“What you need,” she said, “is a shag. It’ll improve your complexion.”
It came out of nowhere. She’d plugged her Ipod into my speakers and we’d been larking around, singing along and changing the lyrics to Dana’s All Kinds of Everything, getting more outrageous and disgusting with every made up line.
“Do I? Do I? How do you know?”
“Self-evident,” Lyn said. “But the problem is—”She eyed me up and down, “The way you look.”
You can always rely on some friends to tell you the unadorned truth. The question is - should you keep them? So, OK. I’m on the verge of 50, which is apparently the new 40, or even in some magazines, I’m told, the new 30. Admittedly, I have little in common with Sharon Stone. I decided to let the hair go its natural colour about four years ago, a sort of mousy grey, which, giving my mate her due, does occasionally make my face resemble a mushroom on the turn. But you know, I’ve lived half a century – give me a break!
“And you look sort of— “She tailed off, as if choosing her words carefully. “Baggy.” She hadn’t tried hard enough as far as I was concerned.
“What do you mean – baggy?”
“You know—a bit like-- like a hippo in painting overalls. You need to get something that fits you better.” She came up to me and pulled the free flowing (baggy) jumper I was wearing, tightening it around my waist and boobs.
“See! You could do something with that body if you wanted to. With the right bra.” Why would I want to?
Lyn is recently divorced, ergo single, proselytizing and on the prowl. Of my married friends, the happily-so bunch have for ages been nagging me to free myself from self-imposed exile, whereas the mildly to phenomenally dissatisfied ones frequently tell me I am well out of the world of relationships.
She dragged me to the window and made me face the light. “Hmm. Open pores. Some broken capillaries. Not too many wrinkles though. That’s good, I suppose. Now smile.”
Eh? I smiled nevertheless. She tapped my front teeth, as if I were a horse. “You know, you really should stop drinking tea and coffee, especially at your strength,” she said. “But never mind, it can all be remedied. We’ll get you shagged in no time. Now, what’s first? Let’s go and sort out an account. The sooner we get you on there the better - it’ll make you focus.”
“I’m fifty, for Christ’s sake. Leave me alone! Go pick on someone your own age.”
“No. You’ve got another 50 years to live—“she’s one of those annoyingly irrepressible glass half-full merchants, “and you’re not going to squander it on being a recluse.”
I don’t quite know how this has happened to me, but all the friends I’ve made over the past five years are significantly younger than I am - this one by eight years - and we seem to be at least two generations apart. In fact, I don’t really know why I’m her friend at all. Chalk and cheese. While I have been growing old gracefully (or so I thought), she knows the names of all the best beauty products, designers, latest celebrity gossip, and my God does she have handbags and shoes! Plus - she always wears matching underwear. You’ve got to admire a woman like that. Whereas me - all I can tell you is what’s on BBC 4 and Radio 7; and as for temperament and looks, I’m more your Granny Clampett than your Jennifer Aniston type of clone.
But I haven’t got another project on the go at the moment (I finished the patchwork last week), so, well, why the hell not?