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Let us grow old without the guilt

IN MY MOTHER’S ERA, middle-aged women were content to be middle-aged women. They wouldn’t dream of trying to fit into their teenage daughter’s jeans or befriend their friends on Facebook, if there was such a thing back then.

I remember whispered concern about a particular woman who would walk miles to maintain a stick-like figure but, mostly, women had a healthy approach to life. Manic walker aside, I don’t remember anyone looking like a whippet unless born that way and there was no power walking with weights or hiring a personal trainer to work on “abs”. Cross-fit? That would be exercising with a bad attitude.

There were no gym junkies because there were no gyms and a weekly game of tennis was the sociable exercise of choice. My mother had a friend called Lorna Jane but she wasn’t a gym clothing icon, her surname was Smith, not Clarkson.

The more adventurous souls took up yoga when the fad hit my little country town and I recall my nicely rounded mum proudly showing us how she could balance on her head on the lounge room carpet. She and her peers settled into middle-age with an accepting sigh and laughed off a couple of gained kilos or a midriff that bore testimony to three children and the odd cream scone.

These women occasionally went on a diet “on Monday” after a particularly “naughty” weekend of too much Chicken a la King and Rhubarb Fool at Dorothy’s (such a good cook) but, generally, everyone embraced their age without much fanfare.

Interestingly, they’ve mostly all reached a ripe old age of 80 and beyond.

Now that I’m middle-aged myself, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend. Some of my peers are buying into the idea that middle age is the new 30-something. Here’s the thing, it’s not.

When you’re 30 your perfect Cindy-esque moles don’t start propagating and your eyebrows don’t gain a life of their own.

One of the blessings in disguise about growing older is the eyes grow dim just at a time when every minute detail needs attention before leaving the house. I say blessing because soft focus is what I get when I peer in the mirror sans reading glasses.

It’s not that I am against the middle-aged embracing health, I just don’t like them sharing their fads with me. By all means, limit your intake of processed carbs and sugar. Feel free to partake in age-defying potions or even take up triathlons, just don’t let us lesser mortals know about it particularly since we’ve just discovered macaroons.

And, anyhow, fresh from watching the French movie, A Lady in Paris, I am certain it’s the character, not the body we need to be working on. The embittered, lonely, acerbic, wealthy, glamorous and once-feted old woman at the heart of the story was reason enough to forget the body and hone the character.

And while this grumpy middle-aged woman is at it, please don’t do selfies on Facebook. Leave that to teens. And don’t change your profile pic every week. Enough said. Oh, one more thing, I’m not advocating letting it all hang out, I walk regularly and eat healthily, I promise. All I’m saying is please give the rest of us middle-aged women a break. Let us eat, drink and be merry should we choose to do so. And let us grow old gracefully, graciously but, most of all, guilt-free. We’ve earned it.

This article was published in The Courier Mail, 8th August 2013