Megan Nicol Reed is a columnist for Canvas magazine.

Megan Nicol Reed: on envying younger women

Do you ever reach a point in life where you can enjoy what is no longer yours without a sense of sourness? Photo / Getty
Do you ever reach a point in life where you can enjoy what is no longer yours without a sense of sourness? Photo / Getty

Saturday gone I told you of a trip, merry, footloose and child-free, but it was not all good times by the pool, not every night a party, and tequila sunrises at noon.

There was a moment there, dear reader, three days in fact, where I felt myself disappearing into a hole, and it was dark down there and the sides were slippery and they were steep.

After five nights sequestered in the company of 19 friends, we were suddenly only four.

Two couples on an adventure, breathtaking and brief. It was at our first destination that the hole materialised.

I couldn't tell you exactly how or why but I can tell you about the girl. Driving into this one-street town, alert, perhaps a little anxious because we were yet new, knew not where our hotel was nor if we would be able to get a table at that restaurant or fit in all of the promised sights, I saw her on the side of the road.

I saw her but said nothing. Hopeful she would go unnoticed, that her exquisiteness would not mar our arrival.

Then someone, I can't recall who, said, "Phwoar!" And it would have been fine, it would have been funny, except that what we didn't know then, was that girl, with her hairless, poreless body, long and hard, and yet impossibly soft and round, a thick and tawny braid snaking down her bare brown back, was not an aberration.

Oh no, she was but one glorious example, the teensiest tip of a whole iceberg of hotness.

They were diving into the waves, and shopping for another friendship bracelet to add to their collection. They were queuing for acai bowls, and riding bikes with baskets on their handlebars.

They were everywhere, yoga mats slung over shoulders, green juices in hand, wearing almost nothing. Next to them, in my bikini with its underwire and its ruching, I felt as upholstered as if I were wearing an 18th century girdle.

Their togs were not a statement but a suggestion, crocheted bikini tops merely grazed nipples, supple buttocks swallowed the meagreness of bikini pants whole.

"It's like Eat, Pray, Love," said my friend, and thank goodness for her, for she alone could share my pain. "Only," she said, "it's worse, because they're all 20-something."

We took solace where we could, in the trite and fathomless words tattooed on the backs of their necks and along their forearms. "Leave now," read one. "Or live forever and die tomorrow." In the talentless murals they scrawled along the sidewalks.

Our husbands were agog. Who could blame them?

The strange thing was there was no male counterpart to the loveliness and even if there had been, I'm not so sure a dreadlocked, barefoot, soul-searching bloke has quite the same allure.

Perhaps if all these lithe young women had appeared to be trying a little harder, perhaps if they'd worn too much makeup, or teetered on too high a heel, it would have been easier to stomach, but it was their very insouciance, their effortless attractiveness that had my esteem plummeting.

Is it because my rumpled pleats, my whiskery powderiness, are too recent a state? Has my prime too recently passed that I cannot yet admire it in others?

Do you ever reach a point in life where you can enjoy what is no longer yours without a sense of sourness? I actually thought I had. That I'd put my insecure, invidious ways behind me.

In Sydney last year, surrounded on all sides by glamour and youth, I felt for the first time not envy, but a sense of joyful appreciation.

I did not hold myself up next to those Sydney babes and find myself wanting. Maybe because I was not with my husband, did not look upon them with what I imagined were his desirous eyes, but was instead with my mother, and thus able to gaze upon them both wisely and kindly.

The annoying thing is had the shoe been on the other foot, had we travelled somewhere and found ourselves in a sea of Adonises, I'm not convinced my husband would have been all that bothered.

Is it because I wouldn't have looked? Or because he wouldn't have expected me to? Did I react as I did because self-doubt and jealousy are emotions that are primarily ascribed to women? Expected of them even?

- Canvas

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Megan Nicol Reed is a columnist for Canvas magazine.

There were many things Megan Nicol Reed imagined she would do in her journalism career. She ticked off feature writer, editor and columnist. She never envisaged agony aunt. Now, when she isn't trying to sort out her own life, she's trying to sort yours. And when she's not doing that she is writing her first novel. In her downtime you'll find her mothering, cooking, running, cleaning and reading. Needless to say she spends much of her life in activewear.

Read more by Megan Nicol Reed

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