I’ll turn 52 with grace and equanimity, I told the cat

I would like to think I no longer foolishly aspire to youthful comeliness


Another year bites the dust. I’ll be 52 in a couple of days. With the grace that falls like gentle rain on each passing year, I have finally learned to live in the now, to abandon yearning, to accept with equanimity and good grace the hand that fate has dealt me.

Or some such tripe.

All that aside, however, I would like to think I no longer foolishly aspire to youthful comeliness. I wouldn’t consider, for example, employing a surgical knife or a vial of Botox to alter my haphazard genetic inheritance.

Mind you, I met a woman the other day – a contemporary, she confided (I nearly choked on my gaily insouciant little rosé) – who looked absolutely bleedin’ staggering after a couple of shots of monkey juice (or whatever it is they put in the syringes) into her dewlaps.

But no, no, forget that. I no longer wake to the plaintive miaows of the bladder-full cat, wishing myself tall and lissom with a delicately intelligent face and saucers of pale-grey eyes arranged atop a recklessly vertiginous neck.

I also no longer spend the cornflake hours slumped over the kitchen table in my baggy slipper-socks and cast-off T-shirt, my knees bobbing about like two bald truckers, trying to read the Twitter feed without my glasses on and imagining instead some alternative life that I might have lived.

A life far from temperamental cisterns and even more temperamental teenagers. A life removed from flaky paint and flakier relatives. A life free of carb-yearning and carb-spurning and the endless self-flagellation one is constantly invited to endure these days. There’s just too much damn information everywhere, too much fodder for endless reckoning and revision and pointless guilt over what you ate or didn’t eat, drank or didn’t drink, said or didn’t say, achieved or failed to achieve.

Since when were we supposed to be in control all the time; orchestrating children, careers, chakras, wheat intakes, environmental footprints, libidos and abdominal muscles like a tuxedoed little man on a podium?

“Shag it,” I say to the cat, who is now picking cracked black peppercorns off the bit of leftover battery-fed chicken breast she has found somewhere in the vicinity of the dishwasher, “we can’t all be perfect, can we? We can’t all be human-rights lawyers with ethical rocks on our mitts, can we? We can’t all be self-sufficient foragers scuttling around the hillsides wearing clogs made from recycled bicycles and filling our maws with thistles and wild mushrooms, can we?”

We certainly cannot, miaows the cat, opening the fridge to see if she can find any low-fat mayonnaise to cheer up the grim chicken.

“We can’t all live in beach huts with our shorts rolled up over our strong brown thighs, swinging around in our hammocks, listening to the World Service with a gin between our teeth, while some dude with a Jeep and sturdy penknife pan-fries the sardines over the campfire and opens the Chablis with his teeth.”

Steady on there, says the cat’s expression, too much information already.

“Enough,” I cheer, springing up from the crowded table, my eggy spoon in the air. “I’m 52! It’s time to throw caution to the under-40s and unknot the damn Spanx.”

I was about to barter the sagacious little moggy for a one-way ticket to Samoa when I remembered that, despite my advancing years, I still have parental responsibilities.

And Christ almighty, parenting is one big fetid trough to drown your shaky self-confidence in: one great big morass to stifle any incipient notion of self-satisfaction that might be seeping in through your wrinkles.

And then there’s the rivalry that sometimes exists between sets of parents – man alive, life can feel like one long bonny baby contest.

“Oh, my Johnny Mhic Johnny is aiming for 6,000 points in his Leaving Certificate. He’s put down astrophysics and molecular engineering for his first choice and if he doesn’t get that he’s a shoo-in for business, economics and baked Alaska.

“Did I tell you he did extracurricular Chinese this year, blindfolded, with one-eyed newts in his ear, and he’s fluent. Fabulous pronunciation, even with the orthodontics.

“And did I mention that he’s getting an extra 25,000 points for doing his maths exam in a tutu and that he can play the harpsichord out of his bottom?”

Could anyone point me towards the road to enlightenment? I seem to have mislaid the map.

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