Making a drama out of a mid-life crisis

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The Independent Culture
I SEEM to have become a pathetic sucker for direct selling; either that, or I'm having an early mid-life crisis. First of all there was the unwise purchase of a black nylon lace body from an Ann Summers party. I wore it out to a restaurant last weekend (under a poloneck jumper, I hasten to add: no underwear as outerwear for me, thank you very much). It was extremely uncomfortable, as you might have guessed, and I spent the evening discreetly trying to readjust various scratchy bits of lace, and failing.

When I finally got home and revealed the wretched garment to my husband, he looked slightly startled and said it wasn't his sort of thing, really. I don't blame him: stretch marks and a skimpy little G-string don't quite go together. So now the offending article is rolled up into a small ball at the bottom of the dirty linen basket, where it will doubtless remain for the next year, and I'm back in my greying Marks & Spencer knickers for the foreseeable future.

Despite this abject failure, I followed it up with a trip to a make-up party. I'd never been to one before, but apparently they're all the rage these days. What happens is that you spend the evening at a friend's house drinking a few glasses of wine, while a couple of cheery reps encourage you to try on loads of make-up. It's not unlike being a teenager again, except that the girls at the party I went to were all over 30, and we didn't go out to a school disco afterwards.

I had intended to buy nothing more than a lipstick, but within a few minutes I was slapping on the foundation and eyeshadow along with everyone else. "It's completely organic," said the rep, "and absolutely full of natural plant ingredients and vitamins."

By the end of the evening, I was drunk enough to have ordered £40-worth of cosmetics. It seemed like a bargain as I staggered back home; a small price to pay to look young again (just think of all those marvellous vitamins soaking up the wrinkles and crows' feet). Through a blurry alcoholic haze I peered at myself in the bathroom mirror, and lo, my skin was porcelain rose-coloured, my lips were a delicate shade of cassis, and my eyes were lined with a soft teal blue: a veritable vision of loveliness, despite the hiccups.

Unfortunately, the next morning I couldn't see straight: partly because of a hangover, but mainly because my eyeballs had turned bright red and my eyelids were swollen to twice their normal size. According to the pharmacist, I showed all the symptoms of a drastic allergic reaction.

"Have you been wearing any new make-up?" he asked.

"Yes, a little bit," I said, feeling somehow embarrassed.

"Well, you'd better chuck it all out," he said. "It's not doing you any good. You're just not suited to it."

This was a bitter disappointment. Apart from the odd lipstick, I hadn't bought any make-up since the age of 15 (it's hard to know where to put blusher without the benefit of cheekbones, however carefully you read the helpful hints in Jackie magazine); and having finally done so, I was hoping to turn into a chic, sophisticated older woman. I'd imagined swanning into a swanky party we'd been invited to (the first one this year) wearing my sleek black lace body, with my flawless new face, and everyone saying, "Darling! You look wonderful! I thought for a moment that you were Isabella Rossellini!" But this was clearly not to be.

Still, we went to the party, and even though my underwear was unglamorous and my face unmade, and no one said "Darling", let alone "Isabella Rossellini!" we had a good time and stayed until the very end. Afterwards, my husband said, "Let's go out for dinner." "We can't," I said. "We've got to get home to the babysitter."

He looked crestfallen, and then said, in a somewhat accusatory way, "Why don't we ever take cocaine and stay out all night?"

This remark seemed uncharacteristic: a large Indian takeaway, yes; hard drugs, no. I realised at this point that he was very drunk, and therefore didn't answer him.

"Well," he said. "Why don't we?"

"We've got two small children," Ireplied. "It's not very convenient, I know, but there it is."

When we got home, our eldest child had a temperature and was lying awake in bed looking flushed and miserable. I gave him a drink of water and a spoonful of medicine, and he said, "You didn't get back until really, really late, Mum. I was worried. It's 10 o'clock." It was, in fact, closer to midnight, but I wasn't going to tell him that, so I just stroked his head until he fell asleep.

I am writing this the morning after. It's quiet, because my husband has taken the baby out for a walk. All of a sudden, I've stopped caring about the G-string fiasco and the make-up dbcle, and the continuing lack of expensive recreational drugs to liven up the night. Perhaps this means that my mid-life crisis was a short one, or perhaps I just chose the wrong way to go about it.

According to my friend Elaine, who went to the make-up party with me and was then afflicted with an unseemly crop of blotches, the only thing to do is to go for a medium-priced range of fragrance-free hypoallergenic make-up; she also says that Marks & Spencer are doing a nice line in white ribbed cotton bras and knickers.

"I can't be doing with all that lace and thongs in the wrong place," she said, and I think that she is probably right. So now I'm planning a rejuvenated shopping expedition to Marks & Spencer next week. True, they have no cocaine, but there are compensations to be found in an extensive range of chocolate biscuits. !

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