Jane Gordon, age unknown, mother, grandmother and 24/7 childminder
It is a brisk but sunny early autumn day and I am about to embark on my first dog-talk of the Michaelmas Term with my BFF Belle. To say that I am looking forward to this meet-up is an understatement, because after such a protracted summer – during which we have had very little one-to-one talking time – we have a lot to catch up on.
But curiously, as soon as we are walking in step (counting our steps), the subject we had both set out thinking we would discuss (our grown-up children) is abandoned in favour of a deep discussion about reaching (don’t smirk) the autumn (or Michaelmas) of our days.
This is chiefly because we are just a week away from Belle’s birthday and neither of us can quite believe we are so very, well, OLD. ‘Do you suppose the reason why we love autumn so much these days is something to do with our age?’ Belle suggests. ‘I mean, I always used to be so sad to say goodbye to summer, even in the days when it signalled the children going back to school. But this year, I am thinking thank God that’s over; no more pedicures, no more barbecues, no more superfood salads.’
We list autumn’s guilty pleasures: forgiving fashion, Strictly and Sunday roasts
‘YES!’ I scream in response. ‘Praise the lord that it will be six months before anyone raises the spectre of being “beach-body-ready”. Six months in which we can happily indulge in things like box sets, comfort food and hairy legs.’
As we tramp up hill and down dale with our dogs, we list the guilty pleasures of the autumn/winter season that have become all the more attractive as we grow older (‘forgiving’ fashion, Strictly, Sunday roasts, soup and so on). What worries us, as we sit down with our lattes back at Belle’s house, is the prospect of ever being able to just relax and act our age, not our shoe size (Belle’s a 38 and I’m a 39 and a half).
‘Sometimes I think to myself, wouldn’t it be lovely to give up my gym membership, my beauty routine and my size 10 wardrobe, and throw in the towel?’ Belle says. AMEN to that!
Bryony Gordon, 38, married to a very patient husband Harry, and mother to Edie, five
It is my father’s 103th birthday.
Actually, that’s not true. It’s his 75th. I remember his 50th birthday, because my mother organised a surprise party for him at our house. I was 13, and spent most of it upstairs in my bedroom, being moody and listening to Take That.
Not much has changed, obviously. Back then, 50 seemed unfathomably old. I could no more imagine being 50 than I could walking on the moon. But some of my greatest friends are in their 50s now. In 12 short years, I will be 50 (all being well). Fifty is not that far off. And 40 is within touching distance. I think I am fine with it. Things definitely seem to be getting better with age.
Mum makes a great effort to celebrate my father’s birthday, though they’ve been divorced for eons
I’d say I am like a fine wine, but a) that would be arrogant and b) I am a recovering alcoholic so it’s probably not that appropriate. Then again, when have I ever been appropriate?
Every year, my mum makes a great effort to celebrate my father’s birthday, even though they have not been together now for eons and eons. She makes a much bigger deal of his birthday than her own, as if her punishment to him for all those years of marriage is the fact that he gets older and older, while her age is fixed in time. This year, she wants us all to go out for lunch at a posh restaurant in London. She doesn’t even make this much effort for her children’s birthdays.
‘I would have thought that one of the benefits of getting a divorce is that you don’t have to bother with this stuff any more,’ I say to her, one day. She tuts me. ‘It’s just a good excuse for us all to get together and for me to spend time with my family.’ But I don’t buy it. Indeed, her dogged insistence that we all spend Christmas and Easter together, as well as his birthday, makes me wonder if something else isn’t going on.
Could it be, that in the winters of their lives, my parents are going to get back together? I’m shuddering as I write this, but stranger things have happened.