Imagine the scene. A woman — beautiful, in her late thirties — turns up in a figure-hugging swimsuit to a Hollywood dinner party. She has a few drinks, and while dancing with a reputable judge, gives him a big kiss on the lips and unbuttons his fly. The girl is the 1920s starlet Clara Blow, and the gesture was just another in a long line of bad behaviour that bolstered her reputation as a man-eating party girl.
But hey, according to the writer Martin Deeson, women of a certain age are no longer out to have that kind of outrageous fun. In an article published recently in these pages, he claimed the women he meets can’t seem to get near a man without sizing him up for fatherhood: “There is a disease afflicting single female thirty- and fortysomethings,” he wrote, “the ‘will I ever?’ anxiety of the ageing party girl who hasn’t bred yet.” It is a fact of life that these “will I ever?” women do exist. We all know the women who have forgotten to watch their biological clock and sit sipping cocktails, planning their next strategic “get a man” manoeuvre. The trouble is, Deeson obviously hasn’t met the kind of woman with an independent spirit who sees beyond her biological destiny.
The ageing party girl (APG) is part of an elite sisterhood. She has forgone the cosy domesticity of family life in favour of living life on her own terms. Outside society’s rules, she is free to create her own behavioural template. Answerable to nobody, neither children nor husband, she can get drunk, behave badly and the only thing she has to contend with is a hangover in the morning. I should know, I am one: 38, unmarried, childless and having the time of my life.
A couple of months ago, I strode down the catwalk at a charity auction wearing nothing more than a lick of body paint in the form of a swimsuit. There was a collective gasp. Afterwards, one ageing roué told me that I was well past my “go-naked date” and that I just looked vulgar. He had missed the point — I did it simply for the dare. And that is what characterises the APG: she enjoys sticking up two fingers at convention.
Take Tracey Emin, queen of the current APGs. When she pulled off her microphone in a drunken rage on a television programme and stormed out saying she wanted to call her mother, she was being shocking and she didn’t care what anyone thought of her for it.
You see, the APG likes to celebrate the moment. She is a free spirit who is in touch with her basic impulses — the ones that want to have wild sex, loads of fun and be completely outrageous. Which makes her perfect party fodder and a powerful figure on the social scene. She may not be the most beautiful woman in the room — her success, after all, has less to do with youth and more to do with attitude — but, as one friend of mine proved recently when she stood on her head in her sequined dress to show she wasn’t wearing any knickers, she is wonderfully unpredictable. And, as she has been dealing with these kinds of social situations for years, the APG can more than likely floor a man at 50 paces with well-placed witticisms.
She will also never make it as arm candy. That is for the twentysomethings. She simply can’t be bothered choosing handbags, having manicures or hiring the ball gowns with matching jewellery. Yet, even though she eschews the kind of look-at-me beauty of the man-pleasing goddess, men are drawn to her. They are fascinated by her daring and vivacity — a breath of fresh air after the try-hard girls with their simpering lines and faux vulnerability.
Tallulah Bankhead, the 1930s Hollywood bad girl, had a mouth like a sewer, but was feted by the likes of the artist Augustus John, Winston Churchill, and Ramsay MacDonald, who even invited her to lunch at Number 10.
While an APG can get a party going in the time it takes a normal woman to paint her nails, she will never be the dutiful wife. Even though many APGs have married and some have children, they often divorce, and babies don’t seem to stop them having fun. Look at the fledgling APG Kate Moss — she is rarely home before dawn, even though she has a toddler.
There is nothing more onerous to the APG than playing hostess at her husband’s dinner party. She would rather stick needles in her eyes than organise the placements, and she is more likely to rock the conversational boat than reel off a perfect line of feelgood pleasantries. Besides, she can’t be bothered to spend every other Sunday with the in-laws, or send out Christmas cards. And she never remembers anyone’s birthday.
On the other hand, should you go out to dinner with one, she won’t moan at the owner for not having fat-free steak and chips, or bore you with the finer points of the GI diet. She will knock back a gin and tonic, and shout loudly to get you to listen to her bawdy jokes.
I am not saying there isn’t a price to pay for a lifetime of freedom. Living life on your own terms can involve moments of extreme existential loneliness. But should we not only hold up the APG as a viable alternative to the constraints of marriage and the drudgery of bringing up children, but also celebrate her for it?
MOST LIKELY TO
Most likely to say Pass the Bolly
Most unlikely to say I go to yoga at 6am every morning
Most likely to wear Myla negligees and Jimmy Choo mules that flick off as she lies on the sofa
Most unlikely to wear Bodas and Birkenstocks
Most likely to be found at Aristocratic weekend parties causing trouble; bars where she can misbehave without being banned
CURRENT APGs Tamara Mellon, Tracey Emin, Courtney Love
MATURE APGs Dolly Parton, Vivienne Westwood, Marianne Faithfull, Joan Collins, Liza Minnelli
UP-AND-COMING APGs Kate Moss and Lindsay Lohan
VINTAGE APGs AND THEIR MOTTOS
Marilyn Monroe “If I had observed all the rules, I’d never have gotten anywhere”
Mae West “Sometimes it seems to me I’ve known so many men that the FBI ought to come to me first to compare fingerprints”
Tallulah Bankhead “I’m as pure as the driven slush”
Dolly Parton “I modelled my looks on the town tramp”
Dorothy Parker “You can lead a whore to culture, but you can’t make her think” Autor: Kate Mulvey