Sarah Pitt: Kate's Playboy shoot helps me over my birthday blues
I am facing what people call a 'significant birthday' in the New Year. I turn 40 in January, and I can't quite believe it. How did that happen? I'm sure I was only 17 the last time I stopped to think about it.
That's the thing about life, though. One year follows another, and before you know it you are bracing yourself for the arrival of cards saying "life begins at 40" whose very false jollity only seems to hammer home with greater emphasis that your life is, in fact, over.
I have never had an age complex before – preferring to concentrate my worrying elsewhere – but over the past few months I've definitely begun nurturing one.
I used to marvel at the way women of a certain age often lie about their age, even, nay particularly, when being interviewed by my good self for an article in this newspaper. Now I'm beginning to get a little inkling as to why. Something to do with labels, and sell by dates, and sand running through an egg timer, grain by grain. Uggh.
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It won't help anyone reminding me that "40 is the new 30" either. The fact remains that 40 has connotations. It is the grim gateway to a vast, dimly-lit territory known as "middle age" which has never been sold enticingly in either real life or fiction.
No wonder people get what are called "mid-life crises". I have observed this in one male relative in the grip of just such an age-related crisis who lost a dramatic amount of weight, took up smoking again and swapped his shapeless corduroy trousers for tight leather ones.
He spent one extended family Christmas banished to the garden in sub-zero temperatures while the cat sharpened his claws on the leather trousers, making the relative wince as he lounged against a wall trying to blow smoke rings.
Such antics have always been deemed by common unspoken consent to be out of bounds for the women in my family, Getting On With Life (however boring it is) being What Women Do.
But in the interests of gender equality I am thinking of breaking the mould. I just have to come up with what would constitute recklessness in the current climate.
Perhaps I could look for some pointers to a woman who celebrates her 40th birthday on exactly the same day as I do. Supermodel Kate Moss and I were both born on January 16, 1974. She in Croydon in Surrey and me not a million miles away in Aldershot in Hampshire, neither locations exactly known for their glamour.
She's gone on to spend her life appearing in some of the most glamorous publications in the world, striding down catwalks, launching her own Topshop diffusion line, and dating and marrying rock stars. I haven't.
OK, her life does not much resemble mine, but once I realised, some years ago, that we share the same birthday, I've taken a bit of interest in what she gets up to. And I was the first to tut on her behalf when I read the report in a magazine which said something like "Kate Moss, at 39 now approaching middle age...".
It was like we'd both been slighted by an uncaring society which failed to notice that, as Kate is still wearing skinny jeans with stars on them and skimpy hot pants (not at the same time), she couldn't possibly be saddled with the frumpy label "middle-aged".
Kate is fighting back though, if photographs "released in the media" this week are to be believed.
To mark this milestone birthday, she's posed naked and in a bunny girl outfit complete with pointy ears for an 18-page special shoot in Playboy, the somewhat retro publication which is itself celebrating its 60th birthday at the same time as Kate's 40th. She graces the cover of the January/February edition of the magazine and one thing she doesn't look is middle-aged.
One national paper gushes that she looks "perfect" in the photos, a sentiment only slightly undermined by a sour internet poster who comments that the airbrushers must have been working overtime at Playboy HQ.
It's not terribly PC posing for Playboy, so reluctantly I won't be going down the same route, but I have to admire Kate's spirit.
Life, she seems to be saying with every outré pose, really does begin at 40.
Becky Sheaves is away