February 26, 2024


Tthoughts and prayers, please, for those of us born in 1974 as the global news event that is Kate Moss turning 50 continues. Gave the blanket cover, I probably don’t need to tell you much about it, but in case you’re a Supreme Court judge, here are the basics. Moss went to a “spiritual retreat” on Mustique, then went privately to Paris for a party where she wore an incredible vintage sheer lace dress. Guests included Venus Williams and Stella McCartney, but the lack of gaping paparazzi photos suggests it was mainly her friends in attendance; the whole thing seemed high on glamor and low on scandal, as befits a 50-year-old style icon with absolutely nothing left to prove.

It’s not my turn for months yet, but it’s pretty clear that my 50th will be less catnip, more crying in my chips. This could be a tough year, self-esteem wise, as my peers – Leonardo DiCaprio, Victoria Beckham, Robbie Williams, Penélope Cruz, Chloë Sevigny – hit their half century. Do you remember how kids in your class at the beginning of high school looked very different ages, anywhere from eight to 28, depending on genetics and gender? Well, 50 seems to be the same: some of us (me) look like they’ve been dug up from a Valley of the Kings antechamber after multiple tomb robberies; Moss, despite the decades of cigars and parties, looks better than ever.

I know it’s silly to compare myself, a civilian, to celebrities of the same age. Nothing beats comparing myself to other Sagittarians or people named Emma. But it also comes naturally – we start doing it with people our age at school (if you didn’t, what kind of well-adjusted weirdo were you?) and some of us just never stop, the second-guessing of us own choices, the nagging discomfort and dissatisfaction with our own comparative shortcomings – work, form, home – become an ingrained habit. The celebrities just make it very easy for us by being so publicly successful (and taking off a sheer dress).

I also know there are people who don’t: undisturbed, moisturized, in their orbits. My best friend didn’t even know her celebrity twin; I had to make her Google them (“Heath Ledger, good start. Pete Doherty? Jesus Christ.”). I can’t imagine having a solid sense of self to not compare myself to other people: there must be so much time and mental energy to spare. What do you do with it – read Proust? Understand global geopolitics? Make a positive contribution to the world?

In some ways, making others feel bad has been a positive force in my life, I think: without the exhilarating sense of inadequacy they gave me, I’d just be a puddle on the floor. Maybe a satisfied puddle? I will never know. But I do know that approaching 50, it’s time to try and let go of the thief of joy.

It’s not like most of my twins lead entirely idyllic lives anyway. You just have to look at the Robbie Williams Netflix documentary to know that he was made (or kept) terribly fragile by fame and God knows what void in Leonardo DiCaprio’s heart makes him date women he could have fathered (when I last year with some sixth-formers spoke, their poignant disdain because his date choices were pure delight). Moss can’t even throw a birthday party without a million news channels freaking out about it, and ghouls like me commenting on it.

I hope it’s not too late to change – at least Moss has now started wild swimming, moon bathing and meditation. To spur myself on, I tried to imagine my birthday being described like hers. “A curvaceous Beddington cut a comfortable figure, wearing a worn Millets fleece as she browsed the aisles of her local Boots alone, before reaching for a tube of Canesten and packet of sweet chilli Snack A Jacks. At a nearby bus stop, the curmudgeonly freelancer tucked into the rice-based snack, shared a comment with a passing pigeon, then consulted her phone, perhaps hoping to read birthday wishes from absent friends. The horror. Maybe there really is nothing to envy?

Emma Beddington is a Guardian columnist

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