10 skills that you only have if you're a midlifer

Annabel Rivkin and Emilie McMeekan
The art of collecting underwear - © 2013 Janice Lin

1. The art of mending

Not buttons and hems and socks and stuff. Not darning. No, no, no – can’t do all the Victorian mending. But we are quite good at helping to mend people’s broken hearts, relationship rifts, crises of confidence and shattered self-esteem. It’s what we’re here for, partly. That, and smashing the patriarchy. Oh, and is anyone else getting really quite impressively excellent at mending (or at least briefly prolonging the life of) domestic appliances using YouTube? So satisfying that it’s almost sexual.

2. The art of swearing

We cannot here, obviously, what with the Telegraph being a family newspaper. But we’re poets when it comes to swearing. Apart from anything else, it makes us feel better. Lalochezia: the emotional relief gained from using profane language.

3. The art of time-bending

If we have learnt anything from the rush hour of life, it’s this: never let anyone know how fast you are. It is none of their business. And they would probably never believe that a human woman could shop this fast, think this fast, write this fast, lose her temper this fast, calm down this fast, have a shower this fast, deal with emails this fast, develop ideas this fast… We do things this fast so that we can snatch back 10 minutes of respite (most frequently used to scroll through Instagram) before we do the next thing on the list… really, really, astoundingly fast.

4. The art of collecting underwear

We are so good at collecting underwear that we don’t even know we are doing it. Our ‘artistic process’ goes a little like this: buy underwear for every mood and life stage, for every iteration of our bodies and relationship statuses, and then never throw any of it away. Ever. (Annabel has three large drawers full of… drawers. Some large, some spun from fairy webs.) We have developed quite the assortment. We should get together and go through it all sometime. We’d laugh, we’d cry, we’d go online and buy some more.

5. The art of the takeaway

Because effort doesn’t always mean cooking – getting all sweaty and covered in chicken juice. Effort can mean flowers, nice linen, pretty glasses, a few candles, good lighting, delicious drinks, a smile, fun people, chat, a hug, a compliment, kindness.

That is far more likely to make for a fun evening than some kind of stressful soufflé and fights over the barbecue. We spend plenty of our lives catering for all sorts of people with all sorts of needs. These days we order in. (Annabel has turned heating up a Sally Clarke roast-chicken pie into her signature dish.)

6. The art of knowing when someone needs us

That witchy tingle we get when someone we love is in pain. Even if we have not spoken to them for months because life has locked us in a basement. We text ‘Are you OK?’ because we have woken up at 3am in a cold sweat knowing that things are awry. Though sometimes it’s just the curry.

7. The art of the urgent exit

Midults are all good at the urgent exit. But Annabel is the queen of it. When she says she’s leaving, she’s already in motion towards the door; anyone not paying attention can get caught in her slipstream, finding themselves in the car and on the A40 in a matter of minutes. After her, everyone else is an amateur.

Picking the opportune moment to leave is a life skill in itself Credit:  Getty Images

8. The art of the same conversation

Life with old friends is one continuous conversation. Jobs, countries, dogs, houses, partners, pelvic floors have come and gone but the conversation is still going, and still compelling and funny and important.

9. The art of comfort

It is possible to still look like we’ve made an effort while wearing flat shoes. Emilie has been a foot-positivity advocate since before social media began. Serena Williams wore trainers to the Met Gala so people seem to think it’s official now. Emilie is absolutely fine with Williams stepping into her comfortable shoes.

Comfort is a dog (and a) blanket Credit: Getty Images

10. The art of appearing absolutely fine

You would never, ever know…

I’m Absolutely Fine! A Manual for Imperfect Women, by The Midults, is out now in paperback (Cassell, £8.99); themidult.com

Read the  latest column from The Midults on telegraph.co.uk every Friday from midday