Belfast Telegraph

Age is nothing but a number, and I'm not counting on it

By Rebecca Armstrong

I've just returned from a much-needed holiday in Turkey. While I was there, I discovered that I had a superpower. I was out in a bar with the teenage daughter of a family friend when it became clear that I could make previously polite young people recoil with horror without even touching them. All I had to do was to tell them how old I am: 34.

Now that I'm back home, I have found out that my young would-be pals might be right in veering away. According to a new survey, women are at their most stressed at the age of 34. Perhaps the younglings could scent my anxiety.

So, just what is it that is making me and my identically aged sistren freak out? The researchers behind the study, conducted by the Inner Me beauty brand, asked 2,000 women to rate what made them stressed, with 62% of respondents saying that not having enough money was the key cause of their woes.

Fifty-seven per cent worried about their health, 48% fretted about the well-being of their family and friends and 42% found that trying to balance family life was causing them conniptions.

I have to say that, in spite of my natural scepticism about the findings of cosmetic-company funded research (I used to work in public relations, so I am well aware that if coverage is looking a bit thin on the ground, a survey can work wonders), I have to agree that my 35th year is topping my personal stress charts.

I'm extremely preoccupied with money and the well-being of my family. But I sense that this has more to do with the fact that my husband has been in hospital for six months after being hit by a car than the fact that it happened shortly before my 34th birthday.

I'm stressed about money, because I'm now the sole earner and I'm beside myself about my husband's health, because he has suffered a traumatic brain injury. I am desperately worried about my step-daughter and how she's coping.

But this accident could have happened at any time in the 10 years during which I've known the man to whom I'm now married, or at any point in the future.

It could have happened when I was 25 (the age that the survey pinpoints as the time women are at their happiest) and who knows what might befall me at 54, if I make it that far.

And if I do, I'll be on the brink of joining the sandwich generation, those aged between 55 and 64, who are the ones looking after young grandchildren and elderly parents, contributing to and dealing with schooling and caring, spending and saving and, above all I would have thought, stressing.

But will I be less stressed than I am now?

Given that the phrase "sandwich generation" was coined after research conducted by a care-home charity called Anchor, one can't help but think that the easiest way to be less stressed, hospitalised partner notwithstanding, would be to stop reading the results of surveys.

Yes, I am stressed. As I write, I am worrying in three dimensions over multiple timeframes. My car was totalled while I was on that holiday last week, while I was seeking a few days of respite from the never-ending stress-fest that is my life.

I won't get to see my husband tonight, because I have to work. My health is suffering (hello, throat infection).

My future and that of the man that I love is looking unlike anything that I ever expected.

But is it because I'm 34? Age is nothing but a number. And I'm not counting on it.

Belfast Telegraph


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