Slimming knickers for Christmas? Thanks for nothing

Hilary Fannin: At least they’ll be useful for catapulting away unwelcome lifestyle advice

Slimming knickers for Christmas? The cat is in the dog house. Photograph: iStock

Slimming knickers for Christmas? The cat is in the dog house. Photograph: iStock

 

You can imagine my disappointment when I ran helter-skelter down the threadbare stairs on Christmas morning, brimful of expectation (and just a tincture of the previous evening’s eggnog), to find that the cat had deliberately and wantonly ignored the hints I’d been dropping all month and instead of gifting me the elegant hardback I’d been hoping for had instead bought me a pair of flesh-coloured slimming knickers for Christmas.

“Slimming knickers!” I spat through gritted, mulled-wine-stained teeth. “Slimming knickers are a damn swizz, and well you know it, you rotten little ball of ageing fluff. One’s extraneous bits have to escape somewhere. If I pour myself into those double-gusset drawers, I’m going to look like I’ve swallowed a flotation device that’s currently lodged around my upper gullet.”

I don’t know if French women wear reinforced bloomers, though if I’d received the gift I wanted I might well have been able to answer that and other intimate and perplexing questions pertaining to French women of a certain vintage.

The best-selling Why French Women Feel Young at 50 . . . And How You Can Too, by Mylene Desclaux, had been right at the top of my Christmas list (along with a bottle of arsenic and a gerbil), but alas, it wasn’t to be. Desclaux, a 59-year-old Parisian blogger, has apparently stuck publishing gold with her book, which challenges the stereotype of the invisible over-50 woman, instead offering her legions of readers tips on how to find love and keep the old flagrante flag flying on the shadowy side of life’s steep hill. 

“It’s easy to be sexy,” Desclaux told a reporter recently, while sitting barefoot in a designer chair next to the grand piano in her Parisian apartment, her hair falling in a tangle of discordant locks over her delicate shoulders. And sure the woman’s entirely right; it’s a statement that many of us might agree on, although not necessarily when we’re slumped over the turkey carcass with a paper hat on our noggin and our nut roast playing havoc with the hiatus hernia.

No celebration

Anyway, you’re all busy people out there; you’ve dishes to do and bones to boil and fridges full of lumpy leftover bread sauce to deal with, so I thought I might quickly share some of Desclaux’s tips with you as you stumble blindly into another new year.

First, she suggests that you do not advertise your age. If you’re planning a 50th-birthday bash next year, cancel it. (Just keep shtum, and sit and weep in a bath of organic nut milk instead.)

Second, change your name. If you’ve got an old-fashioned, ageing name, discard it. If you’re sick to your rotting molars with your dusty moniker, trade it in for something more hip. Amelie is popular right now, and I met a nice three-legged greyhound on the beach recently called Camille, which is all the rage. 

Oh yeah, and never complain. Banish nostalgia, eradicate regret, and while your at it pare down your wardrobe to a muted minimalism and remember to get yourself a dermatologist. I quite see the logic in getting on with things and washing one’s hands of regret, and while examinations of the past and an awareness of our histories are, I think, useful, I reckon she’s right about nostalgia too. (I mean, who really wants to sit around remembering the good old days in 1979, a tent in Lisdoonvarna, playing Russian roulette with their ovaries while the rain pelted down?) 

Beware of gravity

Some of Desclaux’s other advice, particularly on sex and ophthalmology (not a pairing I’ve often discussed), is a lot harder to swallow. She harps on about moving beyond the missionary position, while at the same time seeming to suggest that, over a certain age, one should never be viewed from below. (Things droop, chins and other bits.) As it happens, she’s also no fan of reading glasses, nor of those little magnifying lights some people whip out in restaurants to read the menu. 

I can’t help feeling that the two things are related. Quinquagenarians and all the other generations should have (consensual) sex any way they damn well please, and so what if you droop? The chances are that whoever you’re drooping over can’t bleedin’ see you anyway.

Oh, I give up. I don’t give a flying frog’s leg why French women feel young at 50, or any other age either, for that matter. And as for the slimming knickers, they’ll come in useful for catapulting such tomes into a place where the soleil don’t shine.

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