Like most women I dread turning into my mum. After all, she’s 29 years older than me, has suffered ill-health and is likely to die sooner than I am. If I woke up one morning and discovered we’d magically swapped bodies, I’d feel a bit cheated, and that’s not even taking into account the fact that she lives in Nantwich.
Of course, there are other reasons why we women are meant to fear turning into our mothers. All such reasons fall back on the general assumption that older women are crap. They’re saggy and wrinkly. They’ve done nothing with their lives. Whenever they express opinions it’s just “nagging”. Worst of all, they’ve been through the menopause. Just the adjective “menopausal” can be used as an insult (hey, what do you expect? Men just love a woman with PMS).
I’m already starting to look more and more like my mum. It stands to reason – it’s the genes. Of course, like most over-privileged pre-teens from boringly standard families, I did go through a phase of hoping I’d actually been adopted. Back in the mid-eighties, every single episode of Eastenders had to have Sharon Watts casually mentioning the fact that Angie and Den weren’t her “real” mum and dad. It all seemed incredibly glamorous, what with Sharon being the blonde seductress driving Kelvin, Lofty and Ian wild. I wanted to be an adopted sex-minx, too! In the end, my mum had to show me my birth certificate to convince me that Thérèse Bazar and David van Day were not my birth parents. Anyhow, now it’s obvious that my mum is my mum. Pretty soon I’ll be mistaken for her mum, but I don’t think we’re quite there yet.
Of course, looking like my mum would not, in itself, be a bad thing. It would just be looking like my mum, and she manages that just fine. But the truth is, overall, I don’t want to be old, not just because of the “being closer to death” thing (although that’s my least fave bit). I don’t want to be looked at in the way that older women are looked at. I want to still be me.
One company who seems to be at least having a go at tackling ageism are Comptoir des Cotonniers. A posh, over-priced French clothing company, they’ve produced a series of adverts featuring mothers and daughters using the slogan “la mère, la fille et la mode“. That’s nice, you might think. But they’re not your usual mother and daughter pairings. Mummy and daughter are always thin and gorgeous, but that’s just what you’d expect for this sort of thing. The really striking thing is that both are also irritating, pretentious tosspots.
To show what passionate, real people mummy and daughter are, each advert requires la mère et la fille to name their loves and hates. Here’s one typical ad:
THE DAUGHTER Julia Gay: I LOVE the bohemian lifestyle I HATE being away from my folks
THE MOTHER Camille Gay: I LOVE travelling the world I HATE looking back at the past
Well, get them and their regret-free, open-road posturing, funded no doubt by precisely the type of rat-race, non-bohemian jobs that would enable one to purchase Comptoir des Cotonniers clothing. And yes, I know it’s just an advert, but this is precisely the type of fake authenticity on which we should be calling time.
Frankly, I think if Comptoir des Cotonniers want something authentic, passionate and real, they should do an add featuring me and my mum. We look properly old and when it comes to telling it like it is, we’d be ace:
THE DAUGHTER Me: I LOVE Glamour, makeup and swearing I HATE Glamour, makeup and swearing
THE MOTHER My mum: I LOVE my kids, kittens and shopping at Morrissons I HATE feminism, nurseries and everything my daughter stands for, come to think of it
Actually, I’m just joking about my mum. She’s a much more complex person than that, although not as complex as the deeply philosophical Camille Gay (we’re middle class, but we’re not THAT middle class). The stuff about me is all true, though. I’m pretty conflicted, and very deep.
To be honest if, in 29 years time, I find myself living in Nantwich it might not be so terrible. Hopefully attitudes to older women might have changed by then, and there might be a decent mid-priced clothes shop in the middle of town. One things for sure, though, I’m not going to model myself on that stupid woman in that “Warning” poem, the one who wears purple and eats pickles and annoys everyone just for the hell of it. I’d rather be Camille Gay. Most of all, I’d rather be just like my mum. Just like my mum, but with everyone still knowing that I’m me.