Biker boots, Botox and a proper bash: why turning 60 is now a punch-the-air moment

There it is. Written on a fragile paper certificate. 1962. The year of my birth, which means I turn 60 in March. This seems so utterly ridiculous, I’ve counted it out on my fingers to check. Because I only feel 28. OK, some days, 38 and three quarters. But 60? Never.

A few friends have already reached this milestone, although most didn’t treat it as a neon-lit occasion. Maybe because it’s etched in our collective memories as the once pensionable age for women. A segue into a more sedate life.

For my mum, that meant more gardening and what she called dressmaking (even when she was sewing trousers). Among my aunts, there was an attendant push to buy as much beige clothing as budgets would allow, the signature piece being the Dannimac Royale.

Me? I won’t become a pensioner any time soon because governments, with the smooth moves of a sound engineer in an edit suite, have pushed that particular slider to 67. Although I do get a 60+ Oyster card from Transport for London. And it is while clutching this particular pearl, I’m refusing to transit these years under the radar. After all, I’ll be a sexagenarian, which as a term for the mature sounds surprisingly flattering.

I’d rather take my lead from the Japanese. As a Vogue Japan columnist for many years, I learnt your 60th is a punch-the-air moment. It’s called kanreki and roughly translates to being reborn – when your household responsibilities pass to younger successors, symbolised by bunging them a rice paddle. The festivities offer a period of reflection and represent a fresh start.

First then, the reflection. Well, I’ve done stuff. Went to uni. Got married. Got divorced. Wanted children but was never with anyone whose procreative desires ran parallel to mine. Edited magazines. Done heaps of interviews – everyone from Hollywood heavyweights to Mongolian eagle hunters. And James May (fave). Got married again. Navigated my mum through dementia. Did a polar plunge (without a wetsuit). Hiked to the mountain gorillas. Suffered anxiety most days. Battled with OCD. And had a breakdown. So, you know, up and down.

More reflection: the last six decades have dissolved like a fast-acting Disprin, yet so much has changed. It only seems five minutes ago that phoning a friend meant traipsing to the telephone box up the street. Now, I can pocket-dial a Sherpa in the Himalayas. As for light entertainment, I grew up watching The Generation Game, where contestants created wobbly clay pots to win cuddly toys. Now we have dating shows based purely on the perusal of other people’s privates. Some days, I’m struck by the sheer magnitude of progress. Other times, I just shake my head.

As for the rebirth part, I’ve started indoor cycling (tough) and boxing-inspired workouts (strangely therapeutic). I’m fitter now than I was in my 40s. I don’t think I always look my age, which I put down to a brisk metabolism, a healthy diet, lifelong ballet classes and younger friends. But mainly Botox.

I still love fashion. When we boomers were small kids, we believed that come the millennium, we’d be slipping into silver spacesuits, a sartorial projection that never came to pass, despite Marc Jacobs’ various brushes with lurex. 

But once we’d been bewitched by what Stevie Nicks could do with a bit of chiffon and a top hat, individuality became the way to go. Hence I’m eschewing any elderly kit and sticking with my tulle skirts. My biker boots. My knitted shorts and fedoras.

This just leaves the celebration to consider. I’ve always steered clear of hosting parties in venues. People cry off. You have to decide when to curtail the free bar. And with the mixing of family, friends and workmates, there’s a danger the whole thing will turn into a bad wedding reception.

Perhaps a weekend away with the husband then? When I was 50, we went to Florence where I rode a merry-go-round and drank Campari. Or I could have the posh dinner for a select few. Did that for my 40th but somehow, it feels too staid.

Truth is, I’m warming to the party. Sod it, have a proper bash (as and when Covid allows). I fancy a playlist featuring Tears for Fears belting out Everybody Wants To Rule the World, partly because it transports me to the ’80s, partly because I’m amused by its new cultural resonance, but mainly because I danced like crazy to it a couple of years ago at the best New Year’s Eve party ever – on board a ship in Antarctica.

Even my younger self would never have imagined something so off-grid and off the wall. And I don’t intend to make it my last flag in the snow. There’s too much we sexagenarians have to offer. Welcome to your life, there’s no turning back…

Read Jan Masters’ column every week in Telegraph Magazine and on Fridays at 12pm via the Telegraph website 

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