If I have to choose a midlife tribe, I’m with the sexpots all the way

One of the joys of midlife is finally recognising your tribe then settling in for the long haul to bitch endlessly about other people’s.

Nothing – and I do mean nothing – is as horrifying as being expected to choose all over again; frisky or can’t be fagged, comfy Gabor cushioning or hottie thigh-length boots. Too clapped out to consider a dreary new job in insurance or so very (very!) alive from the waist down as to make sitting at a desk clinically impossible?

That’s the binary choice in these turbulent times, which is seeing midlifers being bombarded with more mixed messages than a Sue Gray lockdown investigation.

This week insurance company Phoenix Group magnanimously announced it would remove the triggering terms “energetic” and “enthusiastic” from its recruitment ads on the grounds that highlighting such youthful qualities discouraged the slug-a-bed, can’t-be-arsed 50-plus demographic from applying.

I think it’s possibly the patronising millennials in HR who are putting them off but, that aside, haven’t these milksops seen the pictures of Carol Vorderman on her extreme health retreat? Va-va-voom Vorders, 61, is clocking up 71 miles a week, poured into tourniquet-tight active wear like a Duracell-powered Jessica Rabbit.

Or what about Amanda Holden, cavorting in her garage wearing a leotard and ridonculously sassy heels? She’s 50, you know. Make her a risk consultant right this minute. Yes, we do realise she stripped off in order to bang the drum for the new series of Britain’s Got Talent, but that only begs the question: has it, though? Has it got talent? Show-pony Holden certainly has. In spadefuls. Why, if you trot her over to a corner cubicle she might even get dressed. Or not. Whevs. Lighten up, wokesters!

Youth may be wasted on the young, but I’m not convinced they have the monopoly on energy and enthusiasm and I’m surely not alone in feeling quite miffed at the suggestion.

Phoenix, meanwhile, has also kindly expunged the adjective “innovative” which it fears could make older applicants feel unwanted and useless. Ah, bless. We’re so doddery, yet so sensitive. Heartrending.

I have a suspicion that when an analogue CV arrives by post from an actual living person over 50, the recruitment team gather round, heads tilted, cooing “Aah, that’s so cute.” It might be simpler to print full-page Lord Kitchener adverts bearing the words: “This company wants you, even if you are over 50 and lazy with no new ideas, because we are in a recruitment crisis.” Just saying.

This stereotyping of midlifers being too timid, too intimidated to re-enter the workplace is genuinely hard to reconcile with the celebrity images of older women (in particular) having it all and indeed having it off – because nothing screams “youthful vigour” louder than sex and sexiness and shenanigans.

The ineluctable truth is that desirability is and always will be equated with the young. Yes, yes, there’s that instance of a 28-year-old Colin Farrell spending two and a half hours trying to charm Dame Eileen Atkins, then 69, into bed. Or, given that he laid siege to her in a hotel room, possibly out of bed.

“It was pure bliss,” she later recalled with immense good humour. “It cheered me up fantastically and made me sail through my 70th birthday without a care in the world.”

Farrell pleading for a “no strings” congress only enhanced his rogueish reputation. Dame Eileen graciously admitted she was tempted, thereby  proving she’s not just a Dame but a real Broad.

Honour was maintained. A refusal did not offend. Weird, but sweet too in a La La Land sort of parallel world. Age is just a number, of course, but then so is a lottery win or a blood pressure reading. No, I don’t grasp the logic either, but that’s the point. Nobody understands, or cares, for that matter.

Why shouldn’t Joan Collins flash her unimpeachable pins aged 88, or Jim Carrey (creepily) declare he’s 60 and sexy? It’s all part of the game; publicly ramping up the raunch is shorthand for vitality and pep.

But when it comes to more intimate revelations, less is definitely more – and more is definitely icky. Recent days have witnessed 56-year-old Coleen Nolan making headlines by “gushing” (not my word) about how she’s “not dead below the waist”. Quite the opposite in fact, since she hooked up with the love of her life on Tinder.

In fairness, she seemed quite taken aback to discover everything was in fully working order. Good on her. But without wishing to be a churl, back in the day nobody ever needed to know what was going on below the waist of a Nolan sister. It was their USP, dammit.

Unfortunately, now she’s mentioned it quite so specifically, we can’t un-visualise Coleen’s irrepressibly animated lower regions. Ferrets fighting in a sack to the tune of I’m in the Mood for Dancing spring to mind. Sorry.

So a word to the wise; if you’re a well-loved television personality d’un certain age suddenly firing on all sexual cylinders again and feeling utterly compelled to share your pinch-me-I’m-dreaming delight, keep it vague, for all our sakes. No body parts.

Midlifers have enough cognitive dissonance to be going on with, such as: do we have to be look-at-me sexpots in order to not be written off? And just like that I’m channeling Carrie Bradshaw, now a 55-year-old widow ruminating about her purpose and place in the world.

In the Sex and the City reboot she’s living in jaw-dropping luxury and miraculously finds the only sober, solvent, straight man in New York. But what about landing a job with Phoenix Group? Now there’s a rising-from-the-ashes sequel.

Has Sarah Jessica Parker got the necessary levels of lethargy, apathy and unoriginality to make a lasting impact? Or even a visible one? Would she want to? Spoiler alert: if I have to choose a midlife tribe, I’m with the performative sexpots all the way.

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