Yesterday was my 38th birthday – this sounds very very old to me. At the moment I have a big asbestos removal project at a sheltered housing complex which, although incredibly stressful, has the advantage of me spending lots of time with people who are in their 70s and 80s – who view me as a mere whippersnapper. I love the fact that I am referred to as a girl (usually in a sentence like ‘That girl who is making us all move out of our homes’). It’s also good to remember that you can still have a fulfilling life in old age – even if there does seem to be a disproportionate amount of bitching going on about an incident which I have termed ‘Jigsawgate’.
Birthdays always make me take stock, and I guess I’ve made several life choices that always have to be carefully examined – if only to make sure that they’re still right, and that I haven’t simply become entrenched in a position just for the sake of it. My rejection of marriage is still something I feel strongly about, for the following reasons:
- Marriage came about through a patriarchal system, in which women were transferred from household to household for political or financial reasons. I don’t want any part of that.
- Marriage is currently, here in the UK, part of a heterosexual hierarchy which I don’t want any part of. What’s permitted for me and my partner is not accessible for gay couples – because marriage is tied in with the church and with politics – two spheres of society that have nothing to do with my relationship.
- The huge amount of fuss, expense, and dull arrangements.
- The Conservative party would like to encourage it (through tax breaks) – reason enough not to play ball.
In May I will have been with my partner for 21 years and marriage is a complete non-issue for us. If you want to show the world how much you love your partner, then as far as I’m concerned you should do it by just staying with them forever. That’s just what I intend to do – ooh look, a public declaration, without spending thousands of pounds and making everyone you know waste a weekend being bored.
Not having children is probably a bigger decision, and one that puts me in a distinct minority amongst my fellow 38 year olds. It’s something that I keep a careful eye on, primarily because society seems to find it such a surprising position that I am asked about it fairly frequently. When my sister had a baby I wondered if I would change my mind but, adorable as my nephew is, I stand firm on my decision. Children seem to be incredibly hard work and the decision to spawn should not be taken unless you’re willing to give up sleep and fun and autonomy for the next fifteen years. I appreciate that there are positives in there, but not for me thanks. Spawning should never be undertaken lightly, out of a sense of being the next thing on life’s list or because of expectation – it should be because of a strong desire to parent and a belief that you could do a really good job of it.
So, I’m happy with my decisions. But do I need to grow up? Last year I went to a party where I was wearing an almost identical outfit to a seven year old girl. Is it time to ditch the mary janes and stripey tights? At what point does one get one’s hair cut into a low-maintenance style? If I’d had a child at the same age as my mother had me, then I’d have a nineteen year old in the house – who would no doubt be telling me that I was an embarrassment. As it is, I can proceed on my merry path with no-one to tell me that I am mutton dressed as lamb (or however a yoof would phrase that).
Although it’s good to take stock, I think I’m happy with my life as it is. I’m sure one of my friends will tell me when it’s time to ditch the Pippi Longstocking look – this mutton is having too much fun gamboling in the fields to change yet. Although please note that I am typing this while Countryfile is on in the background – which I feel the need to point out for the sake of full disclosure. Although just after I typed that last sentence, John Craven said ‘What a magnificent bull!’ and I sniggered like a fifteen year old boy.