Youth is everywhere.
It’s in the gym for starters. I’ve just joined after an absence of 10 years. It’s the first thing I noticed. There’s such a lot of it about – hard, tanned flesh and calves that intimidate the crap out of me. Tiny shorts over tiny bottoms, looking like two small apples. I know apples are supposed to be in cheeks and peaches are bottoms but it felt wrong to say that. I’ll stick with apples. The shorts are bright and draw attention – shocking pink, sunshine yellow. Even when my bottom was smaller I can’t remember ever wanting to draw attention to it.
This youth obsession: I try to avoid celebrity mags – firm faces, firm jaw lines. Foreheads that can go out without fringes – my preferred face lift. Cheap and lasts until the humidity hits.
Even the middle-aged are young now. Divas I have grown up with, actresses I know are older than me have shaved off a few years.
I remember when Cher had womanly hips – when I idolised her. Clad in denim and singing about gypsies, tramps and the other one. Whose is this panto-face starring out of a frame that must be 70 by now? For the love of Sonny, woman, stop! A cross between Charles II and a china doll. Nothing’s moving on that face, baby. Not ever.
I have two sons to send out into the world, with only me, to let them know what’s normal in the world of women. Son No.1 joined the gym with me. That’s not strictly true – I joined with him. Helicopter parenting again. I do most of my workout in the woman’s gym and occasionally, apart from me, a woman does come in. Mostly its girls – so young they look to be still at school. They stretch and bend, bottoms in the air. I’m intimidated. Surely my son doesn’t think women look like that.
But looking around a lot of them do. On late Friday afternoon we regularly attend the gym for a workout. My wild Friday nights now involve two glasses of preservative red and a bit of telly, and my son is still under my blades (helicopter). But what are these young things wearing tiny bits of lycra doing on party night? I want to yell, ‘Go child! Go into the night. Dance on tables (the way I used to attempt to firm my buttocks), laugh like a drain with friends’. I don’t.
The beach is another place for the young. I’m lucky to live a short drive from one of the most beautiful beaches. I wear a one piece now, in slimming black. Tight and sucking in my marshmallowly bits. I hope that everyone’s eye sight is as short as mine so they can’t see my thigh dimples, and the dazzling pasty, whiteness of my body. The beach is the place for the beautiful. Where I live all the ages look great to me.
Years ago an Italian mayor banned any woman less than beautiful from the beach. There was a big furore about it. It seemed to me then that European beaches were full of all ages and sizes. Maybe because I was young and gorgeous. Or maybe our obsession with our appearance has changed us. Suddenly I feel sorry for those young things in the gym. All that time spent on how we look on the outside. Is there any time for fun, for meditation? For listening to music, having a laugh? They would still look amazing without weights and exercise balls. Running to nowhere with a mirror in front of them.
I don’t choose my friends by their looks. I wouldn’t love my sons any less if they weren’t beautiful (I don’t see how that is possible, but I wouldn’t). The husband, bless him, has aged like me. As if he’s enjoyed every minute of it and would now like to sit down with a cup of tea and a cake. I love him all the more for that. I don’t want him to show me up now, do I?