THE WAY I SEE IT
Iturned 50 last weekend. Well, when say ‘turned’, it was more of a slide actually, with my legs flailing for grip as if there were a giant smelter at the end of it, like the one in Toy Story 3 that almost consumes Buzz and Woody and all the rest of the toys.
When you tell people your 50th birthday is approaching, they come back at you with platitudes. ‘It’s the new 40,’ they smile — seemingly unaware that they are the umpteenth person to share this nonsensical banality.
Trust me, it’s not the new 40. Hitting 40 is great. Unless you’re very unlucky, you still can leap from an armchair without pushing a reassuring hand into the base of your own spine. You can read a text message without spending 20 minutes searching for the glasses you eventually realise you’re already wearing, before making a mental note, with some alarm, that it’s time for another trip to Specsavers for a stronger prescription.
At 40, you remember where you put something down. At 50, every day involves a frenzied hunt of some description. It might be for the mobile phone before you eventually concede defeat, ringing it from the landline before finally hearing a muted buzzing from somewhere under the duvet.
For men, who aren’t afforded the luxury of a simple rummage through a handbag, it can be checking the pockets of eight jackets on three pegs and in two wardrobes looking for a driving licence that, rather oddly, in fact has found its way to a kitchen press.
Remember a time when you could leave the house, lock the door and hop straight into the car? When you hit the half century, forget about it. No sooner have you sat into the driver’s seat than you realise you’ve forgotten something — and, yes, that’s usually your phone or your glasses. So you dash back, fetch them, get back in the car and think, ‘Did I leave the heating on?’
So you dash back in again and, no, you didn’t, but you do notice the light is still on in the bathroom and as you go to switch it off, you also realise the iron in the bedroom is
Fifty is not ‘the new 40’. At 40, you can remember where you’ve put things. By 50, everything is a frenzied hunt
still plugged in. Having made everything safe, you go back to the car and start the engine before having a little debate with yourself as to whether or not you locked the front door, so you get out again and realise that, yes, you did. What used to take a minute now takes 10, just to get out of the house.
And when you come home each night, there are leaflets on the mat that used not be there before, offering you cheap midweek hotel breaks for the over-50s or special insurance deals, as if your house suddenly is less likely to spontaneously burn to the ground when in fact you’re the one who keeps leaving the iron plugged in. And, of course, creaky joints aren’t the only sign that time relentlessly marches on. There are more frequent night-time journeys tiptoeing along the landing, if you’re with me; and the reduced tolerance for crowded, noisy pubs, where once you loved them; and a growing impatience with younger people, not because they’re stupid or annoying but just because they’re young.
And, despite the fact that you swore blind you never would do so, you hear yourself saying that x, y or z was better ‘in my day’, as if you had been granted only the one and it somehow was the template for how everyone should behave thereafter. Nothing, however, is quite as chastening as the day you realise you have started to talk to the television, roaring at a guest on Tonight With Vincent Browne as if he or she were in the room.
So, no, 50 is not the new 40 but nor, I have discovered, is it a slide down the slippery slope to a furnace. I was listening to the same music this week as I was the week before. None of my ambitions seems any less likely to be achieved simply by the passage of this birthday, big roundy one or not. And at least I can look forward now to being 60. That really IS the new 50, I’ve been told and I’m not going to quibble.
There’s nothing we can do about it anyway, except resist going on a Saga holiday or keeping some mild strength in reserve to floor anyone who mentions ‘the golden years’ with a swift uppercut to the jaw.
At least, that’s the way I see it.