Category Archives: Midlife Crisis Column

Heels are the prison of pain…

midlife

Welcome to Midlife Crisis, a diary of being 40 something and a half in today’s world…

Personally, I don’t mind shoes. They keep your feet warm. They stop you from experiencing the squelch of dog poo and chewing gum discarded on the pavement like some surreal obstacle course.

What I do mind is pain. Unless you count watching Big Brother, I have never known real pain until I wore a pair of heels. It was for a job interview. I was fresh out of Uni, my eyes bright-ish, and in my head I knew what to wear – a suit. And in the mid 90s that meant a skirt and heels, or specifically, a court shoe. The amusing thing was, the job I was going for was for a company that sold shoes. And not just any shoes – comfort shoes.

So, you can imagine the amusement when I rock up, my heel bloodied and bandaged from my shoes. I sit, face a gargoyle of pain

These feet are in prison, I tell you!
These feet are in prison, I tell you!

where upon the interviewer takes one look at my heel, sighs and says, ‘That wouldn’t happen with our brand of shoe, love.’

High heel shoes, you see, are like the yielding whip of fashion. They dictate that we are only women if we wear them, that somehow a high heel maketh the lady and to heck with the pain. Christian Louboutin, the major shoe designer, said that he doesn’t care if high heels hurt women, and that – get this – high heels are a ‘pleasure with pain’. That’s like saying root canal work is great because it hurts. This all from a bloke who doesn’t have to wear what he makes – and that’s the point. You can’t dictate anything to anyone if you have no idea what it’s really like to, in this case, quite literally, walk in their shoes. Or Mr.Louboutin’s shoes, for that matter.

The real pain is that women are on the receiving end of this ball and chain shoe thing. We feel, as lasses, we should be rocking that sleek court-shoe-pencil-skirt thing to look the part. Yet the fellas can go comfort all the way with a nice slip on flat and still nail the male look with not an Elastoplast in sight no matter what their age, no matter how many years past forty they roll, hair greying, cheeks adopting hollow enclaves all the way to their eye sockets.

I haven’t given up on heels – the delight of feeling tall, sleek. It’s just I’ve seen the reality now. A fashion iron bar where your free thinking is welded with glue, where heels are the prison of pain. And then you pull away and run, barefoot, as fast as you can.

What do you think? Post your thoughts below…

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#EqualPayDay: I’d rather be a rebel than a slave…

midlife

Midlife Crisis, a diary of being 40 something and a half in today’s world…

The problem with time is that is supposed to make stuff happen. The quiet, clock ticking quality of it, the spit-spot way it’s supposed to develop elements around us, be a healer, even, force life and all that’s in it to move on, make change, be something.

And so to today and the equal pay between genders. See Monday is Equal Pay Day, and I say this with heavy heart. Just the words, the size of their meaning makes me want to break down and fear for humanity, or at least my pay packet. Because I sit here, writing at my laptop, over the age of forty and I cannot quite fathom that still, in 2015 – that’s post second world war, people – we are fighting for equal pay for women. I went to see the Suffragette movie the other week and women were fighting for equal rights, yet now, even though in the western world women finally have the vote  we still don’t have equal pay (fun fact! Switzerland only granted votes to females in 1971!)

What the actual f**k? I mean, sorry to go all potty mouthed here , but, seriously, what in the hell is going on? Did

The cast of The Suffragette movie telling it like it is
The cast of The Suffragette movie telling it like it is.

organisations around the globe miss the memo that we are in 2015? It makes no sense. I have noticed people, from all walks of life, commenting on those who stand up, on the women that shout that we must be paid on the basis of our ability not our sex, that we should just be quiet, wait, deal with it, that we simply need to be patient. Yes, because forty years of equal pay legislation not actually working has not been long enough to wait at all, meaning that here I am, in my mid-life and the gender pay gap not only still exists, but displays no real signs of abating.

