According to a report (can’t comment on the provenance) discussed on Radio 4 today (the beauty of the commute is maverickly random radio-listening) middle-age starts at about 54 years.
Oh jeez. And there was me thinking I had a good excuse for my creaky knees, inability to party all night and general crankiness. Turns out it’s got nowt to do with my age. It’s just me. Out of shape and jaded, knackered me.
I listened to the debate – between two irritating male mid-40 yr olds – and wondered how the report writers decided on the cut-off point? where middle-age began and youth ended?
And then got a bit pissed off with their puerile arguing over which of them felt oldest/youngest and plugged in my iPhone instead. The Crystal Fighters boomed from the car speakers for a bit – I got bored with their techno-folk and returned to BBC Radio 4.
The two middle-youths were still debating.
One was 44 and the other 46. 44 felt middle-aged. He was railing against the tyranny of ‘youth’ and evangelical about ageing. 46 was insistent that he felt ‘young’. That he loved ‘youth culture’ and never wanted to stop ‘being a child’.
46 really really irritated me. I had this intense desire to shout at him. And as the Lang Whang road is a desolate wraith of a desolate haunted road, I did shout.
‘Oh ffs get a grip! You sad man. Your bloody life has been wasted on you if you haven’t learnt yet that you are OLD! And that age is GOOD!’
I ruminated over my own relatively recent but latterly happy realisation that my ‘youth’ was over (yes, I too was a bit of a late-realiser): standing in a muddy wet festival field listening to a favourite band (Elbow as it happens) and realising that actually, my back was sore with all the standing; that I hated being wet; that I hated the mud; really hated being dirty in a pair of old wellies that had seen better days and that I was dreading another night spent in a tent hunched around a hump in the field listening to wains getting off their tits on MDMA, lager and dope and having to pee in a super-size flora tub at 5am because a trip to the bogging bogs was just beyond me. I was, I realised then, just too old for all that crap. And that this would therefore be ‘the last time I’d do the festival-thing again’.
And since then there have been other blinding flashes of insight. Sadly, not of the profound variety (I don’t want to mislead) but rather, wee bits of realisation dawning on me, in a way that liberates me just a little more every time.
I am freed from the tyranny of youth. I am proud of my age. I own my experiences and the lessons I’ve learned.
One of the biggest of which – and this is bound to disappoint with its shallow narcissism – is the liberation from feeling I need to maintain my sexual attractiveness…
I am 45. I will never again have my 20yr old body back. My face is going south. I am sagging and bagging and wrinkling and drooping. My knees hurt a bit when I get up in the morning. My teeth need an overhaul. It’s harder than ever to lose weight. I look ridiculous in Topshop. I need 8 hrs sleep but can seldom manage more than 6. Thirty yr olds sound young. And 60 plus yr old men no longer remind me of my Dad.
And it’s all alright. Better than that. It’s freeing.
Mind you I ain’t giving up on the hair dye and anti-wrinkle serum just yet.
But I am genuinely more comfortable in my skin than I have ever been. I relish knowing answers, being able to recall work situations from years ago and applying the lessons learned. I like the maturity of thought and political pragmatism that’s settled with age. Being able to debate electoral reform and secularism and quote John Berger and remember why it’s right and proper to hate the Tories (Thatcher) and all about mining and the car industry we used to have and the summer it snowed. I like remembering. Starting sentences of stories for my kids with ‘I remember when…’ I love having a 22 yr old daughter. I know I haven’t as much physical energy for my amazing 9 yr old – but wouldn’t change a thing.
I am finally the person I have waited my whole life to be – or I’m so much closer.
Yes, I am middle-aged. And it is good.