Relishing the golden age of 50 while others slog away.
I think it was TS Eliot (or it might have been George Eliot) who said the years between 50 and 70 are the hardest. “You are always being asked to do things,” he said (or she said – don’t forget Eliot was a woman), “and yet you are not decrepit enough to turn them down.”
I know exactly what Eliot (or was it Dorothy Parker?) meant. Through sheer dedication and by staying alive, I arrived at that happy age between those two figures. And I feel the joy of my temperament finally beginning to catch up with my age. Let me explain.
For some people, it is often their names that catch up with their looks as time passes. Thus, someone named Bullock actually begins to look like one, or a Mason begins to have the satisfied look of a worker who has heard the close of day. This is difficult for me to achieve because I carry neither the name of an animal nor a profession. If I began to look like my name, nobody would know, because you can’t find either of my names in a dictionary (unless it is a misprint).
But age is another matter. Already in my teens, I was one of the laziest men around; too lazy to even admit the fact. My mother despaired about ever asking me to do a household chore. My plan was to wait and wait until she had forgotten or she did it herself. In my 20s, it was my wife who was the recipient of my premature decrepitude – within a few months of our marriage, she simply stopped asking me.
As more and more labour-saving devices entered the home, here a washing machine, there a dishwasher, over in the corner lying on a sofa reading a book was the man who had made labour-saving an art form. Reading from left to right, me.
I may be decades away from the deadline set by Paul Krugman (or was it Jay Leno?), but people have stopped asking me to do things. Now, thanks to yet another labour-saving device, I don’t even have to flick the pages of a book I am reading while not doing any work. I simply touch a screen and that’s that.
If I am like this now, what will I be like in 20 years’ time when I officially become decrepit, according to Eliot? As Simon and Garfunkel sang, “How terribly strange to be 70…” At least, I think they did, but I am too decrepit to look it up.
Suresh Menon is a writer based in India. In his youth he set out to change the world but later decided to leave it as it is.