Is staying away from men the secret to a long life? I hope not, says Liz Nice
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Brenda Osborne says her secret to 105 years of life is avoiding the 'hassle' of men. Liz Nice argues that she may have missed something...
One of the first jobs we tend to get as young journalists is 100th birthdays.
I did several in my time, rarely expecting an earth-shattering reply to the proverbial question: 'What is the secret to your long life?'
I always hoped they might say, 'gin and cigarettes', 'sex!' or 'wild living'.
But usually it was the far less gratifying 'a smile a day', 'healthy eating' or 'a nice walk every morning.
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Sometimes I wondered if these stock answers were in fact subversive put-downs for a patronising young reporter.
'Well, I'm not going to tell this young upstart about my red hot affair with the milkman!' I imagined them smiling to themselves.
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But my imagination has always got me into trouble and is often wildly inaccurate, so it probably was a gentle, unruffled approach to life that saw them all through.
This week, however, I spotted a real gem of an answer from Brenda Osborne from Mansfield who has just reached the grand old age of 105.
Brenda, who was born in 1913, offered the most interesting secret to her success (if we view great age as such) I've heard thus far.
'I would put my good health down to hard work and avoiding men,' she said.
Well, I can meet her half way on the first one but with the second, well, Brenda, I guess I've blown it.
Much as I am often accused of being man-hating, the case with many columnists who appear to be fervently opinionated in a certain direction is that generally the reverse is true. (It could be that we doth protest too much?).
I grew up with two much-loved brothers, adored my grandfather and still go to my dad for advice even if it is just so that I can be certain I am doing the exact opposite of what he recommends.
I have also spent almost none of my adult life man-free, although my new year's resolution is to do just that for 2019, so I may live to a great age as yet, providing I can also forgo the gin and other vices, which may be a little harder.
According to Brenda's great niece, Brenda has always said that men just aren't 'worth the hassle'.
But they are, aren't they - as long as the hassle they are giving you doesn't entirely exceed the joy they offer you as well, which, of course, is true of anyone of either gender we allow into our lives.
It's why I've stopped going to the football so much – once I realised that I was placing my hopes of happiness on the shoulders of 11 men who neither know nor care about me, I realised that my attitude to football might as well inform the rest of my life.
I thus decided to proceed henceforth with only those who concern themselves with cheering me up, rather than expecting me to do all the work.
With those who, like a friend of mine the other day, allowed me to spend a full hour laughing my head off at his expense and only said, when I worried that I had taken things a tad too far, 'It's just good to make you happy'. (Let's clone him!)
With those who, like my son at the weekend, treated me to a trampoline performance which included a move from the game, Fortnite called 'Flippin' sexy' which was fortunately not even remotely as alarming as it sounds but extremely funny.
And with those who write to me on a Saturday, as one man did this week, just to tell me how much he liked the new picture of me in the paper!
Actually, when I come to think of it, this past week it has been mostly men who have put a spring in my step. It usually is in fact. Sorry, Brenda, I'm a lost cause. You may have lived a long life, but how much you have missed!