material and bits and pieces to cobble together myself. Result: my kids are happy because they look normal rather than a poor excuse for a Roman/Harry Potter/Princess Whatever/turtle and I’m happy because I’ve averted a wave of inadequacy. OK so there will probably be 10 other Romans/Harry Potters/Princess Whatever (may be not turtles?) decked in the same garb (because, as I now realise, a lot of people do the same), but I don’t care and they certainly don’t – safety in numbers.

One note of warning.  Last year, I got so carried away and warmed to my theme a little too enthusiastically.  At my son’s old school, they would come dressed as characters from their favourite books on World Book Day. So what did I do on World Book Day at the new school? Sent my son dressed as his favourite character.  What were the other children wearing? School uniform.  Humiliation for my son and another black mark against my parenting record (one of many)….oh well, character-building for all concerned, I’m sure.

Pull a sickie – no chance…

Duvet Dog

Duvet Dog (Photo credit: mrwalker)

Apparently yesterday – Monday 4th February – was the most likely day in the year for Brits to pull a sickie.  I do love these completely meaningless stats that some poor person has to dream up in order to pad out the morning news bulletins. It’s not exactly earth-shattering that Monday 4th February is fairly unpopular with the working population and not one on which we leap out of bed full of the joys – after all it is a Monday in the most god-awful month of the year in the UK.

There is very little to recommend February in the UK.  I know that in January I wrote a defence of January and I stand by that.  However, I’m afraid I find it less easy to defend February.  It’s cold, it’s dark, there’s no bank holidays for ages. In fact, the only positive thing about February is that it is the shortest month.

Unfortunately for those in my line of work, pulling a sickie is not an option. As much as I might like to pull my duvet over my head, hide and only emerge to shout profanities at anyone who dares to approach me, I can’t.  There’s no sick pay in my job.  Actually when I think about it, there is no holiday entitlement, no overtime, no time off in lieu and no bonus either.  Funny really when what I do is one of the most relentless, time-consuming, all-encompassing, unappreciated occupations. When my daughter shouted at me the other day that she wanted a new mummy, I almost felt sorry for her.  She can’t fire me, she can’t even make me redundant.  She’s stuck with me – my contract is for life!  Apart from the obvious joys that parenting brings, there are upsides to this job – no power-crazy boss to report to (if you exclude my children); no office politics; no commute. On balance, I am a fairly satisfied employee of “Motherhood”. Anyway, even if I wasn’t, I couldn’t really go on strike – who would cook dinner?  Who would drive the taxi? Who would do the laundry?

So yesterday, even though I knew that joining the masses in a duvet day was not an option for me, I can’t really say that I leapt out of bed, champing at the bit to get cracking on another fun-filled Monday in February. In fact, yesterday, was one of those days that just passed without any real input from me.  I must have looked fairly shambolic as at least three people on the school run asked if I was feeling OK. One person passed off my neglected appearance by reasoning that since I was wearing tracksuit trousers, I was going to do some exercise.  Obviously this was not the case, I just couldn’t be a**** to get dressed properly – in fact, if my pyjamas hadn’t been pink stripey brushed-cotton obviously pyjamas, I’d have kept them on all day.  Not, of course, that I told her that – I just nodded – just a little head movement that wasn’t a lie as such, more of an acknowledgement.  As I have said before in my blog, I often dress as if I am doing exercise in order for people to think that is what I have done (it’s almost as good as doing the exercise itself, go on try it!) and I am absolutely convinced I am not alone in this little sartorial trick.

So today, well now it’s Tuesday and after “no effort at all” Monday, I decided this morning that I would make some effort with my appearance.  I not only brushed my hair but I also put on make-up.  This is not the normal state of affairs for the school run and it would appear to have unsettled the children somewhat.  My elder son wanted to know where I was going – he was not convinced by my “nowhere special” response.  My younger son was more to the point.  He said “are you feeling ok, mummy, it’s just that your face looks sweaty”. The sweaty look that he was referring to was my very expensive Laura Mercier illuminating tinted moisturiser.  It would appear that its slightly too good at its job – giving more of a perspiration look than a ladylike “glow”.  My daughter was much more interested in the lipstick I was wearing – she looked at it intently before asking me if she could wear lipstick when she’s 4 – I looked at her benignly – I can always rely on my daughter to appreciate how I look.  This solidarity was quickly swept away however when she said that when she wore lipstick (when she’s 4 apparently), she wouldn’t wear a colour anything like the one I had on. Excellent, so before I’ve even got out of the front door, my effort to make an effort has been totally obliterated by my delightful children.

So tomorrow if you see a woman on the school run wearing tracksuit trousers with unbrushed hair and no make-up – it’s me and before you ask, no, I’m not going to do any exercise and yes, I’m feeling fine, thanks.  That is not to say that I wouldn’t rather be hiding under my duvet, emerging only to shout profanities at anyone brave (or stupid) enough to approach me.