Earlier this summer, I was in a nightclub on the hedonistic Greek island of
Mykonos celebrating my birthday. I was knocking back shots, gyrating to naff
Europop and revelling in the attentions of the hot young men around me.
When one leaned in for the kill, I succumbed. Who would turn down a birthday
snog from a fit young bloke?
The only slightly unorthodox thing about it was that I wasn’t celebrating my
21st birthday, as my behaviour might have suggested, but my 40th – a fact
that seemed to alarm and excite my 20-something suitors in equal measure.
But so what? Turning 40 doesn’t have to mean fading into the background,
settling down and shrugging on a Boden cardi. I still think like a
20-something, so why can’t I act like one?
Forget a stuffy old dinner party or a sedate spa day at a country manor,
followed by cucumber sandwiches. On my birthday, I wanted to do what I’ve
been doing for years: having a lot of fun and not worrying about tomorrow.
Aside from a mortgage on a one-bedroom flat in north London, I haven’t made a
single concession to becoming a grown-up. I’m single, childless, have no
pension or meaningful life plan, and my fridge currently contains five
bottles of Prosecco and a pint of milk.
Fortunately, I’m not the only Peter Pan girl out there who refuses to grow up
and act my age… or how society thinks a woman my age should act.
A recent survey found that now one in five women will never have kids, and 51
per cent of women under 50 have never married – double the number compared
to 30 years ago.*
Why do you think this is? I reckon the answer’s simple. We don’t need to act
our age anymore. Society has moved on (thank God!) from the Jane Austen days
when any unmarried girl over 30 was considered forever washed-up and past
Maybe I’m just vain, but when I look in the mirror I don’t see a 40 year old,
and perhaps that makes me feel and act younger than I am. And having a
disposable income with no dependants to support means I can afford to
indulge my love of all things fun and frolicsome.
Yes, I know I should be saving into an ISA, but where’s the fun in that? I’d
rather enjoy myself on foreign jaunts (this year I’ve been to Moscow, Hong
Kong, Venice, Berlin, the Aeolian Islands, and, of course, Mykonos) and wild
nights out with friends, who incidentally are generally younger than me.
Young at heart
For me, it’s easier to relate to people in their 20s and early-30s than my own
age group. Maybe because they don’t judge me when I tell them about the time
last year I snogged a 19 year old (yes, 19!) in a London nightclub.
Or that on Sundays I like to lie around in my pyjamas all day watching romcoms
and eating crisps, rather than taking a trip to the garden centre or
preparing an organic dinner party for 10.
Or that I regularly present meetings at work with a raging hangover, whiffing
slightly of white wine, after (another) night on the tiles.
As for the old adage: “You’re as young as the man you feel,” well, these days
I only ever seem to get chatted up by younger men, and have had several
flings with guys under 30.
Does this make me a sad and delusional woman? No. It makes me an honest (and
very lucky) girl.
I always tell the truth when someone asks me how old I am, and enjoy the
double take that often follows. Some people are genuinely surprised to see a
woman like me out having a good time in a bar or a club – it doesn’t square
with their idea of what a sensible, grown-up 40 year old should be like.
The men I’ve dated have admired my sense of independence and fun, and possibly
a sense of happiness in my own skin. For a start, I don’t come across as
desperate to settle down because, at the moment, I’m genuinely not.
That’s not to say I blithely party through life without thinking about my
current status. This is truly not where I thought I’d be at 40. I honestly
believed I’d be married with two or three children by the time I reached
The fact is, I had a three-year relationship in my 30s which I thought would
result in those things, but it ended, and I was deeply unhappy for some
time. Since then, I haven’t met a man who I’ve wanted to have a
relationship with. But that’s the way life works.
And because I don’t feel there’s any value in sitting around moaning about
what I can’t control, I’m determined to enjoy what I can.
I love my life the way it is – and while I respect those of my friends who
have settled down and had a family, I’m just as happy without all that.
My motto? If life gives you a lemon, make lemonade… Hell, make a lemon
meringue pie. Better yet, cut a slice of the lemon and make a gin and tonic.
At the end of my birthday night out, my friends surprised me with a cake. It
bore just one candle – a shining beacon to remind me of all the good things
life has to offer at this age.
I wouldn’t want it any other way.
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PHOTOGRAPHY: LANCTON HAIR AND MAKE-UP: ALY HAZLEWOOD STYLING: CARA LEPS LAURA
WEARS (THIS PAGE): DRESS, JOULES AT DEBENHAMS; CUFF, FREEDOM AT TOPSHOP;
HEELS, NEW LOOK LAURA WEARS (OPPOSITE PAGE): DRESS, COAST; NECKLACE, FREEDOM
AT TOPSHOP BALLOONS SUPPLIED BY BALLOON MONKEY (BALLOONMONKEY.CO.UK) BESPOKE
CAKE SUPPLIED BY MOLLYBAKES.CO.UK *SOURCE: GENERAL HOUSEHOLD SURVEY VIA
OFFICE FOR NATIONAL STATISTICS