I don’t do glass ceilings, I do glass desks. I also rise to a challenge…
The gorgeous @19syllables had a party at a rugby club on Friday night. Exhibit A, Livvy, Honey and I took full advantage of Mrs & Mr Haiku’s generosity with the fizz. It would have been rude not to take a photo to say thank you, wouldn’t it?
Incidentally, the party was celebrating the fact that the collective age of the Haiku family was 150 this year. Mr A worked out that the collective age of us four was also 150 this year. Even more reason for naked scrummage!
“The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.” Mark Twain
I read an article back in the summer called My middle-age dread. The article pissed me off, to be honest, the writer being more concerned with lamenting how cool she used to be rather than sharing anything particularly insightful about life in your forties. What did amuse me was the concept of death maths and reaching the point in life where the law of averages means you become closer to the end than the beginning. Statistically speaking my life expectancy is 83. I read that article one week before I turned 41.5. ‘Wow!’ I thought, ‘I am exactly halfway through.’
But why start the countdown so soon?
Next Wednesday I will be at a funeral. A friend’s mother. We will travel to the funeral in a converted Routemaster bus, the coffin in the bottom and us on the top deck. After the service we will party in a village hall decorated with palm trees, drink champagne and eat paella. My friend’s Mum died of a very rare cancer. She could expect about a year from diagnosis. That was six years ago. Since then she’s travelled in Burma and India. In July she and my friend were in Spain, swimming in the sea and feasting on paella.
Elsewhere, the mother in law of one of my dearest and oldest friends has just gone into a hospice. They are in the most dreadful countdown of all. But amidst it all my friend’s husband is still considering running two back to back marathons in the Sahara next weekend. He’s running for a charity his Mum is a trustee for. She wants him to stick to the plan.
When this woman first got sick last year my friend and I had one of those reality check conversations about what the next ten years are likely to have in store for many of our peer group. And it will be hard. Aging parents come at a time when you’re at what can be the toughest stage of your own life. Families are young and demanding, careers are changing gears to senior management, businesses are being nurtured, mortgages are in full throttle.
Life in your forties is tiring, but it’s also brilliant. You know yourself. You are building foundations for your future. For a time when someone might run a marathon for you, or decorate a church hall with palm trees. So you have the money and freedom to backpack round Burma in your seventies, even if you’re sick. For the time you inspire someone to think that they’re not halfway to the end but that they’ve still got all that life to live again.
Of course, I would be lying if I said I never had ‘fucking hell, I’m halfway through’ moments. I’m not a total Pollyanna! My confidence with my business, my friendships, my home, is as robust as it can get without being complacent. But I am not the same with relationships or sex.
I’m happy with the relationship status I bestow on my partnerships and don’t want any greater commitment than I have, but I sometimes fret that ‘what if I suddenly decide one day that I do want true love again, not just fondness, and I am too old’. I worry that I have left it too late in life to be exploring new sides of myself and often feel silly asking for what I really want when it comes to sex. I police what I say out of fear of fallout, then get cross that a situation is making me unhappy. I sit with partners and play out in my head things I will say, do or ask for, not always fully listening to the conversation we’re having but also not letting the words out. I put up with patterns that make me sad or chip away at the confidence I try to nurture.
I know I need to change this about myself. Only I can drive that process. And if I look at what I have achieved in other areas of my life, I know I have the spirit to. I just need to grasp the nettle. But that’s just something to work through. A big thing, but not an insurmountable thing. What I have absolutely no truck whatsoever with is the point that ran through the article I mentioned at the top of this piece about no longer being cool in your forties. Fuck that!
Life changes, it doesn’t become less cool. Cool is seeing my friends juggle all of the challenges of parenthood, raising brilliant little people who make me laugh constantly. Cool is the kitchen disco we have after they’ve gone to bed because why waste money on a babysitter when you could spend it on wine and cheese? Cool is sitting in a beer garden with a friend, talking out the challenges of self-employment. Cool is the smell of a new country when I step off a plane on a new job. Cool is running two marathons for your Mum. Cool is the party my friend is throwing for her Mum’s funeral.
Cool is situation appropriate, not age appropriate. Don’t do death maths, do life maths.
I posted this image in November last year, linked to a poem that @19syllables had sent me. I was never very happy with the original image; it would have been better if I’d been naked, my camera battery died before I had a shot I was happy with and the edit is a bit boring. Also, why would you take a photo for Haiku in an Ikea mirror when you have your Granny’s beautiful antique hand mirror?
This time round I wanted to draw out the reflective nature of the poem by having a double reflection in my image. I put the light behind me so that one of the reflections was bleached and a bit ghostly. I still want to play around with mirrors a bit more in some future photography, but I am happier with this image.
A couple of months ago I wrote Lightweight, exploring the issue of weight when there’s less of it. At the time I said I wanted to cover this issue more and I have spoken before about wanting to see more men on Exposing 40. Last night a friend read out a Facebook post from one of her male friends. As soon as she started reading I just knew I wanted to post it here. Happily he said yes, so I am very honoured to repost some very powerful and important words about male body positivity.
I had a busy couple of days this past weekend, (heck, the last couple of weekends), but I’ve had a lot of time to think in between and there have been a few things stuck in my head, bouncing around, that I’ve thought about sharing including one very personal thing about my journey to get in shape. This week I crossed a threshold that I’ve never crossed before in my entire life. Today I weighed in at over 150 lbs for the first time ever (152 to be exact). I don’t like to talk about my weight and almost never mention it because it usually comes with someone making a comment about me being lucky or “I wish I had that problem” but I’ve struggled with my weight all my life; not getting rid of it, putting it on. Growing up, and even in early adulthood, I was constantly inundated with people telling me I need to eat more or saying I look like I was starving and need to put on some weight or any number of beanpole references. I didn’t even break 100 lbs until I was almost in college.
One time when was about 16 I went to a friend’s relative’s house for dinner. She kept insisting I eat more because I was so skinny. She plopped seconds on my plate and pushed dessert in front of me. I tried to politely refuse but ended up giving in, and shortly after dinner threw up in the bathroom from eating so much. I never told my friend or his mom, but it felt horrible. I was so embarrassed and felt unbelievably ashamed. It was like that at a lot of dinners when I was a kid, although thankfully not with my close family. People saw my weight as a problem they needed to fix or at least tell me how to fix.
Being the skinniest boy in Junior and High school also meant I was voted most likely to get my ass kicked for no reason other than most people could. As an adult it got slightly better but still had its issues. For my first real professional job, I had to shop in the boys section at the department store to find dress pants that would fit me.
Needless to say I’ve had a pretty bad body image almost my entire life, but I never talk about it. Partly because I know so many people struggle with losing weight and see being skinny as the perfect way to be, and partly because no one takes it seriously. I’m not trying to say that what I’ve gone through is harder or worse than what anyone else has gone through regarding any body shaming but what I felt was and is real nonetheless.
But today I’m proud. Today I’m happy for me. I smiled at a scale for the first time in my life. And it was a real scale! The kind with the sliding weights and everything. And I didn’t have shoes or heavy clothes on either. This was legit.
I share this because for the first time in my life I’m starting to feel good about my body, and that’s something that guys (and particularly skinny guys) never ever talk about, but I can assure you there are lots of us who feel it. We just can’t and don’t talk about it.
I love my body right now and it makes me happy, and if I can share my happy and cause someone else feel that way too, then sharing is worth it.