The Office of National Statistics calculated that the gender pay gap is currently at 14.2%, meaning that it would take 54 years to reach parity at current rates. To put it bluntly, this gap means that from 9th November 2015, women will effectively be working for free until the end of the year. Super! Pay is over rated anyway, right? At this point, I refer you here to my previous blasphemous reaction from above.

What will it take to sort this? I’m 42 now and, do you know what, I’ve had it with this gap business. I thought that by now things, life, heck society would be different, believe in equality, with a government that doesn’t just pay lip service to equality but acts on it too. To think that the Suffragette movie was pure fiction would be nice, and yet now, in 2015, where we are, the whole thing feeling like a scary reality. To not give women equal pay to men is to treat them as second class citizens.

We must act. All of us. Because, as it turns out, I can’t be doing with a divide, with a gap of any kind – so that means men and women joining together and insisting on equal pay for all, no matter what gender, colour, race or sexual preference. Because, like the t-shirts worn by the Suffragette cast above say, I’d rather be a rebel than a slave. Any day (Note: let’s all buy one of those t-shirts, wear them to the office, down the shops, in parliament…)

But, when those in retort say that women should just be quiet, should just go away, I leave them, not with my own words, but with the words of Cary Mulligan’s character in the Suffragette movie: ‘What are you going to do? Get rid of us? We’re in every bloody household in the country.’

What do you think? Post your thoughts below…

Cancer is a machine gun that can fire at will…

midlife

Welcome to Midlife Crisis, a diary of being 40 something and a half in today’s world…

As you get older you realise just how much life sucks. Bear with me, because I don’t mean here that for me life is bobbins – mercifully quite the opposite. Things are swinging along pretty nicely. But while my days pootle along reasonably well, there’s one word dominating it more and more, making me realise that, without any effort, with pure non-discrimination, life can suck. That word is cancer.

Big word for a Monday, I know, but here’s the thing: since hitting my forties I know so many people now affected by the disease. Friends, family, distant work colleagues. It’s like spraying bullets in a crowd – it can, at will, hit anyone for no specific reason whatsoever.

It’s tough. I used to hear in my thirties people say how, when you age, you’ll find that the people you know start to, well, die, really. Yep, deep for a Monday. But it’s only now I’m the age I am, that joint creaking year of forty odd, that the relevance of that message from my thirties has really slapped me in the face.

I think it’s the sheer volume of people affected by the C word that’s the really, blooming shocker. It’s simply huge. We’re talking good people here, too, who can be taken by the damn thing, consumed up by it regardless of fitness or well-being or being just a plain top human being.

Today, new research announced that a quarter of people diagnosed with cancer after going to A&E in London with symptoms are dead within two months. Two bloody months. And that, well, it makes me stop. It forces me to think about how life really, when I look at it, when I pick it apart and sift among its debris, is ruler length short.

A close friend of mine, a dear, dear old neighbour has cancer and is now in the palliative care stage. It’s terminal. And it’s awful. Because despite his kindness, despite his beautiful family, his strong yet calm presence, his quiet ability to level flat a room of utter chaos, his time with us all now is limited. Walks and days out have been replaced with morphine and sitting on the sofa.

I know, for a Monday, this all may be the last thing you want to hear, all this talk of cancer and death and feeling utterly hopeless. But there is an upside. There is something I’ve finally got now I’ve hit my mid-life, and it is this: we really MUST make the most of every single moment and live it. Stop taking ourselves so seriously, don’t, as they say, sweat the small stuff. Because we owe it to those who can’t to go grab it all and don’t let go. Cancer, see, is a machine gun. And you don’t know who it’s going to fire at next. I, for one, am going to enjoy dodging the hell out of it for as long as I can.

What do you think? Post your thoughts below…

Why do mags use girls not women in their shoots..?

midlife

Sometimes I don’t half feel old. Like, really haggard. You know that feeling when everything seems to conspire against you and you catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror and you get a right shock at the age of the person staring back at as you realise it’s actually yourself your looking at? Yeah. That.

