60? Try Sexty, says novelist Kathy Lette as she prepares to enter her seventh decade with a kick-ass attitude and a bonkers bucket list
She’s about to celebrate a landmark birthday but novelist Kathy Lette isn’t planning on crocheting doilies. And she’s not the only one entering her seventh decade with a kick-ass attitude and a bonkers bucket list…
Kathy horsing getting into the swim of things at her book launch
I’m about to get a tattoo on my chest that reads: ‘Do Not Resuscitate’. In case medics miss the message, I’m inking a ‘PTO’ between my shoulder blades. And a month ago, I changed my will to stipulate that I’d like my ashes to be fired into the sky from a cannon. That’s my big bang theory – to die, covered in scars, glory, scandal, totally satisfied with life, declaring loudly from my deathbed, ‘What a bloody great ride!’
Not that death is imminent. No, it’s because I want to start living. Why? Well, I’m about to turn 60. This big birthday milestone has made me realise that tempus is fugit-ing like there’s no tomorrow. My bucket list is longer than War and Peace. And if I don’t start having adventures, fun and mischief now, then when? I mean, I imagine a Zimmer frame could cramp my style on the black ski run.
Sixty. I know. I can’t believe it either. For my mother’s generation, turning 60 was practically a death knell. It signalled the time to retire, collect your bus pass and disappear into a beige fog of doily-crocheting and jam-making – a case of send in the crones. I expected to feel like the human version of an orthopaedic sandal at 60 – comfy, well-worn and unremarkable. ‘Being adventurous in bed’ would mean knitting while watching Newsnight. Sixty sounded so ancient.
Except now that the age is upon me, I don’t feel antiquated at all. No. I feel like swinging from chandeliers with a toyboy between my teeth. The combo of experience with a youthful attitude has afforded me a devil-may-care derring-do, which is truly liberating. A ‘sod off! I’m 60!’ sensibility has taken hold. Women are brought up to be decorative and demure people-pleasers, but the most joyful aspect of getting older is that you couldn’t care less what people think.
Kathy with friend Stephen Fry
And I’m not alone. Just look at the roll call of formidable women bidding farewell to their 50s this year and note how they’re defying ageist stereotypes: Andie MacDowell has just filmed a sizzling sex scene; Madonna is challenging the youth-obsessed pop world with a 14th album; Sandi Toksvig is the face of primetime TV as co-host of The Great British Bake Off, while Kate Bush, Jamie Lee Curtis, Ellen DeGeneres, Michelle Pfeiffer, Candace Bushnell, Holly Hunter, Helen Fielding, Miranda Richardson and many other inspiring broads are on stage, on our screens and on the red carpets proving that we 60-year-old women have not passed our amuse-by date.
Kathy's rules for rocking the big six-oh
1. Don’t diet, fake tan or waste money on cellulite creams. Just get a dimmer switch – the greatest beauty aid known to womankind.
2. No surgery. My mother told me never to pick my nose – especially from a catalogue. The only plastic surgery a woman my age should experience is cutting up the credit card she was going to use to pay for all that pointless pain, then using the money to travel the world for fun and frivolity.
3. No tortuous bikini waxing. You’re a woman, so don’t try to look like a girl. Just find a man who likes a little light bush walking.
4. Have great sex and loud laughter. They’re the best ways to stay young, lowering levels of the stress hormone adrenalin and boosting the immune system.
5. Find yourself a toyboy. So much more rejuvenating than a face cream. Younger men have been raised by feminists, so he’ll adore you, not bore you, and do all your chores for you.
Instead of thinking about all the things I should stop doing, I can’t stop thinking of all the things I haven’t done: skydiving, bungee jumping, mud-wrestling, wing-walking, moon-walking, a ménage à trois with two exotic Frenchmen… despite the fact that I’ve never even played doubles in tennis! After all, you don’t have to be an A-lister to be audacious or adventuresome at 60. The best things in life really are free: walking, talking, laughing, oxygen and orgasms. Sex is actually a lot like oxygen – no big deal unless you’re not getting any, right?
