The definition of middle aged is simple. Take one thirty-something-year-old reporter. Mix with friends. Add a liberal glass (or three) of Chardonnay straight after work. Throw in some Tapas (but clearly not enough to absorb the alcohol) and come up with the bright idea of ordering ‘just the one’ cocktail for the road.
Drink four cocktails. Sing a few songs - loudly - in a restaurant. Try to encourage a friend to give her tried and tested rendition of the intro to the A Team a go. Laugh, probably a little too loudly. Forget you have work the next day. Vaguely remember the taxi journey home and wake up the next morning needing a bottle of Lucozade like your life depended on it.
Spend the next day, or two, in the horrors piecing together segments of the night out and vowing, never, ever to drink again. Eat enough junkfood to undo all the goodwork you have done on WeightWatchers over the last few months but not quite enough to take away the swaying, sickly feeling in the pit of your stomach.
Text your friend (The A Team one) and ask did you make an eejit of yourself, knowing full well that she doesn’t remember and will be having the same thoughts as you. Decide, mutually, you are too old for this carry on.
Realise there is a reason that most of your socialising now takes place in front of the TV with just the one glass of wine and a good film. Vow that from now on you will be letting your hair down closer to home - if at all - and vow to resume acting like a responsible adult. Don appropriate mammy smile and resume housewifely duties of cleaning and playing with megablocks.
There was a time, dear reader, when things were different. There was a time when a night out didn’t leave me praying for an early death. There was a time when I could even have contemplated going out two or three nights in a row and would even have danced into the wee small hours rather than leave early to make sure I got a taxi home before the rush.
There was a time when I could be trusted with a cocktail. And I’m talking the big gulpens of cocktails they used to serve in Henry J’s as opposed to the refined efforts we had last Thursday night.
There was a time when going out for post-work drinks was all a bit Sex and the City - me, a young single woman with no children, no responsibilities and no stretch marks, slicking on some extra lipstick at the end of the day before sauntering into the bar with my friend for a few glasses of wine. We’d talk work. We’d talk hopes. We’d talk dreams. We’d have a giggle.
These debriefing sessions were a highlight of my pre-mammy life. Me and my friend (the A Team one) took such evenings in our stride. Of course there were times when we overdid it a little (and one occasion when we overdid it a lot) but mostly we were dignified because, well, the world was our oyster.
Our nights out were almost routine. There was little organising involved apart from saying “Drink after work?” and waiting for a smiley response. No babysitters had to be booked. No children’s jammies had to be laid out before you left the house. No list of instructions had to be left for either the babysitter or the begrudging husband at home. No guilt had to be felt at using one of your precious nights off to be out with friends rather than on a date night with your parenting partner (aka the husband) in the hope of injecting some romance into a relationship which now mostly involves discussions on who is the most tired and who changed the last poo poo nappy.
Your main concerns about your night out where how much money you had left in the bank and not whether or not your delightful offpsring would wake you up at 4 in the morning to have the craic.
You could handle the hangover at work because you knew when you got home there would be no one making demands on your time or energy and you lie in your pit from Friday evening til the Hollyoaks omnibus was over on Sunday morning if you wished and no one would care.
Those were blissful times. Those were times I took for granted. Now, when the opportunity arises I grab the wine glass with both hands and don’t realise that my 34 year old self definitely has a much lower tolerance for alcohol than the me at 23 or 24. I become like a mad woman on day release - relishing my night of freedom, not caring if I’m one of those older weemin who treats the bar to a chorus of ‘Going to the Chapel’ (and no, I did not sing alone). After the second glass I forget that I’m a responsible wife and mother and I let loose.
It is only in the cold light of day that I realise, fun and all as it is, the price is too high. Maybe the answer is that I get out and about a bit more, so that it doesn’t always seem like such a treat that I act like a two year old in a sweet shop? Maybe the answer is that I accept those days are behind me and hang up my lip gloss forever? Then again, I’d like to think there is life in the old doll yet.