My 35-year-old neighbour popped in for a cup of tea and chat. The conversation turned to "women of a certain age". My friend believes she is now "of that certain age" and has officially lost it. "It" being that certain something that young women have - that makes men want to help them and impress them without them doing anything. The more unscrupulous may be all too well aware of this power and use it to their advantage - manipulative, yes, sexist, of course, but useful nevertheless.
After oversleeping she'd had a mad scramble to get out of the house and get to work on time and had forgotten to put on her seat-belt. She was flagged down by a policeman who she swears wasn't a day over 14. She said she shamelessly fluttered her eyelashes and apologised in a girly, breathy voice .
Instead of rising to the occasion like Sir Lancelot coming to the aid of a damsel in distress, he looked as uncomfortable as if he were being propositioned by his maiden aunt. The final nail in the coffin was when he produced a fixed penalty ticket and called her madam. Not "miss" or "honey" but, horror of horrors, MADAM. She has felt depressed ever since.
I can't remember the day I lost it, "it" being so far back in the mists of time, but I remember the day I realised I was getting old. I walked into a shoe shop and rejected a pair of the most beautiful high-heeled strappy sandals in favour of a comfy pair of shoes.
At least, I consoled myself, I hadn't bought slip-ons on the grounds that they were easier to put on than strappy sandals.
Age has also precluded me from buying other desirable objects of apparel. The thought of wearing a thong makes my cheeks red - and not the ones on my face. The bolero is another garment I have caressed longingly in the shops. I even slipped one on but decided a little bolero top that stopped short of my nipples was not a good look. I am aware, before you remind me, that a bolero isn't supposed to stop short of your nipples, but look, I'm no longer a perky young thing so my nipples aren't quite as high-riding as they once were.
Ugg boots made me look like Big Foot on the rampage and in skinny jeans my legs looked like two over-stuffed salamis. Last year the ethnic peasant look was everywhere. In mine, instead of looking like a skittish gipsy girl I more closely resembled, well, a peasant. And one of those short stocky Eastern European peasants who's been eating too much borscht and dumplings.
So I've given up trying to look fashionable and have settled for looking Bohemian instead - a bit like the woman in Jenny Joseph's Warning poem: "When I am an old woman I shall wear purple and a red hat which doesn't go and which doesn't suit me."
I don't yet have a red hat but I do have a purple cardigan. I will reject beige in favour of clashing colours, book a safari rather than a week in Cleethorpes and drink tequila rather than sherry.
I intend to grow old disgracefully.
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