Books Magazine

Fear of Forty

By Mmeguillotine @MmeGuillotine


Z for Zillah, Edward Gorey. I have this in my kitchen.

I had something of a miserable childhood and adolescence for all sorts of reasons too tiresome to enumerate here but suffice to say that it was tough at the time, still occasionally upsetting now but these days I am mostly better than fine about the whole thing.

However, one of the things that I find hard to deal with is the fact that my grandparents who raised me in the absence of my parents brought me up to be completely lacking in any vestige of self confidence, pathologically anxious and also terrified of pretty much everything. I’m not sure why this is – they weren’t particularly nervous or neurotic people themselves but they were rather fond of Gorey like anecdotes about people, usually children or girls like myself, who had done what most folk would consider perfectly humdrum and ordinary things but somehow come to a sticky end or some other misfortune as a result. As you can imagine this had quite an effect on an impressionable mind and even though the pragmatic, rational part of my mind knows very well that it’s all a load of old tosh, there’s still a sad little voice in there that whispers ‘What if it’s true?’ whenever I gear myself up to do one of the things that I was raised to be scared of.

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It’s not all bad though. After leaving home I managed to gird my loins to do plenty of things that my grandparents warned me I would either never be able to do (get a degree, make friends, be loved, be a normal BMI weight, be physically admired, have children, have my own family, have a career, get married, write books) and some that they raised me to be extremely wary about (go on a plane, have sex, get my ears pierced, take aspirin, eat raspberries, eat sushi, drink vodka, bleach my hair, use eyeliner on the waterline, give birth, own cats, use cleaning products, use the underground) so I’ve done alright really.

However, as my fortieth birthday approaches fast, I’ve found my mind turning with increasing frequency to a few more things that my grandparents put the fear of GOD into me about or convinced me that I wouldn’t be able to do as well as some stuff that I keep saying that I’m going to do ‘one day’ but then never seem to get around to. Despite being a hater of deadlines, I’ve resolved to try to do as many of them as I can before I hit forty. I believe that having some sort of Fortieth Birthday Bucket List is considered quite traditional so I’m not claiming any originality of thought here but hopefully this should make for an interesting last few months of my thirties anyway.

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I may be forty in under four months but I can still react with childlike glee when a sparkly silver frock arrives in the post.

Okay, here goes with the list!
1. Get a tattoo. I’m booked in to have one next Tuesday! Eek and wooo.
2. See The Cure play. I can’t believe that I haven’t seen them yet!
3. Meet Aidan Turner. Him almost mowing my husband down on his bike doesn’t count.
4. Wear a bikini. I’ve dropped from a UK size 18 to a UK size 8. I think the time has come.
5. Go on the London Eye, now that my fear of heights seems to have diminished.
6. Make macarons. I have all the equipment but the thought of it terrifies me!
7. Visit Osborne House. I KNOW. I should have been before now but no.
8. Go inside Windsor Castle. Again, I KNOW. HOW HAS THIS NOT YET HAPPENED?!
9. Spend a weekend in Brighton. I’ve never been! How is this possible?!
10. Try bubble tea. Tapioca DISGUSTS me but bubble tea looks SO CUTE. CONFLICTED.
11. Go to the top of a really high building at night and NOT FREAK OUT.

There’s more things on my list too but they involve boring stuff like local restaurants that I want to try, finishing another book and making return visits to places like the Harry Potter Studios, Bletchley Park, Blenheim Palace and Hever Castle, just because. Note the total absence of swimming with dolphins, petting tigers or going up in a hot air balloon from this list. I’m such a FRAUD AT BUCKET LIST WRITING.

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So very me, which is why it’s becoming a permanent fixture next Tuesday. Unless I take my grandmother’s dire warnings about tattoos and in particular FEMALES WITH TATTOOS to heart and back out of getting one like the MILQUETOAST COWARD THAT I AM.

Christ, I know this makes Preparing For Forty sound a bit like Preparing For Death but it’s really not – I know it’s going to be awesome and I’ll be all ‘what was all the fuss about?’ once I’m over the hump (and I’ll be spending my birthday week in Berlin so I’ll probably be too drunk and happy to care to be honest) but right now, well, there’s a little voice in my head coooing ‘you’re going to be ooooooold and it’s going to be awfuuuuuul’ in a creepy Penny Dreadful sort of way. Not cool.

So, yes, a rare personal post from me there. I feel quite bracing after writing that lot down and, most importantly of all, writing it down means that I basically have to make an effort to do at least some of it otherwise you’ll all start bugging me for a progress report in October and I’ll have to FLOUNCE OFF THE INTERNET in a shame faced and avoidant manner rather than own up to the fact that I actually spent the last four months doing nothing but listen to nineties Riot Grrrl music and eating sushi in bed.

ps. If anyone can help with the Aidan Turner one, I’d be REALLY GRATEFUL. I won’t, I dunno, LICK him or anything. I just want to say ‘Hello, Aiden Turner’ then go a bit pink and run away. That’s all. Honest.

Set against the infamous Jack the Ripper murders of autumn 1888 and based on the author’s own family history, From Whitechapel is a dark and sumptuous tale of bittersweet love, friendship, loss and redemption and is available NOW from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

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