Lisa Markwell: We're bright and brainy but that doesn't mean we don't want to booze

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News to confuse: a Cambridge academic claims we hit our peak in our forties and fifties. Meanwhile, a study from the Office for National Statistics reveals that the same demographic is made up of heavier boozers than the teens and twentysomethings so often associated with binge drinking.

Dr David Bainbridge's assertion that our most important stage in evolution is after 40 makes some kind of sense. Through a fog of tiredness and stress (it can't be just me), we are able to prioritise what's important and to jettison worries about less-than-crucial matters such as, "Should I have queued up at H&M for that spotted Marni coat?"

Our middle age is challenging, like any other "age", but Bainbridge is right when he says that we have better planning and co-ordination skills than younger folk (although when he adds that the over-40s run our business and political world it's tempting to mutter, "No shit, Sherlock"). We run everything because we've been around long enough to scale the greasy pole.

So, bright and brainy, experienced and strategic, the over-40s are well equipped to cope with probably the biggest challenges we have during our lifetime: that of being the "sandwich generation", with both children and parents to look after. That's where the second study comes in. Nothing washes down a sandwich like a large glass of red wine. Whether it's the reward for unclenching the teenage fist from around its BlackBerry and getting it to go to bed, or the emollient as one braces oneself for the telephone call to the parent for a (very) detailed update on how their minor procedure went at the doctors...

But one in five women between 45 and 64 drinks more than the recommended 14 units a week, and three million men do the same. The younger age-groups, meanwhile, are curbing their drinking.

Obviously, this does nothing to assist our negotiation of the complex demands on our time. Why do we continue to do it, then? It's not as if we're unaware of the health risks. It's the one blind spot in what Bainbridge identifies as our otherwise sharp grasp of our world.

Perhaps we're misguidedly looking back to the "glamour" of our earlier drinking days to stave off feeling middle-aged. Personally, I'd rather settle down with The Tube on Sky+ and take my calories in the form of some excellent cheese and charcuterie than hoist myself into a pair of Spanx and head out to a bar for a Malbec binge. If that makes me a less than perfect example of a brainy, boozy fortysomething, then so be it.

So you're in the club – the cliché club

It was quietly thrilling to hear of Beyoncé's public breastfeeding incident the other week. (Hear of, but not see – there were no photographs taken.) It may have done more to calm the confoundingly continued fuss about an entirely unremarkable activity than any number of official endorsements.

What we really don't need any more of – in what we must assume is an attempt to "normalise" motherhood – is celebrities being photographed naked while pregnant. The latest in what has become a huge cliché is US socialite Jessica Simpson, for the April issue of Elle, adopting the "side view with huge bump, breasts hidden behind arm" pose. And because she's fabulous, she accessorises with gob-stopping jewels. Before her went Demi Moore (who at least had the novelty of being the first), Cindy Crawford, Britney Spears, Claudia Schiffer, Christina Aguilera and dozens of lesser-known women.

What does this pose do? It looks worryingly like fetishising something while simultaneously alienating women. I'm afraid, dears, that you're not the first women to have accommodated a baby, and an airbrushed approximation of nude skin (you'll never see stretch marks or veins on these bellies) is downright unhelpful.

Of course, the person most likely to cringe, years later, is the child itself. Look at how sexy mama was when you were just a foetus... It takes embarrassing your offspring to a whole new level.

l.markwell@independent.co.uk

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