From men to mid life crises, from Botox to Brazilians, from infertility to infidelity, every week Jacqui Leigh gives her personal take on being a fortysomething woman
brooding contraception and cougarism
Last week started with my calf muscle. I've overdone it on the running machine and now there's a painful twinge which I hoped would go away after a weekend of rest. I've been doing really well, going to the gym nearly every day (hmm, I wonder why...), have even managed to squeeze myself back into my old size 29 jeans and now, predictably, I've crippled myself.
I dropped Monica at school and noticed a mum, coincidentally a former classmate of mine, looking suspiciously round. Yes, you've got to be pretty sure before you ask someone when it's due but fortunately I was right. She's twenty weeks pregnant with her third child. At 43 her eldest daughter is five, number two is just walking and now she's having another.
I congratulated her on her awesome fertility, shuddered and made a mental note to sort out some sort of contraception. Since we stopped trying to have a baby we haven't used anything, based firstly on the assumption that we're unable to conceive, closely followed by the assumption that I'm over the hill anyway. I'm starting to think that might be two assumptions too many.
As I start my painful warm up on the running machine, I remember how last summer we noticed my next door neighbour, who I barely know, suddenly pushing a pram around. Since she's the mother of a teenage girl our first cynical thought was that she'd become a grandmother, but no, it turned out the baby was hers and, guess what, she's exactly the same age as me.
Terrifying, quite frankly. Ironic that after all we went through, the prospect of number two now fills me with dismay. When did that happen?
Thinking about it, it's not even the sleepless nights, the spoon feeding or the conversations that you can never finish. For me it's the tyranny of the pushchair. That symbol of lost freedom, the inability to leave the house unencumbered. I didn't realise how much it had oppressed me until finally one day I was able to walk out of the front door without it. My arms dangling free at my side the way nature intended, hands liberated to hold a coffee or scratch my nose or rummage in my bag for my phone.
The invisibility is equally depressing. When you're pushing a buggy with a toddler inside you're not a human being. You're just an obstruction on the pavement to be briskly navigated around, a bulky irritation in shops.
And then, as if things weren't miserable enough, there's the Maclaren flip, when, on lifting your little treasure out of her harness, the whole stupid, overloaded contraption goes arse over tit. You know it's going to happen and yet there's not a damn thing you can do to stop it. Splat. I remember that happening on a daily basis.
At some point, as I brood over the distressing possibility of getting pregnant again, my injured leg has managed to make its way into Fred's capable hands. This is going to be interesting.
Sitting submissively on a chair with my leg up, I watch him as he frowns and squeezes, trying to ascertain the nature of the problem. Because that's what this is about, right? It's definitely not an excuse to grope my leg and shame on me for even thinking it.
He's asking me if it hurts when he applies pressure. Here? There? Maybe. Who cares? Quite frankly I'm just happy I shaved my legs this morning.
Defeated Fred abruptly releases my limb and announces he's off next week to Ibiza for a week with his mates. As usual I struggle to think of a reply. Actually, I'm too busy assimilating this information. It's the middle of term time. And with his mates? How old is he?
I think I'm going to miss him.