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Opinion: Why do we feel inclined to age gracefully?

It’s not often I’m prompted to deep thought because of my dog. Usually, he’s too busy licking his nether regions or skiving off to provide much in the way of inspiration. This past week, however, it happened. He met a puppy in the street and not just any puppy, but a border collie pup. All fat, fluffy and panda-like, adored and adorable.

Buster, an eight-year-old version of the same model, had what I can only guess was an existentialist crisis. I’ve never seen him react to another dog like that. A mate dryly observed that youth can be threatening and they didn’t blame him for flipping out.

Is it OK if we have a bit of fun today? Primarily at my expense, but perhaps at some of yours, too. This year, I turned 44. It’s young I know, but in the interests of total transparency, it still feels weird typing it let alone saying it. And I still, months down the track, can say it is the first time in my life that I feel a vast chasm between the number on the page and the way I feel.

I wonder, too, if it has anything to do with the lightning speed at which this year in particular seems to have raced by. There has been many days where I’ve felt as if my hands held little more than a greasy grip on a rope, playing tug-of-war with time.

My coping strategies ranged from taking up calisthenics (hanging upside down from a set of high rings and learning to do a handstand like some wannabe gymnast) to over-enthusiastic wardrobe auditing.

Oh yeah, when the Prime Minister asked (rather vaguely) last week, what is an audit? I thought … look no further Malcolm, I’m your gal. In brief, it means bringing out everything in your wardrobe (or Parliament, just saying) and working out what you’re dealing with before getting rid of the non-compliant offenders.

Forget dual-citizenship, my audit revealed material of far greater concern. Some items can only be described as optimistically clinging to their position in my wardrobe. Exhibit A. Doesn’t matter that I can still fit into that leather mini dress I found hidden, as if in shame, among my clothes. I put it on and the thrill of it fitting like a glove was very quickly overtaken by the knowledge that yes, it’s perfect; for Halloween next year or should I be required to go to a pimps and prostitutes party any time soon.

Don’t you think it’s true that we women are harder on ourselves and on each other than we need to be? So, here’s where I want to play devil’s advocate. Against myself.

We talk about age just being a number but how many of us believe it. After all, what really matters is not ageing prematurely on the inside. So yes, how many of us are bold enough to flip the bird at social conventions that tell us what’s “too old”? I tell you one thing, I’m giving it a red hot go, albeit in slightly lower stilettos than a decade ago.

We do it to ourselves and we do it to each other. The pressure to preserve, like lemons, even against the inevitable march of time. Whether it’s whispering about a friend whose “had a bit of work done” or questioning whether a woman over 40 should be wearing a playsuit in public. We give ourselves and each other a hard time and to what end?

Perhaps in part at least, to allay our own fears about changes to our life that are beyond our control.

I mean, who hasn’t had work done? I have and do not care who knows it. There’s nothing like that “well-rested look” trust me.

No doubt some of you have already judged me for being that honest, but guess what? There’s great freedom in knowing whose opinions matter and whose don’t. From being comfortable in your own, occasionally cosmetically enhanced skin. Anyway, you don’t live in the same house for 40 odd years without renovating so judge away people, judge away.

I don’t know about you, but I’m much more confident in and admiring of 44-year-old Gemma than I ever was of her 24 or 34-year-old iterations. I wouldn’t trade any of the things I’ve become, lived through, cried and triumphed over, for a perkier set of boobs. Concurrently, nor would I judge another woman for going and ordering herself some if she felt like an upgrade.

Whatever floats your boat, I say. If that’s how you wanna ride this train, there’ll be no grief from me.

Getting older, even another day older is a gift. For whatever reason, this is the first year that I’ve truly understood that. Most of us can think of someone we knew and loved who didn’t get the privilege of agonising over their wrinkles or worrying about how they look in a bikini. Or fretting over thinning hair, dad-bod and man-boobs.

Bottom line, go bald or wear a rug; botox or wrinkles — does it matter? What matters is we get the chance to choose.

My point is, I’m all for ageing gracefully but as I progress down this road, I feel like I’m more inclined to age a little more disgracefully and with a lot less judgment. Of myself or anyone else.

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