I say this because the other day I was reading a copy of Grazia, the fashion mag, and there was a picture of a girl in the beauty section. I use the word girl because I swear she was about 12 or 13. She was being a model for ‘blusher’, how you can look, ‘rosy cheeked.’ Well, if I was 13 again, I’d look rosy cheeked, too, and probably a bit more awake while I was at it. Ok, so sure, everyone these days looks younger than they are – people off to University seems to look 15 not 18, junior doctors look like should still be at

Grazia - at least having Jen Aniston means there's someone in it closer to my age..
Grazia – at least having Jen Aniston means there’s someone in it closer to my age..

school. And it doesn’t help when my daughters sit at the dinner table and count how many lines they can see on my forehead – I kid you not. You can only imagine how fabulous that makes me feel.

But, devastation aside, what’s the score with the girls in women’s mags? I googled for this column, the average age of a Grazia reader, and,  according to Bauer Media, ‘Grazia has a highly targeted demographic of 25-45 years.’ So that’s not 13 then. I’m (cough) 42, so even by my shabby maths standards, that sits me still in the Grazia demographic arena, so why the young pics? Can we not just be women? Do we have to have youth pressed upon us at all times, as if that is the bee all and end all? And so what is in store for us magazine wise as we age? Stenna stair lift shoots? Saga holiday spreads? All because we are in our 40s?

You hear it all the time – banish wrinkles, cream that take 10 years off. Sure, the pressure is on the chaps, too, but they can rock a haggard look and it gets called sexy. Just take a ganders at Hugh Laurie, wrinkles and all fronting the L’Oreal men’s campaign. Bloody hell. If I fronted a beauty campaign, the media would think it was for an old people’s home.

To be fair to Grazia, it isn’t just them guilty of using very young models in their pages. So, to all mags of Britain and indeed the western world, please, youth is not everything. Using young models all the time only makes us feel pants. We age – deal with it magazines, we have to. Let us age with beauty and a slice of dignity. And for god’s sake, whatever you do, don’t count the wrinkles on my forehead. We’ll leave that joy to my daughters….

What do you think? Post your thoughts below…

Calling all (big) kids: It’s time to bring back the conker…

midlife

Do you remember that Cadbury’s Fudge advert from years back where the kid is holding up a conker on a shoe lace but get’s distracted by his mum and a Cadbury’s Fudge bar? Ah, good times, right? I mean, yeah, the kid who the young cherub was holding his conker up against looked like the school bully, but apart from that, it was a cracking ad. The tune! The hazy, days-gone-by atmosphere! The big, fat school ties!

Conkers, see, then was all the rage.  Back in school, at break and lunch, we’d hide somewhere away from the eagle eye of the dinner ladies and their tabards (love that word – tabard) and when they weren’t looking, we’d embark on a game of conkers and hope we didn’t lose a finger. Or an eye.

I loved playing conkers, me, I mean really, really loved it. It was like dicing with death. Ok, not really, but it felt like that at the age of seven – the dinner lady threat, the fear of a loss of limb – it had it all going on. We used to put them in the oven, my brother and me. Yup, the night before, in they’d go, those nut-brown shiny conkers, to come out harder than ever. One stolen shoe lace later from my sisters shoes and hey presto, we were fight ready.

This, you see, was

In case you've forgotten - a handy guide
In case you’ve forgotten – a handy guide

the early 80s, when we were still a whisper from the seventies and its hangover of no health and safety, yet still an ocean of time away before even the slightest ripple of smart phones and iPads these school kids have today. Heck, we didn’t even have a land line, just an emergency 10p in my Brownie belt purse for the phone box down the road. It was the one next to the mobile chip van.

