Oh You Pretty Things
You see them in the cities, even now, but mostly they are in small towns, or at the seaside, definitely pushed to the periphery of things, with their ruined knees and arthritis, humped backed, or on sticks. They sit interminably in cafes with friends, doing crossword puzzles, petting their dogs and looking into the distance with nothing better to do. You notice an old woman in dismal clothes plucking hairs from her chin in a mirror, and you turn away, catching a fuzzy glimpse of someone in a shop window. Who is that scarecrow, you wonder, until after some slow cogitation you grasp that you, too, have joined the tribe of the old. You meet an acquaintance who seems to be heavily disguised, even as he says, “You always seemed so young, and your hair was so long...” You go into the tube, being vigilant on the stairs. Looking around the carriage, you understand that you might be the oldest person moving around the city today. Yet despite their allure and gym tautness, you don’t envy the young. They don’t even attract you. They seem edgy and afraid; they have anxiety, bulimia, anorexia and alcoholism. Infantile at thirty, they live with their mothers. Able to read only their phones, they hurry to their offices sleep deprived, ever eager to be the slaves of global capitalism. They have dumb jobs in coffee shops, where, laughably, waiters call themselves ‘baristas’. They’re uneducated, they’ll be poor forever, and will never have anywhere to live. Their pornography is Sadeian, these tattooed narcissists; and their music is derivative. We will die sooner, but we have better sex, longer holidays and time to read. We had hope and originality and made and re-made the world, while they are quiescent and standardised. The politicians they admire - Bernie Sanders, Jeremy Corbin - are even older than me. Yet they are our children, these self-lovers, they are our future and we did them a disservice handing them over to money, celebrity and social media. We could have done more to protect them from the coarse, worthless things. It is not too late, and there is still plenty we can say to one another. • *British author, playwright, screenwriter, and essayist, Kureishi, 62, lives in London. Among the works in which Hanif Kureishi focuses on the passing of time and the relations between generations, we wish to mention “The Mother” (Faber & Faber 2003; Italian edition Bompiani 2004), the film version of which won Roger Michell an award at Cannes, along with “The Last Word” (Scribner 2013, Italian edition Bompiani 2013) and “The Nothing” (Faber & Faber 2017, Italian edition Bompiani 2017). Copyright © 2017, Hanif Kureishi.