Daphne du Maurier was once sent a humorous postcard by a friend that read, 'Women are like geography: From 16 to 22, like Africa- part virgin, part explored. From 23 to 35, like Asia- hot and mysterious. From 35 to 45, like the USA- high toned and technical. From 46-55, like Europe- quite devastated, but interesting in places. From 60 upwards, like Australia- everybody knows about it, but no one wants to go there'.
If nothing else, it's a historical pointer to how things have at least moved on for women (and indeed Australian tourism and Europe in general). And we can probably console ourselves with the fact that with the increasing longevity of our generations, there might be at least one extra age bracket to squeeze in before us gals are written off entirely. But nonetheless, I am now considering how, like America, I am high-toned and technical.
I'll be honest; I'm not even sure what that means. But I know that there are other ways in which I am like the USA; If I'm not careful, I can forget that the world exists beyond my own boundaries. I am certainly fond of an oversize portion (make of that what you will) and I occasionally let my southern half drive policy making.
But the fact remains that I am becoming a woman of a 'certain age'. I may look younger. I certainly act younger, but that doesn't change the fact that every day brings me one step closer to my worst fear; being an old woman stuck in the corner of a home with sperm drying in my hair, or something equally hideous. In fairness, having children as insurance against this kind of thing probably isn't the right reason to have them. That kind of epic selfishness tends not to bode well for mother-child relationships. In fact, it could guarantee an unpleasant retirement home.
There are other reasons to not have kids. If you live in London, as I do, the prohibitive cost of anything means you'd probably have them living at home until the age of 50. They say it's hard enough to have your kids under your roof whilst they discover their sexuality. That has to be preferable to having them under your roof as they discover Radio 4 and stay in on New Year's Eve to watch Jools Holland on the TV.
I say all this, but in truth it never entered my head that I wouldn't have them. It was something I just always assumed would happen, just as I always assumed that at some point in my life a chance meeting with the Welsh actor Matthew Rhys would result in a life partnership. But it hasn't. And the reality is, that window is now closing (well, the baby bit, anyway).
I envy men greatly in this area. Men are often accused of being more immature than women, but to be fair, if we had our whole lives to think about reproducing, we'd all be a bit more footloose too, I suspect. Men can decide at the age of 60 to reverse a decision about not being a dad. OK, there's some evidence to suggest that their seed isn't grade A quality at that age, but one only has to look at the modelling portfolios of pretty much any of the Jagger children to see that this won't be much of a deterrent.
It's a cruel irony that I have at no point in my life felt more healthy, balanced and youthful. I often feel so young at heart that I half expect an actual middle-aged version of myself to march into the room and declare that there's been some weird rip in the space-time continuum and I am now being sent back to the age of 25, where I belong. But I just want more time! And that's something that no amount of western privilege can buy. And for the record, I won't be taking medical precautions. The last time I had anything to do with frozen eggs it involved an omelette, a grandparent with dementia and a case of food poisoning. Whatever the future holds, I am prepared to let nature take its course.
When I think of America as a nation, I tend to think of it as the muscled-up teenager of the world; immature, entitled and still not willing to admit that it doesn't know everything. And perhaps it's my own likeness to the US in this sense that has caused me to believe that time had no truck with this woman. But these are just the bad points. I also admire its relentless positivity, its can-do attitude and its puppyish sense of wonder at things. And if I can carry those qualities into old age, and heck, maybe into that retirement home, regardless if I'm alone. then it will have been a life well lived. Minus that hair situation, of course.