Nigella Lawson has said that she felt like a “traitor” to her late mother for reaching an older age than she did.
The TV cook and food writer said that turning 49 was the “hardest birthday” she has ever had, as her mother Vanessa Salmon died from liver cancer at the age of 48.
Lawson, who turns 60 on Monday, wrote in the Sunday Times Style magazine: “When you have seen people you love die young, the idea of complaining about getting older is just revolting.
“My mother died at 48, one of my sisters at 32, and my first husband at 47; it is a curious thing to be so significantly out-stripping them in years.
“In truth, the hardest birthday I have ever gone through was my 49th. This is something anyone who becomes an age older than they remember a same-sex parent will know.”
She added: “I think I was rather relieved no longer to be 49, that year that made me a traitor to my mother.”
Lawson’s sister Thomasina died in 1993 at the age of 32 from breast cancer, and her husband John Diamond died aged 47 in 2001 from throat cancer.
Lawson wrote that she has “never liked birthdays”, even as a child, because she “found the whole thing squirmy and embarrassing”.
But she said that she is embracing her 60th birthday because to ignore it, “this year at least, might so easily mutate into shame at my age, something I have always fought fiercely to resist”.
“Getting older would be easier if ‘she’s looking her age’ wasn’t such an insult,” she continued.
“The one thing we ought to be entitled to look is our age: it is the truth after all. But even as I accept my age, I do want to stave off the more unflattering of its manifestations.
“I have no great anti-ageing secrets (and slightly recoil from the term), but the two things I think are the most important as one gets older are a) looking after your teeth and b) exercise.”
Lawson, known for her food TV shows including Nigella Bites, Simply Nigella, Nigella: At My Table and Nigella Kitchen, said that she feels “happier” with her life than she thought she would be in her twenties.
“I now see the rest of my life as a great unfurling mystery,” she wrote.
Read the full interview in Sunday Times Style.