So I am troubled, yes troubled, to hear that this autumn there exist school children who do not know how to play conkers. A recent survey revealed that most school children in the UK don’t play conkers, with many not even knowing how to. And why? Because schools are banning the game due to fears of health and safety. So what, conkers is dangerous but an anonymous pedophile sashaying as a 11-year-old boy on Moshi Monsters is safe? And that’s the thing, that irony. It’s not just health and safety that’s driven the nail into the conker coffin – it’s technology, it’s phones, it’s iPads and gaming and social media obsession. Kids today play on their devices more than they even speak to each other face to face. Surely the consequences of that, the long-term social problems it will create, is far more dangerous than the threat of getting a bruise on the cheek from a swinging conker on the end of a frayed shoe lace?

The mighty good news is that adults are on the conker case. This week saw the Conker Champion (who knew?) crowned in Northampton and, according to Nicola Hunt, the Scottish championship judge (yes, there really is one), ‘In the 7 years we have been running the championship, we have seen more and more adults taking part – they’re just big kids.’ Well said, Nicola,

So, it’s time we told these kids what conkers is really about. Get those autumn limbs ready because my oven’s on, a lace has been nabbed from the nearest unsuspecting shoe, and I mean business. Finger nails, watch out.

By the way, for a trip down memory lane, here’s that Cadbury’s Fudge conker advert. All together now…

What do you think? Post your thoughts below…

When I was a kid, we had boxes not #plasticbags…

midlife

I don’t get the upset about the loss a bag. A wispy, fly away plastic piece of tracing paper. In this world of trauma, of a heart breaking refuge crisis, of poverty and war and downright injustice, it’s odd how we are up in arms over bags of shopping that hold our loo roll and mince.

This week in England large shops and supermarket chains have started charging customers 5p for large carrier bags, hauling them in line with other parts of the UK that have had charges for several years. And boy, oh boy is there an uproar. But,  why? When I was a kid, there was a minimum supply of plastic bags. Sure, back in the early 80s there was minimum everything – good TV,  phones that didn’t dial right round,  pizzas that weren’t sold in towers of tens – but hey, we had arms and legs and we were good at carrying boxes – yes, children, old fruit boxes – of food up the hill because if you carried a bustle of plastic bags four miles home, then you’d have no skin left on your palms by the time you got there.

Mercifully, a fair good few on Twitter have reacted with humour:

Screenshot 2015-10-05 14.43.22

 

 

Screenshot 2015-10-05 15.01.48

 

 

 

Screenshot 2015-10-05 14.39.58

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But then there are the moaners….

Screenshot 2015-10-05 15.07.12

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s mad as cheese. It’s just a bag, so get used to change people of England, just like we had to all the time growing up. Recycle, use a bag for life – France have been doing that for years. You can’t even buy a plastic bag over there, and god forbid if you make the catastrophic mistake of asking the woman at the till for one. They are VERY good at deathly stares.

Sadly, though, rather like the format of the XFactor, some things don’t change, no matter how many years we have under out belt.  In this case, we’re talking about our blessed national newspapers. Yep, if they were to be believed, you’d think the humble plastic bag was a  terrorist attack waiting to happen.  It’s nuts.

And on that note, I’ll leave you with this – actual front pages of today’s Daily Mail and Daily Mirror… Quick! There’s a plastic bag. Run. For. Your. Lives…

Screenshot 2015-10-05 15.03.17

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do you think? Post your thoughts below…

Are we all too immature to be president?

midlife

Welcome to Midlife Crisis, a new magazine-style column of a very real account of being over forty and sliding into a midlife mud pool.

Donald Trump has been told that he needs to be ‘more mature’ to be USA President. Yep,  amidst a long running feud with Fox News, Trump was  asked what he thought about criticisms that not only did he need to be  more, ‘kind and mature,’ but that Trump did not, in fact, behave in a presidential manner.

