Like Othello, I have “declin’d into the vale of years”. Unlike Othello my aging has not included smothering my spouse midst accusations of infidelity or going murderously ballistic over a spotted strawberry ‘kerchief. Not yet anyway. And this, in itself is surely a cause for modest celebration.
As I’ve got older, of course many things have changed. I have more aches and pains now than when I was twenty. But my attitude to life has changed too. And this is, I most surely believe, a positive consequence of getting older, of being a #boldie.
When I was a teenager, I was disproportionately bothered about what people thought of me. How did they perceive me? Did they talk about me behind my back? Did they like me? And, most crucially, did I fit in? (The retrospective answer to that last point is a resounding no!)
Always a bit of an oddity from my childhood (how many 8-year-old girls in the late 60’s poo-pooed Jackie magazine in favour of Match magazine?) I was certainly different and attending an all-girls’ school did not help my integration with my peers. Football AND classical music? Great Scott! Arsenal statistics AND Gilbert and Sullivan? Good heavens, what freak of nature did we have on our hands? Begone foul imposter, you are no teenage girl!
I felt marginalised and different, struggling to stand upright midst the waves of self-doubt which crashed around me. This continued for many years but now I have realised that I am comfortable with who I am. Those waves have become ripples merely lapping at my (admittedly aging, slightly bunioned) feet but certainly not with enough velocity to knock me over. I am quite happy with myself, with my group of friends, with my slightly eccentric mannerisms and eclectic mix of hobbies.
In a strange way, lockdown has helped me feel more comfortable; gone are the days when I couldn’t leave the house unless immaculately coiffured. Now I merrily join my fellow hairy lockdown chums as we roam the streets during our daily exercise. Unless you have a household member who is also a hairdresser, we are all gloriously hirsute and you know what – I don’t care! “Cast aside all modesty and inhibitions,” I proclaim, “be proud and shake your shaggy locks at the world!”
Another source of pride as a #boldie is my ability to exercise. I am a better cyclist now I have retired. I have lost none of my stamina and endurance from my running days; sure, I might be a little slower than a twenty-year-old but I feel no compulsion to go tearing around the countryside. The slower speeds on a bike mean I get to enjoy the countryside rather than see it whiz past my eyes in a blur. I love the fact that I am strong and can cycle 50 or 60 miles with barely a thought; I love the fact that I am fitter than many of the young people I see around me.
What I am not so keen on, however, are the grey hairs which seem to be vying with the darker hairs for cranial domination. This is a reminder to me that I am mortal and that I am aging. I could, if I so choose, mitigate the grey with some skilful application of hair colouring and, indeed, when I hit forty I did just that, but I don’t feel the need to do so now.
I remember when I was in my twenties being horrified about the notion of being thirty and I had similar feelings as forty approached, followed close on the heels by the half century. Now I am heading towards my 60th birthday and I say, bring it on! I am proud to be a grandma (but please do not call me a granny, oh how I hate that term and the image it conjures up: that sweet, rosy cheeked plump lady, with her twinkling eyes, her grey hair in a chaotic bun with those loveable strands wispily hanging over her ears whilst her hands plunge deeper into the mixing bowl of Victoria sponge batter. That is not the sort of grandparent I am!).
In short: I am delighted to have left the young, insecure, self-conscious Deb behind; for all I care, she can still be floundering in the waves, her feet turning blue from the cold. Let her stay there for I certainly will not be rescuing her. As I approach my 60th birthday, I have discovered who I am. I can be blunt; I can quickly lose interest in many things and get impatient with instructions and annoyed at my continued inability to do anything requiring a degree of dexterity. But the difference now is that I know in advance what will irritate me or trigger a reaction and so I can either prepare for it or avoid the situation. This ability only comes with age and maturity and, although both of my sons tell me I am certainly the former but anything but the latter, I also take that as a compliment.
So, I say to my fellow #Boldies, be proud, be loud and be yourselves. To all those doubters who say #boldies are a spent force: beware! This is our time.