THE one and only time I tried therapy, I spent most of my very expensive hour trying to convince the shrink that “denial” was a good thing.
She baulked when I said the words “great for your mental health”. But really I lost her at “potentially life-changing”.
Celia Walden explains why she thinks that denial is better that BotoxCredit: Supplied
As she ushered me out the door, I caught a look of pity on her face.
The thought bubble above her head read: “How sad to be going through life believing things that just aren’t true.”
She’s the one I feel sorry for.
Denial may get a bad rep, but it’s as close as we get to waving a magic wand.
It can banish everything from unpleasant memories to unpleasant realities in an instant. Poof! Never happened.
And when it comes to combating the unpleasant effects of ageing?
Well, it’s working wonders for me.
There’s only one thing more effective than the most sought-after surgeon’s knife or the latest, priciest face cream — made from the ground down umbilical cords of new-born calves — and that’s sticking your fingers in your ears and shouting over anyone who tries to tell you you’re past it: “Lalalalala! Can’t hear you!”
It’s about doing the mature, grown-up thing — pretending this isn’t happening.
There’s a point in every woman’s life when she will be confronted by the physical fact of ageing.
When, out of nowhere, mother nature — that vindictive little b***h — deals you a couple of right hooks, forcing you to ask yourself the question: “How am I going to deal with this?”
We don’t choose that “crunch time” moment, but certain factors can bring it on: Punishing overhead lighting, or going to the kind of spin classes that are uniquely populated by Gen Z women in cutaway Lululemon.
It may happen in, say, the Zara changing room, as you try on a plunging silk top the younger you would have pulled off perfectly — and suddenly freeze.
Who is that matronly pub landlady in the mirror?
Where did those deep grooves leading up in a V from between your breasts come from?
And why did nobody warn you 40-plus years of “tummy sleeping” would do that?
You may have The Realisation when the fine B-roads around your eyes turn into a dual carriageway that collects mascara in a new, deeply unappealing way, when your colourist diplomatically suggests “we try a base tone that provides greater coverage”, or the first time a medical professional asks you whether “you’re still menstruating” — apparently now an acceptable question to ask every woman over 30.
I’m not going to pretend that those moments don’t exist.
Celia shows off her physique from back in the dayCredit: Instagram / Celia Walden
I’m delusional, but not about those.
And by the way, they happen to some of the world’s most glamorous women.
People like Sex Education actress Gillian Anderson, who, when I interviewed her for Glamour magazine, described the “pathetic, existential” crisis she briefly experienced.
“I’d been filming something where I was a couple of decades older than everybody else,” the 55-year-old told me.
“And I remember spending a day literally mourning my youth — literally weeping.
“Afterwards, I talked to women about it and found out it’s not uncommon and potentially a healthy thing to do.
“Because as long as you can get to a point where you’re able to embrace what the next stage is, and not obsessing over trying to get back to looking a certain way, then it’s fine.”
I, for one, am not obsessing over getting back to the way I used to look.
I know what the next stage is, and the one after that — pretending I’m still that woman.
This means I’ll still wear the same short skirts and thigh-high boots I wore at 20 — to my husband’s joy and my daughter’s disgust.
(And by the way, the “mutton dressed as lamb” insults fall flat if the mutton is living her best life.)
Celia is still wearing what she did at 20, much to the delight of husband Piers MorganCredit: Getty
That I have no intention of swapping the bikinis for burkinis.
That when I don’t get any whistles from a building site, I’ll just blame #MeToo.
That I avoid looking at too many current photos of myself and ignore the constant eye-test reminders from my local opticians.
Oh, and when I find myself surrounded by the hell-in-a-handcart brigade, lamenting their brain fog, oven-mitt boobs, skin-laxity issues and invisibility to men, I will leave the room.
I’m not interested in the truth, and I will not have my delusions derailed.
When I was growing up, we had an old family friend who had been an actress and a pin-up in her younger years.
She must have been a founding member of The Denial Method, as even when I knew her, this tiny, hunched, gap-toothed, 80-year-old woman would chuckle knowingly if a young man asked her the time.
“So obviously just an excuse to talk to me,” she’d sigh.
Wouldn’t you rather be that woman than the one pointing out the cracks and the subsidence?
It’s not even about looking at the bright side, if you think about it, but keeping the blinkers on at all times.
Making yourself the star of your own pipe dreams, all the way into your nineties, when, as you get ready for your granddaughter’s wedding, you’re careful to dress down a bit and keep the make-up to a minimum — you know, so as not to upstage the bride.
- The Square by Celia Walden, published by Sphere, out now, £20.
Celia’s book The Square is out nowCredit: Supplied