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
Happy new year Rebecca
Rebecca’s sitting at a table outside the café having a cigarette and talking on the phone She’s very pretty, blond, mid thirties.
We know a lot of the same people and I see her on my way to work. I’ve tried to chat to her in the gym a couple of times but it fell completely flat so I no longer bother. Clearly she doesn’t need my sisterly support and that’s fine.
But I know what she’s going through because lots of my friends have told me.. I’m pretty sure she’d be irritated off that I know, but it’s difficult not to hear these things. She may not talk to me, but she seems to tell everyone else. Anyway, I feel sorry for her. Seeing her there, puffing away, reminds me only too well of where I was a year ago, up to my neck in divorce, injunctions, solicitors fees, acrimony and uncertainty.
My drug of choice was Marlboro menthols because they were less stinky than other cigarettes. I’d keep buying packs of ten and telling myself I’d just have a couple and then I’d be fishing them out of the bin late at night trying to salvage the one that hadn’t gone completely soggy. Unlike Rebecca, however, I never smoked near school or around Mo. I knew she’d be upset and I needed to keep a semblance of normality for her, however agitated I felt.
But in many ways Rebecca’s worse off than me. Owing to certain events my ex quickly moved out and stayed with friends. Despite his threats and abuse he stayed away and it meant we had some peace, even though I changed the locks about four times.
Rebecca’s other half, however, is still living with her and has no intention of leaving until they’ve sorted out their finances. On the good side he doesn’t strike me as abusive but what do I know? Since she’s told everyone how much she dislikes him, the situation at home must be unbearable for all of them, I think he has been told him not to move out or he’ll lose his claim on the flat. I know why she spends so much time at the cafe, it must be somewhere to escape to.
I would love to tell sit down with her over a cup of coffee and tell her to hang on in there, that I know what she’s going through but she will get through this, even though when you’re in the middle of it, it feels like it will never end…
But it does end – eventually. Which is why here I am now at the end of 2011, in my own flat, my own front door, my own key, free from arguments, conflicts and marital strife. A big comfy bed where I now sleep soundly instead of lying awake physically sick with anxiety about debts and the future and despair at the disaster my life had somehow become.
It didn’t happen overnight but it happened, bit by bit. I accepted help when it was offered –I definitely couldn’t have managed without my dad – but for the most part I did it myself, digging myself slowly, one shovelful at a time, out of the hole. Money is tight and I struggle to get it all done but I have a job I like, a happy, well adjusted kid and a man who seems to love me. And I’m no longer living on Snickers or desperately rummaging through the bin for a soggy fag.
I’m still pinching myself and maybe she senses it. I seem happy and she must think I’m smug. No wonder she doesn’t want to talk to me. Happy new year Rebecca, hope it all works out.