WHERE ARE THE GROWN-UPS? Where are the ones who know what the hell is going on? The adultier adults? The ones who know who they are and why they are here? The thing is, if you looked at us, writing this book, you might think that we were the grown-ups. We aren’t crying or quivering, or shouting, although we are obviously fucking swearing. You would never know how mad we feel most of the time. Because, most of the time, we say that we’re absolutely fine.
When do we become grown-ups? When does the worry of youth subside, to be replaced by unassailable emotional equilibrium and control? There is an assumption that a numbing sets in. Even though teenagers may be repulsed, amused or disturbed by the prospect of grown-ups having feelings – lust, rage, fear, sorrow – they will find out that those tidal waves of emotion alter but do not subside. In our twenties we foresaw a dumbing down of emotion. A settling. Well, that didn’t happen. *throws phone out of window* *tries to have sex with plumber* *donates £5 to Great Ormond Street* *makes self laugh* *makes self cry* We can seem so undulatingly in control, so societally functional when, in fact, we are fire-fighting feelings. Trying to look fine, be fine, feel fine. Faking it and not quite making it.
What would happen, we wondered, if we actively acknowledged this endless internal combustibility; if we rifled around in our emotional knicker drawer and faced the things that we hope others will never see. The thing is, we have put on our Big Girl Pants to write this book. These Big Girl Pants give us the armour to – as Simone de Beauvoir put it – coincide with ourselves. To become who we truly are. For a moment. To taste the delicious contentment. Before it all whirligigs again and again.
Such perspective doesn’t tend to strike early in life. It happens when experience, potential and an ability to say ‘fuck it’ come together to form a kind of knowingness. We could say ‘wisdom’ but then we’d have to kill ourselves. Between us, we have had alcoholism, eating disorders, PTSD, panic attacks, solo motherhood, bitter money worries, nuclear break-ups, insomnia, dead dads, nervous breakdowns, drug addictions and decades of therapy. As well as joy and conversation, proficiency and erudition, point of view and empathy.
‘Is it just me?’ We gnaw on that don’t we? It is the question that feeds the ravenous brainworm of loneliness. ‘Is it just me?’ Look around. Look at the egg freezing, the brain-freezing, the terror, the Tinder, the rage, the resolution, the ‘hear me roar’. The career-crises, the desperate desire for reset, the money panic, the laughter. The divorce, the shame, the chin hairs, the regret, the power, the hyper-connectedness, the incredible anxiety, the sheer fucking potential. Welcome to Midulthood, a place where we recognise that we are more alike than we are unalike. And that we are all doing our best. Doing our best rather than getting hung up on being our best. We may or may not be activists but at least let us acknowledge that we can be active.
Midulthood is a mood. Maybe it’s a movement. But rest assured, it is not just you. It is never just you. It isn’t just you who wonders what will happen next and if you’ll be up to it. Or if anything will happen next… if anything will ever change. Longing for change, fearing change. And it isn’t just you triggered from sunny into sad by… Oh fuck, it happened so quickly you don’t even know why you were (relatively) relaxed 12 seconds ago and you are miserably murderous now. And threatened. And superior. Yet utterly, utterly less than. And still you say you’re fine.
It is never just you. People are unique but feelings are not unique. They can batter us all at once like a torrential emotional storm – the good, the bad and the corrosive. And the funny. The appallingly funny. Of course it’s not just you. That’s why The Midult is here. If we’re not in it together, we’re not in it at all.
From I’m Absolutely Fine! A Manual For Imperfect Women by Annabel Rivkin and Emilie McMeekan of The Midult