My bottom is as flat as Norfolk. It’s basically a back, slightly folded. As a seat it’s acceptable, though after 45 minutes I am grateful for a padded chair. In a tight dress in dim light the effect is MC Escher-like – a leering eye is unfortunately drawn down and around a virtual staircase somehow ending up back at the shoulders again without a hint of arousal, which is sad. And yet despite my gluteous failings, Kim Kardashian and I have much in common. Both she and I turn 40 this month, and nobody can believe it of either of us.
Forty! I know! A bizarre age to turn when all your parents are still basically 40; a crazy age to be presented with when you’re still not quite sure about historical wars or the spelling of, say, “embarrass”, nor can you confidently work the second TV remote. A mad age to be when, if asked how old you were, quickly and after a bracing swim, would reply, “19” without a quiver. But here it is, in black and white and shades of sparkling bronze; she and I enter the autumn of our youths and, well, also autumn, as middle-aged suburban mums.
Yes, her and Kanye’s house is significantly cleaner than mine, and her arse potentially more influential. Sure, I am not yet responsible for the felling of an entire forest’s worth of paper to host debates on whether I am the overlooked face of feminism, and sure, too, she is unlikely to be found in her Twitter DMs debating taste and class consciousness vis-à-vis the return of Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen’s Changing Rooms, but this month Kim and I share an important thing: both of us have been robbed of a party.
Instead of her planned celebration, a “Wild, Wild Miss West”-themed ball, for which she’d commissioned Thierry Mugler to make her a “metal cowgirl costume”, she is marking her birthday with the launch of a new makeup palette. I had also looked into launching a new makeup palette for my 40th. Well, less a palette, more a plate with a face painted wetly on to it that one can keep beside the bed and flatten upon themselves every morning to save time, but the red tape was a nightmare so, instead, I spent the day eating well and complaining loudly.
You lose control of the music around the time the hummus runs out, and soon a girl will be shouting in your ear
Never have I needed a party more. The month-long lead-up, the quiet texts from friends asking politely if I’ve invited their exes, the gorgeous anxiety of worrying absolutely nobody will come. And then the day, with its perfunctory hoovering and rearranging of shelves – the walking into an empty room again and again attempting to see it as others might, the ceremonial bowling up of crisps. Evening, the noisy hairdryer over the noisy record player, the lover-like laying of dress on bed. Lamplighting, a candle that threatens to burn down the bunting, and just when doubt kicks in about the very fine threads of friendship you have sewn across years and postcodes, the best music in the world – a doorbell, right on time. It gets dark and someone’s smoking inside.
You lose control of the music around the time the hummus runs out, and soon a girl will be shouting in your ear about love or buses. Because age is real, someone will mournfully leave then to pay a babysitter, and their face will disappear ghostlike in an Uber window. At some point there are no more photos taken, and two people are slow dancing in the kitchen to Kermit’s Rainbow Connection, and the hem of your dress is wet so you tuck it into your tights. It’s no surprise who’s still there at dawn, or who is part-dead on the sofa when you’re quietly decanting old drinks in the morning, or who texts for your sister’s number the following day, or who orders a pizza with you when evening rudely returns. Ah, to know again the sweet ignorance of eating cake someone has blown on. The carefree joy of trying a stranger’s cocktail, the casual hello hug of some you barely care for. Never have I needed a party more.
It’s comforting to know that right now at least one person is feeling exactly the same. Perhaps, when “all this” is “over”, Kim and I could sort out a joint party. I’m up for it if she is. I could supply the Ikea fairy lights, she could be in charge of going-home bags containing £30,000-worth of spangly iPhones and a voucher for a knee-lift. She could call in a queen-sized chocolate sculpture of our auras, I could make sure everyone knew how to do the tricky lock on the loo. She could ask Disney to create a Frozen-themed sleepover for the children, I could see if my mum could sort out some pasta for them around six. She could get her husband to whip up the dancefloor, I could get my husband to mop it up later. A piñata in the shape of Kim’s body, a truncheon to hit it with in the shape of mine. The more I think about it the more I know it could work.
It is becoming clear that the real tragedy of Covid is the fact that Kim and I have been unable to properly celebrate our ascent into middle age. Which means, of course, that all important birthdays must regretfully be postponed. I will not turn 40 until the vaccine is ready, and only then, when I finally receive the kall.