7 stages of Christmas every midlifer goes through

Annabel Rivkin and Emilie McMeekan
Last year one of us – overcome by the spirit of Christmas schmaltz – kissed the postman - Betsie van der Meer

1. Light addiction

How many lights is too many lights? We don’t understand the question. So we order more of the flashy ones that give everyone a headache but are so TWINKLY. How about the red ones that scream Christmas brothel? And we battle the tangle.

Light fever is wildly infectious – as soon as someone says, ‘I think I need more lights,’ we see people’s eyes glow with alarm. Because they too need more lights. Sorry. But LIGHTS. 

2. Mariah meltdown

Are we there yet? From the moment Mariah Carey’s Christmas torture tune hits the radio/shop playlists/brain, it’s on a loop. The video was viewed more than 100 million times on YouTube last December – no word of a lie. And then there are the carol concerts and the jingling: soon we will no longer be fully functioning human women but merely Mariah-bots unable to say anything except, ‘Make my wish come trooooaargh…’ 

3. Love incontinence

There are moments – amid the chaos and the consumption – when we need a kind of emotional Tena Lady because, man, are we leaking love, nostalgia, sentimentality and forgiveness all over the gaff. These flashes strike exactly when they are not supposed to: taking out the rubbish in a stained dressing gown and glancing up and down the street, we might suddenly be knocked sideways by gratitude and a soppy sense of romance.

Last year one of us – overcome by the spirit of Christmas schmaltz – kissed the postman. He was deeply, deeply baffled. But she just gazed lovingly into his eyes as she signed his little black box thing.

4. Present panic

We’ve been super-organised. We made a list and we stuck to it. We were witty and splashy, and let’s not take this too seriously, right? It’s done.

And then suddenly, on Christmas Eve, when it is too late to do anything about it, a stone drops in the pit of our stomachs. That anxiety starts spreading across our chests and up around our necks – everything looks cheap instead of cheerful and we are going to offend everyone, and we are having a full-blown present panic attack. Is now the time to take up knitting?

5. Festive control-freakery

‘Do I have to do everything myself? Is no one else even aware that this stuff is happening? Do they believe that elves do all the work? Am I completely on my own? Can you help me with this? Or perhaps show just a bat squeak of initiative? Hang on… Not like that… Oh, I’ll do it. Do I have to do everything?’

6. Alcohol(ic) ambivalence

We have started vaguely to keep an eye on our ‘units’. Because, though it’s joyless, you kind of have to. Even if your ‘units’ are bottles. But at Christmas, who’s counting? No one, that’s who. ‘What are you looking at? It’s 8.37am and a Mexican coffee is on-trend and jolly.

No, it’s not the beans that are Mexican, it’s the other bit. Now please go away.’

7. Packaging horror

Suddenly the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is in the sitting room, and we are so ashamed. The plastic casings, the vast boxes that held tiny things, the natty flamingo-covered paper. We retreat to the kitchen only to cower in the face of the endless bin bags, the trays that held pies and hams, and shame, shame, shame.

The area outside by the bins looks like it’s the 1970s. Next year we will know better. Do better. Be better. Now where’s the cling film? The leftovers (which we will throw away in five days) are shrivelling. We are definitely making bubble and squeak. That is definitely going to happen.

I’m Absolutely Fine! A Manual for Imperfect Women, by The Midults,  is out now (Cassell, £16.99)