On the occasion of one’s 40th birthday, one can’t help but reflect on birthdays of decades past. Like, for instance, one’s 30th birthday. And one’s 20th. And even one’s 10th, which was significant because I broke my arm and my friends made up a song about me having broken a limb on my 10th birthday, and shit like that stays with you (as do the friends, weirdly).
On my 20th birthday, I was living in Walthamstow, East London, with two members of a band whose name escapes me, and working at HMV on Bond Street, where my fingers would go intermittently numb because of the proximity of the cash registers to the main entrance.
That was a weird time – a time of being so ridiculously fucking lacking in self esteem and in such ridiculous fucking abundance of body fat and chins that I had no idea who I actually was; I only knew that I didn’t want to be me, and could I please be Justine Frischman out of Elastica instead, please? I don’t really care for 20-year-old me, in all her desperate, try-hard, double-chinned glory. She needed to sort her shit out, and cut down on the kebabs.
As it happened, it took a good decade to sort my shit out. On my 30th birthday, after returning to London for a holiday, I realised that I’d spectacularly failed my 20s. They were a fucking write-off, with only a delightfully pigeon-toed son to show for them. I’d had amazing jobs, yes, and wonderful – primarily homosexual – friends, but I didn’t appreciate them at the time, and instead squandered excellent opportunities on mediocre relationships and Coronation Street. And so, in what can only be described as a mid-life crisis, I turned my 30s upside down and inside out, and changed shit up. I REALLY changed shit up.
In all honesty, I don’t know where this uncharacteristic show of bravery came from – blissful ignorance, probably, and an inability to look more than three days in the future. I didn’t give these life changes a huge amount of consideration; I just made a decision, and stuck to it, kind of like jumping in the deep end and hoping that I’d resurface eventually.
And yeah, I resurfaced. It took a couple of years, and a haircut, but I resurfaced, and motherfucker, my 30s were fucking brilliant as a result. Except for that one time I threw a pan of spaghetti across the garden, but in my defence, I hadn’t discovered happy pills yet, and I was real tired.
My 30s were brilliant because I finally – FINALLY – figured out me. I don’t want to get all “I’ve been to paradise but I’ve never to been to me” on your arse, but goddamn, “I’d been to paradise but I’d never been to me.” It wasn’t until I was 32, I reckon, that I finally figured out who I was, and became comfortable in my own (now slightly slimmer) skin and (now slightly shorter) hair. I figured out that I like running and swearing and cups of strong tea and not going out and writing silly words and reading clever words and glasses of wine and watching my kids be dicks and hanging out with my husband and wearing flat shoes and cool t-shirts and listening to podcasts and laughing. I really like laughing. I really like people who make me laugh. I really like making people laugh. I’m also okay with being a bit of a dick. I don’t look like the pretty girls, and I don’t act like the cool girls, and I say the wrong things at the wrong time – continually and constantly – but that’s okay. I’m okay with that. I’m okay with me.
And now I am 40. I’ve been 40 for two days, and so far it’s fucking ace. Granted, I’m alone with my husband in Bali, with ALL the cocktails and ALL the food and ALL the massages, so it was never gonna be a complete failure, but even so, I’m feeling pretty fucking chilled and not at all depressed about being really fucking old.
I’m okay with being old, because I’m okay with being me.