When I was a child I had no concept of what being forty meant. Any age over fifteen sounded ancient. I thought my parents were elderly and they were only in their late twenties. And in the past getting to forty was a proper reason to celebrate. If I'd been a cavewoman I would have been buried under a rock by now. Even in Victorian times life expectancy was disappointing. If you survived childhood and childbirth you were lucky. So one advantage of getting older is simply still being around.
But there are downsides. Firstly there's the physical side. In the morning (my daughter wakes up at five thirty) I simply can't open my eyes. In the past I would have been able to function at any time. In fact, in the old days, five thirty was bedtime. Now my body snoozes as I shuffle about in the dark trying to work out where the toaster is. I wear my dressing gown inside out and slop my tea on the floor. I thought old people were supposed to leap out of bed early and rush out to buy crab paste. But I guess that's the next stage and I'm not quite there. I look forward to it with glee.
I also suffer with age-related headaches. I struggle with the constant flow of information. When my brain was a child it liked colouring-in, making mud pies and imagining a world where I was an Olympic swimming champion and Ben Courtney (a nine year old Adonis who looked like Rob Lowe) was my swimming coach husband. Occasionally I worried about malevolent things under the bed (but only if I'd been drinking lots of Tizer). Now I'm forty-something the world, its opinions, thoughts, prejudices and grudges punch it out inside my cranium all day. I have a continually refreshing 'to do list' that scrolls across my eyes. I find it hard to sit still without typing something. I get frustrated with TV because there isn't enough typing. All this makes me want to sit in the garden constructing mud pies with my tongue hanging out - dreaming of Ben Courtney in his lily-white Speedos.
I used to look at my Gran's feet in horror but now I see mine are steadily marching in the same direction. Why blue? Why veins? Why blue veins everywhere?
I also have a straggly, white beard like a budget Father Christmas. There is a hair that grows out of my nose which returns every three months. I don't want it. I long to read interviews with other female forty-plus celebrities who talk about hair growing out of their noses. I know all about the Hollywood gender pay gap (it's depressing), I know how they battle to get aspirational female roles that don't involve playing Michael Douglas's mother-in-law but what about the beard situation?
I also hum when people are talking to me. This might be something I've always done but it's definitely more pronounced.
And to add insult to injury I will be standing on the tube trying to open my eyes and rubbing my temples and I'll see a bald man, about seventy or more and he'll be doing his best 'twinkle' at me. He's spotted my beard and thinks I'm desperate. I am not ageist. I would be perfectly happy with a seventy-year old man. WHEN I'M SEVENTY. Now piss off.
But come on let's not be overly negative. Age has it advantages. It's great that men in white vans no longer shout 'YOU SLAG' out the window as they speed past. I like the fact that sometimes when I've had a particularly bad day I get offered a seat on the tube. I like it that I can sit and watch TV and not feel I need to be in a cramped bar looking solemn whilst a bearded guy recites poetry with masking tape stuck over his eyes.
So let's romp through the advantages of growing older:
I don't care what other people think (quite so much)
I used to spend every waking moment of my life fretting about this. Even when I was asleep people telling me what they thought of me policed my dreams. Now I simply don't care (as much). Or if I do care I don't dwell on it. I reckon by the time I get to sixty I won't care at all (perhaps)
I don't make friends with people I don't like
Again I used to want to be everyone's friend. I once went on a 'friend date' with a girl and we sat in total silence. I tried desperately to impress her with references to cool bands and art exhibitions but it didn't work. Now I make a quick assessment and if we have nothing in common I jog on
I can't be arsed with chat
Like any British person I'm an expert at superficial lift conversations with a specific focus on weather and how mild/cold/humid it is. This is built into my DNA. But sometimes when this weather chat dries up I just stop speaking. In fact sometimes I don't even bother embarking on the weather spiel. I value peace and quiet. In fact I think we'd be better off just holding up a sign saying 'Weather - cold, hot, humid, wet. Blah blah. Bye,' then looking at our phones where the real action is anyway
I have realised that my period comes once a month
Now I always have what I need in the bathroom cupboard or in my handbag. I don't have to ask strangers for sanitary products or try and stuff money into an old machine that stocks giant Kotex towels that you have to tie into your pants. I don't have to be paranoid about accidents. It's a real shame as they'll probably stop again soon
I know I'm good at something
It took me a long time to hone in on writing and appreciate how much I enjoyed it. I wrote four books (each with a heroine who was suspiciously like myself) and then realised they were just like 'Bridget Jones' but not as witty. I know that I don't have a logical brain. I struggle with numbers. I like reading magazines. I can still get lost in a bit of editorial about face serums. I hate being a gender stereotype but I haven't got much time. I'll get on with what I'm good at from now on
I'm a nicer person
With youth comes insecurity. With insecurity came a constant need to slag off the competition. I talked a lot of toxic crap. I spent time saying horrible things about women I felt threatened by. I usually resorted to cheap gags about their bad shoes or hair. It always made me feel bad. Now I am only mean when someone deserves it
So there you go. The facial hair, Stilton-vein feet, flirty old men and humming are a downer but the good things balance it out. And always remember... you could be a forty-something cave woman. In which case you'd probably be saying goodbye to your short life of child rearing and running away from giant Buffalo.
Think yourself lucky bearded lady.