Sharon Stone’s advice for empty nesters is ... not bad actually
Hilary Fannin: There is a world of possibility beyond the creaking gate
Actress Sharon Stone who, at 58, has her own ideas about ageing gracefully. Photograph: Michael Kovac/Getty Images
I was slumped against the kitchen counter in my rubber gloves, idly eating bits of rubbery-tasting bread, wondering when the cat might kick the bucket, and scrolling through yet another celebrity news digest. At which point I came across a couple of photographs of Sharon Stone playing volleyball on a Malibu beach.
Until that point, my day had been remarkable only insofar as the cat had had a rather nasty accident, an emergency (one might kindly intuit) that should have hit the cat-lit tray but instead collided with my bed linen. On discovery of said event, I momentarily felt a dark and primal rage.
However, in an effort not to hunt her down and bodily fling her out of the bedroom window, I allowed myself to consider that she might be ill, picturing her hobbling around the house with a little pussycat colostomy bag and a faraway look in her supercilious eyes. I imagined a death-basket truce between she and I as she passed into pussycat nirvana, where the trees are made of Whiskas and the mice are on a go-slow.
No such luck. When I came downstairs, having dampened down my rage, disinfected the duvet and fumigated the bedroom, she was listening to The Archers and making herself an omelette.
Anyway, Sharon Stone is 58. The volleyball snaps on Malibu were taken while she was on a break from filming her new movie. The energetic actor was wearing aviator shades and a pair of teeny red shorts and sporting a stringy little bikini top made out of recycled cat gut.
It was around that point of the day, with a piece of yesterday’s spelt stuck in my craw, the spidery veins at the back of my knees gently pulsing, the heady aroma of Ajax tickling my nostrils and the bile of rage still swilling around in my less than rock-hard stomach, that I began to question what kind of future I envisaged for myself at 58, when my children might have flown the coop and there’d be just myself (and the barely continent moggie) to consider.
Recently, speculations of this kind seem to have been a feature of conversations with various friends and acquaintances, women around my age and stage, fiftysomethings suffering from (or embracing with gusto) empty-nest syndrome.
One woman I met in the frozen-food aisle could barely contain her upset when telling me about her child’s imminent plans to live abroad for a couple of years, the countdown to her daughter’s flight preoccupying her days and consuming her thoughts.
“What will I do with myself?” she asked me.
I was tempted to suggest that she take up volleyball, buy herself some aviator shades and get her crumpled ass over to Malibu, but sometimes I worry that I have one of those conditions where your varicose veins strangle your sentimentality duct, an ailment that speedily progresses towards a catastrophic lack of empathy.
Surely, having your adult offspring leave home to confidently beat a path through Venezuela or Vancouver is preferable to them staying on against their will, living with ageing parents, caught in a skint limbo of unaffordable futures, snuggling down under their childhood Barbie duvets in reading glasses and sipping hot milk out of a shot glass.
“You have work,” I told the frozen-food-aisle woman.
“Yes,” she sighed. “I suppose I do.”
“Maybe you could take up a ball sport?” I suggested quietly.
“I’ll miss him,” another, more pragmatic friend emailed recently, referring to her son, who has an opportunity to study abroad. “But at the same time I’ll be chasing him out of the house with a hot poker.”
A volleyballing quinquagenarian movie star wouldn’t normally be the first woman I’d suggest to tentative empty-nesters seeking lifestyle advice. Later, though, sitting on the stairs with a cup of coffee, in an effort to find some space in a house that seemed to be full of people in Doc Martens asking me if I’d seen their headphones and wondering if there was anything to eat, I thought that perhaps I should have pointed my frozen-food-aisle mate in Stone’s direction.
Questioned about her physique and her attitude to ageing, having just posed nude for Harper’s Bazaar, she reflected, somewhat tritely (and I paraphrase wildly here), that her ass might look like a bag of flapjacks but that being present and having fun and liking yourself was what mattered.
What she was saying, I suppose, is that there’s a world of possibility beyond the creaking gate.
I’m buying the cat a backpack.