I am writing the CW comment piece this week as Poppy Patmore is away! As today is my 60th birthday and a bit of a milestone I thought I would look at what it means to turn 60. Obviously I am now well over halfway through my life as I can’t see myself living to 120 years. I know that a lot of people find these big birthdays thought provoking but for me it is just another number and a great opportunity to party! Nowadays I think one should celebrate every day, every birthday and all that is good about one’s life at every available opportunity.
I am so lucky to have a kind, caring and fun-loving husband and four wonderful children. I live in a beautiful town, Henley-on-Thames, and I have a great set of friends not only in Henley but scattered all over the UK and further afield. I am also blessed to have good health apart from the odd creaking joint. I have no idea how I made it this far but I am so happy to be here. So really I have nothing to complain about or so it would seem.
However becoming a sexagenarian sounds such a promising decade. All through my adult life I have been very aware that I am the same age as Madonna which has been challenging, for me, for many reasons.
Madonna is hugely successful, with a musical career that spans decades and a body that defies gravity. A couple of months ago she turned 60 and I thought well she has really put the ‘sex’ back into sexagenarian. She set the bar very high and as I started to approach my 60th birthday I looked at pictures of her and begrudgingly thought, she doesn’t look 30 let alone 60. She once said in 2016, after accepting an award at Billboard’s Women in Music event, “Do not age, to age is a sin, you will be criticised, you will be vilified and you will definitely not be played on the radio.” That is quite a tricky command as I find ageing is out of my control.
As I was approaching my 60th birthday, I decided with my friend, Jane, that jointly we would take on the fitness challenge to meet my new decade head-on. We often walk our dogs together which is an easy 6000 steps without even drawing breath in our chat. I was not even losing 1lb, possibly the coffee and cake afterwards could have been the issue. So I joined a serious gym where everyone was half my age and there were quite a few Madonnaesque bodies. It is quite a commitment going to the gym three times a week. Things have changed a lot since I last went to the gym back in the 80s. Naturally there is an app and you log in when you arrive and then it records all the exercises that you do (you can cheat a bit!). Your personal trainer or PT as they call him/her (PT meant something very different when I was young!) can see what you are doing as she is linked into the app. No chance of pretending that you have been working out regularly when you haven’t. She often messages me and alters my programme so it is like having Big Brother remotely watching me. I could go to classes; Hot Yoga (too sweaty and makes my hair go flat), HIIT (far too intense) or Spinning (apparently the instructor shouts encouragingly at you). I am sticking with the workout. Of course I have put on weight as I am so hungry after a workout and muscle is heavier that fat – that was a serious design fault by God.
Then I saw a picture of Lenny Henry who has also just had his 60th birthday and he is so skinny so he too must have thought it was time for a re-model. He has been cruelly described as having SSS (Scrawny Sixtysomething Syndrome). Obviously the author of this description preferred the lovable, rounded and jolly Lenny. I don’t think I will ever be described as scrawny and anyway it is not a good look for an older lady or so I keep telling myself as I have a piece of cake!
I am still determined to get a little fitter. I cannot give up the gym so soon as I have only been going for a month. If you can exercise and generally kick up your heels without throwing out your back or breaking your legs, naturally, you feel more vigorous than your neighbour who has trouble hauling herself out of a chair. So that is my goal to keep all moving parts moving – totally achievable.
Reluctantly I will have to accept that I am never going to have cutting edge arm muscles like Madonna – I think that would be a step too far. In my attempts to justify this defeat I thought do I really want to join the sexy Sexagenarians, an elite club with Madonna at its helm? The world seems to be obsessed with sex – are you getting enough as according to the media everyone else is swinging from the chandeliers at least 4 times a week? I don’t judge but isn’t it time to find another adjective to aspire to at the mature age of 60? Is it time to be more romantic and companionable or is that just too dull? I do feel I am a little tired to uphold the sexy look – not sure I ever actually mastered that look anyway.
Apparently there was a survey and generally most people between the age of 55 and 74 feel 12 years younger. It helps if you spend your days among younger people as they keep your mind young and active. My grandmother once said to me, “Make sure you have lots of younger friends as they will visit you in your nursing home – the ones your own age will either be in their own nursing home, or will have died”.
I was at a literary festival recently and saw many women of my age and older; some were in leather items of clothing, others in mini skirts (to be fair they had fantastic legs) and of course there were the inevitable wrinkle free faces (and a few trout lips). I am not about to get out the twinset and pearls but it does seem exhausting trying to keep the body trim, toned, fashionably dressed and sexually charged in the bedroom.
I feel as if my frantic years chasing the dream have been replaced with a delicious sense of calm, confidence, and clarity of purpose. I know where I am, what I love and what is most important to me.
So I say to Madonna that whilst she has injected an enormous phial of sex into sexagenarian, I am letting it trickle out slowly but with no regrets as I am enjoying this new phase of my life. Walking with Jane is far more enjoyable than pumping iron even if the only muscle we really work out is the one that operates our voice box. I’m not going to try to remodel my outside to correspond with how I feel inside. Because, bottom line, I don’t really want to pass for anything but what I am. I am just going to age disgracefully!