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The ageing process of a woman is a strange beast. Before we find ourselves well and truly in it, we imagine it to be some kind of vague yet simple maze. We have first the emotional rigmarole of adolescence, in which we deal with the sudden betrayal of our bodies by engaging in competitive crying competitions with our frenemies. Then comes Normal Life, which supposedly begins at around 20 and lasts for the next 30 years, and of which the only real inconvenience is supposed to be the monthly visits by the Communists to the summer house. After that, we're met with menopause, the signs of which we are all familiar with particularly if, like me, your mother was possessed by Beelzebub himself for the better part of a decade. Then, death.

Of course, that middle part is a little hazier once you fall into it. And you really do fall. So for those among us who are about to find themselves on the older side of 30, here is a little taste of what you won't find in the guidebook. She who prepares loudest, cries hardest. Or something.

Candy is Dandy, But Liquor is Sicker
I have a distinct memory of myself at 17, necking a second bottle of Passion Pop and declaring loftily to anyone who would listen that I just simply didn't get hangovers. They were the bane of other people's existence, the namby pambies who couldn't hold their liquor and balked at the idea of a third glass of wine. "Oh no!" they squealed. "I'm a real Cadbury!" Amateurs, I whispered to myself, cracking open the Banrock cask and pouring it straight into my mouth to save time. Sure, I had a headache every so often, but only because I was too hardcore to bother with water. Nothing that a spot of mid morning Hungry Jacks with a side serving of extra mayonnaise wouldn't cure.

Then BAM! Thirty arrived.

If my twenties were characterised by the not-so-unique ability to fall into a vat of wine for an entire weekend before reverse somersaulting out on Monday morning, landing into a dress that miraculously still fit in all the right places and moseying out the door with barely a lick of mascara on, then it's fair to say that my thirties are all that except for the part where you replace everything that comes after the wine with me curled around a toilet bowl, naked and lowing like an injured cow whose skull has been cracked open so its liquefied contents can be erratically stirred by the chubby arm of a screaming toddler.

Alas, this fate awaits you too. As someone who was born with a country boy's appetite for booze, it's caused me no end of misery to realise that the elastic debauchery of my youth has withered and decayed like the waistband of a pair of old knickers. Which leads me too…

Granny Pants
Remember when shopping for underwear was fun and occasionally a little bit sexy? Your drawers drawer was filled with comfortable cotton briefs for the everyday stuff and lacy numbers for the times you'd been reading too many women's magazines. Some of you might have even worn g-strings. I tried one once, but having inherited the aforementioned appetite for booze from my country boy father, I retained the South American genes of my mother and grew a bottom large enough to hide Pinochet. He complained about the flossing.

Regardless, underwear used to be something you'd slip on underneath skirts and jeans and be done with. If you were feeling a little bit frisky, you might flirt with the idea of wearing none at all. (I have done that before, but generally because I'm very bad at laundry.) Well, I hate to break it to you, but those days are gone. Oh sure, the knickers still fit. They just feel…unreliable somehow. Like life itself has become less an act of walking around doing things and more a ride on the Gravitron just before it really hits its stride. Suddenly, things start feeling as if they need to be strapped down and reinforced a little more.

High waisted underpants. Get used to them.

Pluck a Duck
Of course, the grand thing about high waisted underpants is that you can hide things in them. Things like tweezers. You'll be needing these to cope with the sudden beard that starts to sprout around your chin line and neck. Pesky little hairs that refuse to die, and whose growth speed seem to indicate that the government has hidden some kind of radioactive nuclear waste dump beneath the suddenly prickly rim of your clavicles. No matter how vehement your one woman attempt at a burnback is, these little guys keep appearing, black as ravens. Perhaps Edgar Allen Poe's famous poem referred not to one man's descent into madness over the disappearance of his lover Lenore, but the documentation of one woman's struggle against the tides of time. Give me back my youth! she screams, furiously trying to pull out the stubborn whiskers with the ragged edges of her nails. Nevermore, says the Raven. NEVERMORE!

M for motherhood
Speaking of lost youth, let's talk about motherhood. I cannot speak for the breeders among us, for I know not what goes on in their tum-tums. Hearing from one friend how her midwife took a handful of placental cream and rubbed it into her cuticles ("Nature's best lanolin!") was enough to put me off discussing the Miracle of Life for an eternity. Personally, I advocate a return to a time of social gentility, when children were thought to have been delivered by storks and men celebrated by having cigars and talking loudly of the stock exchange.  

Be that as it may, I can safely say this. If you, like me, have not allowed a gentleman to 'put a thing in it' (by 'thing' I mean 'small child' and by 'it' I mean 'Republican HQ aka woman's Dark Place') then you will suddenly realise why it's euphemistically referred to as The Curse. As Charlotte Bronte is my witness, I have never experienced the level of menstrual related crazy that has hit me in my thirties. Although *I* haven't decided yet if *I* want to have children, my wishes are clearly irrelevant to a uterus that's taken on a Stephen King like identity and is selecting increasingly cruel and unusual forms of torture to punish me for not filling it with squishy baby bits. All of which goes to prove the central thesis of Catholicism: women's bodies are evil.

So there you have it, my little on-the-cusp-of-thirty dumplings. This is just part of what awaits you on the other side of that hill you're now rounding the top of, still flush with the devil-may-care insouciance of the last ten years. But while it may take some time getting used to the fact you'll trot through your thirties (knees permitting) with a slowly atrophying liver held in place by stiff cotton pants that can double as a shopping bag for all the hair removal creams and medical issued marijuana you'll need to deal with the dystopian uterine war raging in your down there, be comforted by two not-so-small things.

(1) You'll have more money to pay for it all and (2) the sex is better, giant underpants and all.