Now, here’s the thing: I can’t be doing with Donald Trump. He’s rude, sexist, doesn’t seem to apparently care what its like to struggle along the bread line of life. But, nevertheless, the immature thing got me thinking. You see, who, if any of us is mature enough to become something like President of the United States, or any country, for that matter? I wake up every day and am often amazed I’m a grown up – and I am 41 (I think…). And it’s not just me. Tonnes of friends I know who have hit our ‘middle aged years’ act like kids, in fact, we mess about so much that we get a right shocker when we look in the mirror and see, not a fresh-faced image staring back at us, but instead one marked by growing wrinkles, dark eye bags and Mr Magica style stick up grey hairs (and don’t get me started on the chin whisker…)

In a recent study into the differences in maturity between genders, it was revealed that both men and women agree men remain ‘immature’ well into their late 30s and early 40s. Now while, yes, I think we can all nod our heads sagely at this, isn’t it also true that we are all immature in our way? Most people I know, if you ask them, say they don’t feel their age and are waiting to grow up. We’ve just

Donald Trump: yes, this man wants to be USA president. Really.
Donald Trump: yes, this man wants to be USA president. Really.

moved house and it feels so grown up, the largeness of the place, the tree-lined garden, the ‘needs a lot of work doing to it’ plot it presides on. And yet I still can’t wait to meet up with friends and stay up till late singing to our dodgy karaoke machine. Ok, sure, come the next (two) days, we suffer more – headaches, aching limbs, slow, pulsing burning behind the eyes, but hey, we’re cool, right? Right..?

With Donald Trump,  his whole unsuitability to become President of the USA (God forbid. Please no, America, NO) is less to do with his apparent immaturity and more to do with him being, quite frankly, a total idiot. Basically, the man’s not a very kind or thoughtful person.

As for the rest of us, I don’t know – maybe a dash of middle-aged immaturity is just what the country, nay the world, needs. Because when we think young, we feel young – and who knows where that energy may take us? Just perhaps, first, we’ll let it lead us to the nearest sofa where our slippers are. We do, after all, as we age, quite like our small home comforts…

What do you think? Post your thoughts below…

Hoverboarding – the new mid-life crisis solution?

midlife

Welcome to Midlife Crisis, a new magazine-style column of a very real account of being over forty and sliding into a midlife mud pool.

Hoverboards. They’re a thing, right, grooving along the high ways, Marty in Back to the Future style. It’s like all my dreams come true – until I try one. It is a blooming nightmare. No one, see tells you when you get older how downright hard it is to, well,move, basically. Hoverboarding, see is like surfing, and yes, I seem to suck at that. Me and my daughter went for a surfing lesson in the Gower last year and we both got on the board and guess who fell off

Hoverboarding - it's a thing
Hoverboarding – it’s a thing. Anyone? Nope.

first and, basically, every time she got on the board (when I did, you know, finally stand up on it, that is…)? And don’t get me started on the wetsuit. Let’s just say when you’ve had two kids, wetsuits aren’t high on your list of ideal fashion items.

Getting older see, is, like bright pink lipstick, a shocker. We creak, we ache, we try to do things that someone twenty years younger can and, yes, while sometimes we do make it, it takes us longer to get there and way longer to recover.

But should that stop us? Should we wave the white flag to our ageing years and give up? Not likely. In a recent poll of 2,000 middle agers, it was revealed a third felt the stereotypical image of a midlife crisis was completely outdated. Indeed, a quarter felt the term was just a cliché, mind you, more than half (56 per cent) of men confessed they are likely to undergo a ‘lifestyle overhaul’ when hitting their mid-forties.

As for me and the mid-life thing, nah – I’m not going down without a fight. I’m only in my early forties – I’ve got some considerable living it up time left and I intend to use it.  I swim, ski, run, complete in triathlons, all be it, well, (a lot) slower. So yeah, middle-age, maybe I’ll give this hoverboard thing I shot – I loved Marty McFly. And, hey, maybe I’ll get to love A&E just as much…

What do you think? Post your thoughts below…