Sixty is old to most people. Most people are 38. It sounded very old to me when it happened. I couldn’t say it. I’d got used to stuttering out “Fffffffffff . . .” for my 40s and 50s. But the hissssssssssss of 60 was hard to pronounce.
It’s senior citizen, weight round your middle, conversations about grandchildren, bad OAP jokes on the internet, memory loss. And the rest. No more getting picked up on planes. Feh. I decided to ignore the whole thing. I’m big on denial.
Years later, as I tuck my leggings into my black suede Via Spiga boots and put on my snappy short black coat, I’m unable to kid myself. It now takes me half an hour to get out of the flat and I stood for five minutes at the cheese counter at Waitrose this week trying to remember the word for parmesan.
Being older on a bad day is like being airlifted and dumped into another country – Oldagia. You land with a thud, no guidebook, a bus pass and a whacking dent in your sexual attraction. You don’t fancy most men your own age and they don’t fancy you. Ryan Gosling, 31, whom I find unnervingly attractive, would not date me.
A friend who went to a 60th birthday “do” said the women had tried hard. Plunge necks, high heels, smart dresses. But the air was thick with the palpable lack of sexual frisson. Mind you, most people were married – and it was in Henley.
If you do want a man of this age, may I suggest funerals and memorial services are good places to meet them? Something about sex and death is fundamental and powerful. Reflective men often seize the moment. That’s how two of my friends, dressed in flattering black, met their husbands. Roz said she’d never have met Robin at a party.
So am I dressed for Oldagia? Who’s dressed for it?
Look in the high street. Endless windows of sleeveless dresses that finish four inches above the knee. Trousers that start four inches below the waist. Can’t Zara make junior and senior citizen lengths? Maybe a Victoria Beckham look where you don’t have to be borderline anorexic to fit into the clothes? Just when I made the effort and got into smart shoes last week – I read plimsolls are the new heels.
My 40s and 50s were good and easy – if taken at a frantic pace. A closet gay lover caused grief (he could have mentioned en passant he was gay) but I was slim, clothes fitted, most men I fancied were available. I took the 62 stairs to my flat in Westbourne Grove two at a time and edited Cosmopolitan.
While I didn’t hum “I’m glad I’m not young any more” – at least not in the office – I’d decided a bit older had huge advantages over young. I felt attractive – enough. I didn’t have the slab of fat that’s now attached itself to my waistline. I wore a bikini.
By my mid-50s (admittedly aided by an HRT implant with a testosterone boost) I was having open-the-front-doorand- rip-each-other’s-clothes-off sex with a much younger man.
A funny age
As my 60s rolled out, I’ve stopped and stared more. I’ve lost friends, been ill and became tetchy with anyone who said they’d do things “one day”.
The post-60s is a funny time for all of us. Some friends are working as hard as they ever did (the best idea). Others have taken to hurtling around the world visiting places they don’t care about and complaining about the food. Kierkegaard said travel is the best way to avoid despair.
A few friends are openly panicked about money and their futures. The unhappily married folk who’d been muttering about divorce decided it was better to make a go of things. He said he didn’t know whether to marry again or buy a dog. He bought a dog.
You know – I did meet a man like Ryan Gosling. It was instant like. He sent texts and took me to dinners and we talked about everything. We went sailing and I felt 30 and it was lovely. No, of course he didn’t fancy me.
But – we’ve stayed friends. I love men friends. He’s given me that feeling I could get picked up on a plane again. Which is a very good feeling to have when you land in Oldagia.