This is a very big year for me because – and I'm admitting to this as casually as an imminent cardiac arrest will allow – I'm turning s… s… s… Nope. Sorry. I just can't say it.
How is this possible when I'm best known for writing Puberty Blues? How the hell has this happened? Especially when I still feel about 19. But this Big Birthday milestone is motivating me to seize the day. Basically, I'm carpe diem-ing like there's no tomorrow.
I’ve never bungee-jumped or wing-walked. Not that I wantto, but I want to have the chance.
I just can't stop thinking about all the wonders of the world I've never even glimpsed – the great wildebeest migration in Kenya, Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, the Taj Mahal. The aurora borealis. George Clooney … naked.
My mind is jumping from one missed opportunity to another. I've never bungee-jumped or wing-walked. Not that I want to, but I want to have the chance. Or at least to chicken out at the last minute! I want to swim with whales and ride a Harley. I've never been in a threesome. Hell, I haven't even played doubles at tennis!
I want to have adventurous sex – like, say, in a hot tub, but a hot tub aboard the International Space Station.
For women, life is in two acts – the trick is surviving the interval. Menopause, that horrible hormonal intermission, is discombobulating and demoralising. Lack of sleep made me feel so at sea I needed a distress flare. It was also fiendishly hot. Cripes, I was having my own weather! It was like being a moody teenager again, only with wrinkles instead of pimples.
But there is an upside to menopause. As your oestrogen drops, testosterone increases. Having spent decades tethered to the kitchen by your apron and heart strings, mollycoddling kids, you suddenly start to feel a little bit more selfish, a little bit more bolshie – a little bit more like a bloke, basically!
Being a mum makes you a runnerup in the human race. You're passed over for promotion and seated downtable at dinner parties. But, now the kids are in their 20s, I suddenly find myself reassessing everything.
A now-or-never feeling has taken hold of me. Not only have my husband and I separated on amicable terms after a 28-year marriage, I've also embarked on a one-woman show, plus I've decided to take a gap year and go travelling.
Of course, announcing that you're throwing in the tea towel to globetrot will not impress your kids. News of your independence will go over like Pavarotti attempting to pole vault.
But feel no guilt. Simply remind your offspring of all the things you've given up for them – your figure, privacy, pelvic floor, sleep, the ability to wear bikinis, and, oh, just the best years of your bloody life.
A loud pronouncement like, "I have nipples down to my knees because of you!" should shut them up.
With a couple of adventures already booked, I'm actually feeling less terrified of the Big Birthday. I may even be able to say it soon. Okay, not quite yet! But I'm slightly cheered that also turning s… s… s… this year are Madonna, Kate Bush, Jennifer Saunders, Sharon Stone, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michelle Pfeiffer and Sandi Toksvig – seven fab females definitely in their prime.
My advice to women my age? When the window of opportunity opens, leap through it. And if opportunity doesn't knock, get a doorbell. Forget all thoughts of a chequered past. What you need now is a chequered present.
So, I'll see you on top of Everest. Or doing some scuba in Cuba. Or maybe in the burly arms of a hot-to-trot samba love god in Brazil. Forget diets. It's time to have your beefcake and eat him, too! Let this be our new motto: adventure before dementia.
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