This is what 59 feels like — That’s Not My Age


Photos: Claire Pepper

At the end of last year, I turned 59. This year I’ll be 60. One of my friends gave me a card with ‘ Pop stars for people our age’ on the front, including: Frankie Goes to Morrisons and Mariah Care Home. Funny, ha ha. We chatted in the pub with one of her 18-year-old daughters, who is excited about going to university in September, and realised that if we live to 82.6 (the average life expectancy for a woman in the UK) we are almost three-quarters of the way there. That is my age and I am comfortable with it. As you can see from the photo above, I don’t do Botox or have tweakments. I’m more confident now than when I was younger; self-acceptance at nearly-60. Bring on the bus pass!

While big birthdays are seen as a chance to reflect – mostly on what we’re told we should have achieved by certain points – real life isn’t like that. As I found when I turned 40. Even though I had a good job and plenty of friends, I spent my entire 39th year feeling miserable about my lack of achievement ( no husband, no kids, no house). Then when the clock reached 40, nothing changed and I felt fine. Today, I still don’t have a husband (Mr TNMA and I aren’t married), a house or kids (but my friends’ children are my extended family). I’m busy working – no chance of early retirement with my rubbish, cobbled-together pension, I need the money and the mental stimulation. I want to carry on working. Yes, I am fortunate enough to do my own thing, to work for myself and enjoy what I do. I started That’s Not My Age 15-years-ago, after leaving magazine publishing and am immensely proud to have built up a loyal online following; the excellent conversations women of all ages have in this space drive me forward.

 

Photo: Claire Pepper

 

When I launched That’s Not My Age, I wanted to kick back against stereotypes. To share tips and advice and hopefully empower other women to stand up against the invisibility thing and call out the ageism and sexism. Undoubtedly, over the last decade, things have moved on. Yet, even though we have an ageing population (in 10 years, a quarter of the UK population will be over-65) and there are more midlife women on social media than corrupt politicians in parliament, the reality is we are still treated unequally and unfairly. Expected to defy the ageing process in order to keep our jobs/appear in public/whatever. There has been a certain amount of progress – grey hair is seen as cool, we can talk about the menopause (just don’t expect any time off work) –  but the pressure to age in a certain way, still persists.

Ageing is fine as long as you don’t look old, and have money and good health. But real life isn’t like Goop. And we are more than what we look like. Advertisers and the media continue to perpetuate the myth that young is beautiful, old is the opposite  – but they’re just trying to sell us stuff. We don’t have to buy into this or purchase the products. With our wisdom and experience, we know we can stand our ground.

Michelle Yeoh spoke of her 40 years in Hollywood, at the Golden Globes last month, ‘ Whew! OK. I’m just gonna stand here and take this all in. Forty years, not letting go of this. It’s been an amazing journey and incredible fight to be here today, but I think it’s worth it…’ Going on to mention ageism,  she added, ‘As time went by – I turned 60 last year – and I think all of you women understand this as the days, years, numbers get bigger, the opportunities get smaller as well.’

 

Photo: Claire Pepper

 

Recently, I went to my first 60th party. Surrounded by friends and acquaintances I hadn’t seen for quite some time, we all looked older and couldn’t remember each other’s names but our attitudes have stayed the same. And, just like the olden days I was jumping around to The Clash after a couple of beers. Without wanting to sound like one of those cringy platitudes/ Instagram hashtags: having a laugh, dancing and spending time with friends is good for you. Particularly after the pandemic.

In the Jon Snow programme on Channel 4, the 76-year-old, ex-news anchor visits communities around the world where people are living happy, healthy, long lives. The population in Japan lives longer than anywhere else, and the older people interviewed are still working  – one woman started making dumplings full-time at 70-years-old – and form an integrated part of the community, all exercising together and being sociable. The same happens on a small island in Greece, where inhabitants live a simple life, without much money or material things and the elderly are supported by families and friends of all ages. The presenter discovers that these places have a few things in common, namely, a healthy diet, a strong sense of community and purpose. We could really do with this kind of system in the UK. Where older people are valued and taken care of, instead of being written off and seen as a burden.

One thing I need to do as I head towards my seventh decade is find a better work-life balance and take a bit more care of myself. The last few years have involved far too many hours at the computer and my back keeps seizing up – how I laughed at the Voltarol advert in the middle of the Jon Snow programme ( and yes, I can highly recommend this product for pain relief). Partly, this is down to not getting out to as many work events, post-pandemic and spending more time sitting at a desk, but also because I’m not as limber as I once was. I’m getting older and need to keep moving. This year, I’ll be listening to my body, reviewing the way I work on That’s Not My Age and making the most of my spare time. As the author Margareta Magnusson says we need to find a way to turn ageing into an art and be creative about how we approach everyday.  ‘It’s never too late to do anything. The moment you start thinking it’s too late, then you begin to die’.

 

Photo: Claire Pepper

 

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STYLE NOTES

First outfit: denim shirt on loan from White Stuff. Silk scarf by Toast.

Second outfit: All clothes loaned from Plumo. Mule loafers from Dune London, similar HERE (this was taken a couple of years ago so exact products are no longer available).

Third outfit: my khaki jumpsuit is quite a few years old from Bliss & Mischief (no longer available but similar HERE and HERE and try Etsy for army surplus). Shoes are an old pair from Chie Mihara. Sailor top still available from Seasalt (part of a recent collaboration). Leather belt is another old thing from Cos.

Fourth outfit: VINTAGE sweatshirt from the TNMA Edit.

 

 

 



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