A young friend, half my age and still scampering through her life, arrived the other day with perfectly painted toenails, a crisp bright red and not a single mistake. I had to put my specs on to be sure. Not only was the polish perfect (she had painted them herself, whilst her children ate their coco-pops), but so were her toes. I looked down at my own unpainted, bent battered toes and had a little sigh to myself, but only a little one. I remembered carrying all those babies, those half hundredweight sacks of potatoes, and all that marching up and down the hill, all that stomping around in various stages of outraged indignation and I thanked my bent battered toes for their unquestioning loyalty to the rest of me. She, of the perfect toes, is careless with her youthful vitality, just as I was. I never thought, for one minute, I would cascade into a heap of wrinkles, because it just seemed impossible. It seemed so unlike me.
Well here I am, and it’s hilarious most of the time. What I have found, in these purple years, is the wonderful humour of women. More precious than any jewels, we are born with it and we can always access it when faced with challenges. We can rise, as we always have, to the occasion, joshing with each other, encouraging and teasing, propping each other up, accentuating the positive. Even when this ageing process brings us up short and sharp and sore, there is a woman near to hand to help us laugh at ourselves, in a gentle and sensitive way, because she knows exactly how we feel about our five stomachs and the cold in our bones, and our rheumatic fingers that used to play Rachmaninov and now have trouble peeling an orange.
Well I say this to all of you fabulous women.
Firstly, you really are fabulous, every single one of you, and younger women need to see us plucky old girls with a smile on our faces. It takes longer, I agree, to elevate the wrinkles, but it’s still possible, and, besides, we can smile with our eyes, our humour, our experience of life. Getting older is getting better, if we decide it is so, and what about this childlike sense of devil-may-care? That desire to jump on sandcastles and run a stick along someone’s railings, or pinch an apple from their tree. Where did that come from? I think it arrived when I turned 50 and I believe it to be the Great Consolation.
So, I’m going to make the very most of this delicious ageing process, and, when I am really old, which is a very long way off, I don’t want to be a sweet old lady. I want everyone to be saying……….oh glory, what IS she up to now?