It’s my thirty-sixth birthday and I wake up feeling like I’m eighteen again. Well, eighteen in the sense that I’m now married, have kids, a business, a house, BILLS, and no party thrown by my generous parents in the basement of an Italian restaurant in Newcastle under Lyme but I am feeling GREAT, people, and not at all what I thought, when I was eighteen, thirty-six might feel like. I feel like I am eighteen!
My husband and I are in Edinburgh where I craftily booked him a break for his birthday that just happened to fall on the same weekend as my own birthday – what are the chances, I hear you say – and so I’ve woken up sans kids, avec hangover from last night’s boozy dinner (his birthday meal) but someone else is sorting breakfast and I can go for my morning poo in relative peace. Priorities! I nip to the loo, and ponder whether I used to have a morning poo when I was eighteen. I don’t think I saw many mornings, so it’s pretty likely I didn’t.
My husband, graciously ignoring my morning constitution, then presents me with a gift. A brown square box, so not quite the Tiffany blue a woman of thirty-six might expect, but something way more exciting for a feeling-eighteen year old like me. I open it, excitedly, to inexplicably reveal… a mango. A Man-Go to be precise and while I have no fucking idea why he is killing himself with laughter over a mango with a happy birthday message and googly eyes on it, I go along with it because that is just the crazy (and cheap) shit that eighteen year olds do for each other, isn’t it and not at all like a Dad Joke.
We slip slide down to the restaurant and sort-of-enjoy the buffet breakfast while I inwardly tut at the use of a cafetiere for bloody instant coffee (WHAT?) and I try my best to ignore the flaccid bacon and rubbery eggs because it’s my birthday PEOPLE and I’m eating a hotel breakfast instead of a hurried bowl of muesli, and my darling snot-bag kids are safely tucked 1000 miles away with their Nana rather than interrupting every mouthful with bogies and shouts of ‘Poohead’ and the other stimulating and lovable moments that you get with Family Time. And the croissants aren’t warmed and the waitress just took my husband’s plate away before he had finished his meal but HEY, I feel like I’m eighteen and eighteen year olds don’t give a shit about that sort of thing, right?
We then pop out for a bit and climb like eleventy-hundred steps to the top of a bloody mountain to reach the castle and I am panting and out of breath and want to die on the top step, but I’m telling myself that I am feeling like I’m eighteen and eighteen year old knees do not sway after climbing a ‘few’ steps. Let’s side-step the fact that an eighteen year old probably wouldn’t be hanging around in Edinburgh castle either because I was quite cultured as an eighteen year old and only spent, like, 94% of my time in pubs.
My husband has bought me a ‘Pamper Session’ in a salon in Edinburgh and I’m a little bit concerned that he doesn’t often read reviews online so there is a high chance that the nail stuff could be contaminated with the dying cuticles of OLD PEOPLE, but we arrive and it looks all sorts of middle class lovely and I relax into the nail bar chair. The girl doing my nails is young, blonde and gorgeous too and I suddenly feel very inferior and well, dare I say, a little bit haggard. She chats incessantly and I get a bit of a headache trying to be cool and interesting, like when she asks me what I like to do in my spare time, which was met with a derisory snort before I gather myself and say something ridiculous like ‘oh you know, the usual; hip-hop all-dayers, shopping in Top Shop, hanging out with friends’ like I have all the time in the world to myself. She asks what I’m doing tonight and I rather enthusiastically tell her we are going to Tuk Tuk restaurant and I’m delighted when it turns out she has heard of it! BINGO. Eighteen. And trendy. (Is ‘trendy’ a word that eighteen year olds use? Maybe I mean ON FLEEK.)
I go through to the massage room and she asks me where I want her to focus during the treatment. I let out a really long sigh. Oh god, my back. And my shoulders. And my arms, and my neck and the back of my knees from those eleventy-hundred stupid steps earlier. And my ankles, and my big toe has been aching a little recently. She looks at me a bit bemused but I bet she just thinks I have a really long walk to like, college or Uni or something.
As I go to leave, and I feel like I’m actually sixteen because all that pampering as taken years off me, the lovely receptionist with great eyebrows (on fleek, see) pushes a box of Elemis Refreshing Gel towards me. And gently, leans across the counter and says “this is GREAT. We really recommend it for aching backs and joints as you get older, I think you’ll love it.” I DEATH STARE HER. I’m feeling fucking eighteen lady. I smile, and push the box back at her. “I’ll leave it thanks,” I say. “I don’t think I need it quite yet.” She doesn’t look convinced.
We then go back to the hotel, and have a nap.
After a lovely two hour snore-fest, and a bit of vagercise which is infinitely better than when I was eighteen, we get ready and go out INTO THE NIGHT. I register that I wasn’t prepared to not Uber the shit out of Edinburgh at every opportunity and I meet the realisation that I have to WALK IN HEELS with all the muster of a Nikki Graham uber-tantrum. Fuck’s sake. My ankles! And it’s bloody freezing, even with my wool coat on. I half hobble, half shiver to the first pub and insist that we stop for a little sit-down. Sorry, I mean, drink. Wine. And a Cabernet-Shiraz, if you have it. Yes, I’d love to taste a couple to see which suits my mood better, how bloody marvellous.
We get to Tuk Tuk and it looks FUN. It’s buzzing, full of people and I know it is a hot-spot because we have to queue for a table. Whilst doing so, my foot taps along to the booming music and I can feel my hips start to jig but I stop myself in time. There’s a photobooth! In the restaurant! Oh what a joy! Less of a joy – communal tables. It’s also a bit – quite, maybe even VERY – noisy. My husband says something and I have to say ‘pardon?’ about five times before he mouths it at me dramatically. ‘NOISE-EEE. ISN’T. IT’. Well yes, but to hell with it, we are feeling eighteen, old man! The waiter pops over, we order and we crack open the BYO Cabernet Sauvignon that we bought before my husband again dramatically mouths that he has realised we are the only ones with wine, not cheap lager. And that’s when I look around the room.
EVERY SINGLE PERSON IS ACTUALLY EIGHTEEN. Every single one of them. They all have young faces and smooth skin and young puffy hair, and lithe arms and I swear either they use shit loads of Refreshing Gel or god forbid, they really are actually eighteen. They are all dressed in every outfit I owned in the ’90s too, and I see that Doc Martens have done the full 360 and are back in fashion and I momentarily consider phoning my Dad to ask him to fetch my ‘originals’ from the loft at their house and then I realise it: I have turned into my mother. I find myself saying ‘Christ! The 90’s are back!’ to my husband who looks bemused because his version of the 90s was in no way fashionable and actually consisted of coloured plastic visors and shell-suits and HEAD luggage bags.
And it slowly dawns on me that shitting fecking Nora, it’s happened. I’ve got old. Not like old old, but OLD. Old enough that when eighteen year olds look at us they think ‘Christ on a bike, you are so old’ and ‘I’ll never get that old’. Old enough to want a warm coat, old enough to want a decent glass of wine, old enough to have a little sit down and an Uber, and good sex and a nice little disco-nap before going out-out. Old enough to want to go home to my little family, in my cosy house and revel in being good ol’ thirty-bloody-six instead of traipsing around in heels that break my ankles and pretending to still love hip-hop when really I much prefer a bit of Carly Simon these days.
I might just nip back for that Elemis Refreshing Gel though, before I leave. It’s apparently very good for aches as you get older and I want to at least keep feeling thirty-six, right?