It happened without warning. I was all glammed up for an International Women’s Day dinner as my sister’s date. I’d done my hair “just so”. I’d asked the make-up team at work to go a wee bit glam to save my tired eyes from kid-induced stolen sleep. I’d spent a week choosing an edgy outfit, and I’d finally found a cute pair of gold shoes that didn’t make my fat feet feel like they were being strangled.
Let’s put it this way: as a woman in her 40s who works full-time, has two children under five, and who’d had a long week at work, I looked in the mirror before I walked out of ITV News studios that evening and thought, “yep, this whole get up is banging.”
My sister and I arrived at the private members’ club Annabel’s (hence the emphasis on glam). What happened next was completely without warning. We were stood at the bar for the pre-dinner drinks bit, with my sister discreetly whispering in my ear to let me know who each guest was (it was a room full of brilliantly talented and very glamourous women who were, yes, on the whole, slightly younger). We were sipping champagne; we were getting our picture taken. Dear reader, it really was a beautiful evening with every small detail thoughtfully arranged.
And then the moment arrived. One of the guests turned to me and my sister and said: “Oh, you guys are mother and daughter! How lovely that you’ve come together!”
I swear to God, all the blood rushed to my head. I thought I was having an out of body experience. I just could not comprehend WHAT ON EARTH WAS HAPPENING HERE. Thank goodness I was stood right next to the bar. I grabbed it immediately to steady myself, taking deep breaths so as not to embarrass the guest, myself, and my sister. This was the first time in our entire lives that my sister and I had been mistaken for mother and daughter – you know, what with us only being FIVE YEARS APART.
I’ll give you a moment to digest that. My younger sister, who popped out of my mother a cool five years after me, was just referred to as my daughter. When on earth did I suddenly age?!
I’ve spent a lifetime safe in the knowledge that my darker skin means I’ll age more slowly. My melanin popping meant that I was still getting ID’d at least a decade after I was legally allowed to buy booze. I mostly drink water and herbal tea. I have a pretty decent skincare routine, and I never fall asleep in my make-up. My aunt who is in her 70s looks anything but. If there’s one thing I’ve never, ever contemplated, it’s looking older than my years.
And then I was mistaken as my sister’s mum. Let’s not forget that, God rest her soul, my mum would be 68 years old if she were still alive. So should I feel grateful that the guest thought I was a very well-preserved 68 year old? Honestly, my head was spinning. For the first time in I don’t know how long, I was actually lost for words.
As I gripped onto that bar for dear life, my sister kindly interjected to say that, no, we were actually sisters, not mother and daughter. The guest, suitably embarrassed, wandered off to enjoy the rest of her evening. I, though, had it on my mind most of the night. It was such a weird thing to happen – I felt like I’d somehow turned into Sam Beckett in Quantum Leap and had jumped two decades. Where had I got it wrong with the outfit? How could this have happened?
Well, the answer to that is simple, really. I’m writing this following seven nights of broken sleep because my daughter has decided that shouting for me when her quilt comes off in the night is the best course of action. (FYI: it’s not). And what with having my children older and in quick succession, I basically haven’t had a run of unbroken sleep for at least six years. Essentially, me now resembling a woman nearing 70 is down to my kids. And I’ll be sure to remind them of that when they’re old enough to understand the consequences of their actions.
But actually, the lighting in there was awful. It was all dimmed lights and dark walls. In fact, when I was reading the menu I had to do that ridiculous thing where you squint your eyes and hold the paper slightly away from you, so your eyes can focus on the teeny tiny words. Wait… that’s an age thing isn’t it? Oh for goodness sake.