As men age their testosterone declines, which is why so many retired blokes want to sit at home, nesting. But women have nested. We’ve been tethered to the family hearth by our apron and heartstrings for decades. This disparity is reflected in the fact that most divorces are now initiated by women, often, in my experience, when the youngest child finishes school or the husband retires. But, boosted by the rocket fuel of ever more sophisticated HRT – not to mention testosterone gels – 60-year-old women are enjoying their last hormonal hoorah. They’re feeling more strident, bolshie…more, in fact, like a bloke.
Which is why I suddenly find myself thinking about crewing a ship around Asia. I want to abseil into a volcano. And leap out of an aeroplane. I’m about to walk on the wild side, literally, on a 117-mile trek along the Fife coast with Sandi Toksvig, Sarah Brown and Arabella Weir, raising money for children’s charity Theirworld. I’m also planning a birthday pool party, involving a lot of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation from Bondi surf lifeguards in their budgie-smugglers.
Kathy with Dawn French and Nicole Kidman
Kathy with Prince Charles, left, and with Billy Connolly
It’s the only explanation as to why I’ve embarked on a one-woman show at the Edinburgh Festival (as long as I don’t fall out with the cast!). And it’s also why I’ve separated from my husband, on amicable terms, after a 28-year marriage. Many women balk at flying solo again at 60, but with empty-nest syndrome imminent, the time feels right to embrace a new challenge.
And I don’t intend to feel guilty about being a bit selfish, either – I don’t have time for it. Turning 60 allows you to slough off deleterious emotions. And you should, too. If your offspring give you a hard time about you disappearing for some fun in the sun, remind them of all the sacrifices you’ve made for them – those perfectly straight teeth; that medical degree on their wall.
If, like me, you’re about to hit 60, allow that ageing angst to fly right under your anxiety radar. Surely age is irrelevant, unless you’re a vintage vino or stilton? So, happy 60th, girls. I’ll see you on top of Mount Kilimanjaro. Or under a stud muffin at a whipped cream orgy in Copenhagen. Let’s just agree to carpe the hell out of diem.
Kathy’s one-woman show Girl Talk is at the Edinburgh Festival from 4-11 August; go to tickets.edfringe.com. Her latest book Best Laid Plans is published by Bantam, price £16.99. To order a copy for £12.74 (a 25 per cent discount) until 22 July, visit mailshop.co.uk/books or call 0844 571 0640; p&p is free on orders over £15.
Look who's 60 this year...
MADONNA There’s no stopping the Material Girl: she’s launched a beauty line, adopted five-year-old twin girls from Malawi and is still prancing around in PVC and corsets.
MICHELLE PFEIFFER With three films coming out, including Maleficent 2, the star of 1980s hits such as The Witches of Eastwick puts her ageless beauty down to a vegan diet.
SHARON STONE Having learnt to speak again after a debilitating stroke in 2001, the Basic Instinct star is back with five films slated for release.
BELINADA CARLISLE The ardent yoga fan has just released her eighth album, Wilder Shores, and is going back on tour with her 80s band The Go-Go’s this summer.
JENNIFER SAUNDERS After making her West End return in Oscar Wilde’s Lady Windermere’s Fan, the Ab Fab star is reuniting with Dawn French to make a film.
ANDIE MacDOWELL The Four Weddings star is enjoying a career resurgence, from last year’s racy Love After Love to her upcoming Netflix comedy The Last Laugh.
ANNETTE BENING Last seen on screen canoodling with 32-year-old Jamie Bell, the four-time Oscar nominee will appear in the hotly anticipated blockbuster Captain Marvel.
... And what the new 60 looks like
Left: JAMIE LEE CURTIS The actress – and vocal Trump critic – will reprise her 1978 breakout role as Laurie in the latest Halloween chiller, out in October. Right: HOLLY HUNTER After 40 years as a working actress, The Piano star’s career is still on the up, with rave reviews for playing Beth in last year’s The Big Sick.
MIRANDA RICHARDSON Fresh from Kay Mellor’s latest TV hit Girlfriends, the actress says that recently turning 60 heralded a ‘year of celebration’.
ELLEN DeGENERES, left, and HELEN FIELDING