Below are two poems. The first I wrote after watching my mother gaze at her beautiful face in the mirror and bewail her wrinkles. The idea that she felt shame at signs of ageing angered me, inspiring the poem: ‘Love Your Lines’.

The second poem: ‘Halfway to my Telegram from the Queen’ is more fun. I wrote it to celebrate my fiftieth birthday a few years ago.

Love your lines

Wrinkles crinkle from a miserable face.

Smug smile of a smoothie who’s had her face defaced.

Adverts condition us like dogs associating dinner with bell,

wrinkled face sad, smooth face happy,

buy this cream, that cream, nip/tuck as well.

‘Look at those lines, you’ve never looked worse,

Let us tighten then up, let us lighten your purse

You’re worth it, worth having your life erased from your face,

those years an embarrassment, your age, a disgrace!’

Our mission: to teach you to hate your reflections

Unless they be enhanced with our cosmetic confections.

Despise, disguise deride, your real selves

Buy self esteem with our creams on the shelves

Photoshop, photoshop erase all the signs

Remove all the wrinkles, lose all the lines

Lines that mark the passage of the years

Rum in the sun, tears and fears

Mementos of lives lived with passion and fun

worry lines from a difficult son

lines of laughter, lines from frowns

lines from living, ups and downs

That we view these lines with loathing and shame

I hold these commercials entirely to blame.

Ads embody the essence of objectification

of which social anxiety is one manifestation

of the crimes committed by corporate culture

that breeds and then feeds on our needs like a vulture

So we see ourselves through the eyes of the Other

Rather than viewing each other like sister and brother.

Everywhere, everyday everyone gets older

So we should be bolder, we should not have to shoulder

the shit the ads feed us to bolster their profits,

or cut ourselves up to conform their writs

our sense of self reduced to an image

that falsifies to project what they envisage

To be the OK person in this cosmetic world

So our unique selves cannot unfurl

Without fear of judgement or misunderstanding

Of categorisation, labelling and branding.

So let’s boycott the adverts and reclaim your life

No botox, no face cream, no under the knife

Take pride in our wrinkles our crow’s feet, our scars

Love the lines on our faces that show who we are

Halfway to my telegram from the Queen

I’m halfway to my telegram from the Queen, or most likely King Will

I’m Roman numeral L, the half century, the wrong side of the hill

50 shades of grey dyed brown, but there’s other signs too

Friends who call after ten, now say sorry did I wake you?

Fast rides on funfairs now fill me with fear

I wonder into the kitchen and then think ‘why did I come here?’

I feel like the morning after and I haven’t been anywhere.

When I bend over, I look for something else to do while I’m down there.

I have a party and the neighbours don’t even realize

I get asked for advice because I look wise

I used to find builder’s whistling at me distasteful

Frankly now if I’m whistled at I find I’m quite grateful

I first realised I was getting a wee bit old maidy

When I went to the butcher just cos he calls me ‘young lady’.

I thank god my man’s too vain to wear glasses,

Now he can’t see how saggy my arse is

My lined face looks soft focused and blurry,

He puts it down to his poor vision that my chin now looks furry

So the question is what to do now, resist or embrace?

Fighting and screaming or aging with grace?

The best thing about it is we’re all in the same spot

All maturing nicely whether we like it or not

I can see me and my mates in the future all greying and stout

We’ll form a gang and call ourselves ‘the old trouts’

We’ll have ear trumpets and pretend to be deaf and shout ‘eh what’s that you say?’

We’ll don tweed skirts and sensible shoes and get in the way

We’ll walk across busy roads purposely slow

And hog the aisles cackling and moaning in Tesco

And count our change in pennies when paying for our shopping

And hang out for hours drinking tea and gossiping

We’ll gad about town with our bass passes

Brag about our toy boys and pinch waiters arses.

This vision of middle aged mayhem excited my man

He pleaded and begged to join this menacing gang

When he found he was excluded on account of his gender

Got mad, said ‘one day this snub you’ll remember

I’ll form my own rival gang of death dodgers

We’ll have gang fights in Tescos – Trouts versus codgers

We’ll nick your trolleys, spill your tea, rough you up something frightful,

Run off with you bags’, I thought it sounded delightful

Oh what a fabulous future I see, but there’s still some time to go

Still too young for such antics, maybe after the next zero…