Monday 16 September 2019

Books: A knight in sensible flat shoes

In Your Prime: Older Wiser Happier, India Knight Fig Tree €25.35

India Knight
India Knight

Anne Marie Scanlon

Thank God January is over and we can all stop trying to be "good". For some of us though, 'women of a certain age', being "good' will never be enough as nothing short of a surgeon's knife and permanent low lighting will give us back the body of our svelte 20-year-old selves. Author and journalist India Knight proposes a rather radical idea in her non-fiction book, In Your Prime: Older, Wiser, Happier, to accept how we are and make the best of it.

Before reading this book I wouldn't have agreed that I am happier now than I was a decade ago in my 30s. Early on, Knight remarks that with age comes less anxiety, less judgement and less willingness to 'take crap'. This rings true to me but I have a young child and could just be exhausted rather than mature.

Then again, a lot of us 'older gals' now have young children, something that is a fairly modern phenomenon. As Knight says, being a woman of a 'certain age' is not a new concept but after centuries of knowing our place we are now in uncharted territory.

In the not so distant past, a woman in her mid-forties would probably be a 'Nan' or a spinster. These were clear cut roles with corresponding uniforms and hairstyles. These days, a woman in her mid-forties might have a toddler, be a Nan, or both. Modern women in their prime know that they don't want to look or behave like either 'Nans' or 'Spinsters' but we're not quite sure what the alternative is. Thankfully, Knight is happy to guide us through these tumultuous years with lots of useful information and personal recommendations.

Most women over the age of 35 live in terror of being 'Mutton' (dressing too young). "There's no individual garment that forces mutton upon you with the possible exception of the miniskirt." At the opposite end of the spectrum, and to be even more feared than Mutton, is 'the Mother of the Bride', "an abyss… and it's quite hard to climb out again once you've fallen in." There's also the option of 'Letting Yourself Go' which Knight is not in favour of. "It's annoying me that this feels like a controversial, maybe even un-feminist thing to write."

To be fair, she is very clear that love does not depend on appearances but says wouldn't it be ideal to be loved and desired.

In other hands this could have become preachy, patronising and downright depressing but Knight is so funny and immediate that it's like having a chat with a friend. A friend who is very English in her brisk way of jolly well getting on with things "middle-age … is a time of shedding all the crap and forging ahead. It is very much not the time to sit brooding furiously… Leave that to teenagers and be glad you're old enough not to be a twat."

In Your Prime offers great advice which any, woman regardless of age, could do with and it's a jolly good read.  


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