I've just returned from a much-needed holiday in Turkey. While I was there, I discovered I had a superpower. I was at a bar with the teenage daughter of a family friend when it became clear I could make previously polite young people recoil with horror without touching them. All I had to do was to tell them how old I was: 34.
Now that I'm back home, I've found out my young would-be pals might be right in veering away. According to a new survey, women are at their most stressed at the age of 34. Perhaps the younglings could smell the waves of anxiety emanating from me.
So, just what is it that's making me and my identically aged sistren freak out? The researchers for the study, conducted by a beauty brand, asked 2000 women to rate what made them stressed, 62 per cent of respondents saying not having enough money was the key cause of their woes. Fifty-seven per cent worried about their health, 48 per cent fretted about the wellbeing of their family and friends and 42 per cent found trying to balance family life was causing them kniptions.
I have to say that despite my natural scepticism about the findings of cosmetic-company-funded research, I have to agree that my 35th year is topping my personal stress charts. I'm extremely preoccupied with money and the wellbeing of my family. But I sense this has more to do with the fact that my husband has been in hospital for six months after being hit by a car than the fact that it happened shortly before my 34th birthday.
I'm stressed about money because I'm now the sole earner, and I'm beside myself about my husband's health because he's suffered a traumatic brain injury. I'm desperately worried about how my stepdaughter is coping.
But this accident could have happened at any time in the decade during which I've known the man to whom I'm now married, or at any point in the future.
It could have happened when I was 25 (the age the survey pinpoints as the time of life women are happiest), and who knows what might befall me at 54, if I make it that far. If I do, I'll be on the brink of joining the sandwich generation, those aged between 55 and 64 who are the ones looking after young grandchildren and elderly parents, contributing to and dealing with schooling and caring, spending and saving and, above all I would have thought, stressing. But will I be less stressed than I am now?
Yes, I am stressed. As I write, I'm worrying in three dimensions over multiple timeframes. My car was totalled while I was on that holiday, seeking a few days of respite from the never-ending stress-fest that is my life. I won't see my husband tonight as I have to work. My health is suffering (hello, throat infection). My future, and that of the man I love, is looking unlike anything I expected. But is it because I'm 34? Age is nothing but a number, and I'm not counting on it.