Supermarket checkouts used to stress me out. I would wildly lob items onto the conveyor belt at one end and lob them back into the trolley at the other, all the time with a frantic and apologetic eye on the queue behind.
Multi-tasking impressively, I would be simultaneously ransacking my handbag, searching for my purse which, for a nightmarish moment I always thought I'd forgotten. This kind of pressure should carry a Health and Safety warning.
Recently however, a small but satisfying change took place. Placing goods into my trolley, I was tranquility personified. I experienced no compulsion to rush, despite steely glares from the lady behind with her half moon spectacles and hair like a walnut whip.
I pondered the reason for this sudden checkout poise.
Glancing at my purchases I spotted a possible explanation in the unlikely form of body lotion. Dove Pro Age! Try as I might I couldn't remember actively choosing it, the only solution being that it had been a decision made out of my control. A sub-conscious recognition of the onset of middle age.
Here I stand. Just turned 40. Older, wiser, a bit wrinklier, and laughing in the face of supermarket checkout stress.
Also desperately hoping I hadn't slipped some Egg Nog in my trolley too.
All very well that. But what about the 40-year-old in the mirror? Just recently a friend of mine posted a photograph on Facebook. It's a close up of my 21-year-old face and I can't stop staring at it. It's not envy or melancholy, just fascination. It doesn't even look like me.
I have a relatively blithe attitude to my advancing years. Plastic surgery is certainly out of the question. I am from Lancashire after all.
But what effect does having an older mum have on my child?
I have a vivid memory of our primary school Christmas play. I must have been about seven. My mum was a teacher at the school so all my friends knew her. Not though, their visiting siblings. Mum was responsible for the musical accompaniment. My friend's older sister made a comment that stuck with me,
"Who's the granny playing piano?"
My friend flashed me a glance of obvious embarrassment and horror, no doubt envisioning imminent bloodshed. In an act belying my character, I shook my head curtly in order to prevent a fracas. To my eternal shame, I failed to defend my mother by announcing that "the granny" was, in fact, the best mum you could wish for. I wasn't ashamed of her but I wanted to avoid confrontation.
My mum was almost 40 when she had me. An elderly primagravida. To me, of course, she was simply mum. Until that incident I wasn't even aware that she was substantially older than those of my peers. In all honesty it never bothered me. I was and always will be, immensly proud of my mother for reasons too numerous to mention and which bear no relation to our 40 year age gap.
Also an elderly primagravida at 36 when I had my daughter I was the oldest in the maternity unit by at least ten years. But that is no longer the norm.
There is an irony here which deserves a mention. Our mid-life celebrities, those Hollywood stars, whose sole purpose it seems, is to inflame our insecurities with their ironed faces and peachy buttocks are now also bearing children post the big four-0. And I suspect they have played not an insubstantial role in making the more mature mother not only more acceptable but somewhat cool. Botox or no Botox.
So all you elderly primigravidas out there, more power to your elbow I say!
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