Michele Hanson Real age: 70. The age I feel: 18

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Michele Hanson
Real age: 70. The age I feel: 18

Michele Hanson: 'I’m pretending old age isn’t happening.' Photograph: Martin Godwin for the Guardian How old do I feel? It varies. Mentally, I feel between 11 and 18, masquerading as an adult. It's a bit scary, because there's always the risk that I might get found out. Someone might realise that I am not a proper grownup. Even though I'm 70 and a half, maturity never quite happened. But with a bit of luck, people will now confuse it with the sixth age – childish, but not quite at the sans teeth, sans eyes and all the rest of it – and they won't guess I never progressed in the first place. I still like Jackie Wilson and Wilson Pickett, I still wear jeans. I'm pretending old age isn't happening, and in my head it isn't.
Physically, it's also very up and down. If I'm well and the sun's shining, then I feel about 40. I can even run about, sometimes more than I could in my 50s, because of all the practice I've been doing on dog walkies, but if I'm poorly I feel about 103, and if I look in the mirror without my clothes on, then also over 100, rather like a Struldbrug, those poor, tormented creatures in Gulliver's Travels, who grow old, stay old, and never die. Everyone dreaded being a Struldbrug, and I can see why, looking at my drooping, crinkling reflection and yellow dagger toe-nails, which I know will only get worse. So I just take care never to look. But in dim lighting, fully clothed and just after a visit to the hairdresser, and if I remember to stand up nice and straight, I'm 40 again. In the cold, clutching a hot-water-bottle with the bed-socks on, I'm an old lady.
I try hard not to fall over, because sprains, bruises and breaks take longer to heal and remind me that I'm on the road to death and getting closer and closer, at rather a worrying speed. Then my friends start to peg out, or have close shaves, which means lots of hospital visiting, and I'm back up to 90.
But yesterday the sun came out, I climbed a big ladder, on to the flat roof, and sprayed a tree in a sprightly way, had a lovely immature rant about the way the world is going, swore horribly, put on my favourite zebra-patterned shoes, had a dance, both legs worked rather well, and hey presto – 18 again.


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