Whatever you do, don’t offer our columnist a seat…
Psychoanalysts are big on childhood traumas that affect our adult life. But they are strangely silent on adult traumas that affect our later life. Sure, they’ve given us a list of syndromes that affect soldiers after wars, as well as the well-known Imperfect Macho Syndrome, which makes us so perfect in so many ways yet unable to ask strangers for directions.
But what they haven’t studied hard enough is the one that affects us in middle age when it suddenly strikes us with the force of a gale force wind that we are not the roving or raving rakes we thought we were.
It begins innocently enough – a young girl you would once contemplate asking out to the movies smiles sweetly and calls us “uncle”. A smile from an attractive lady on the bus, which you realise is meant for the tall, broadshouldered youth standing behind you.
And then one day, without warning, a young lady stands up on the London Underground and offers you her seat.
Now, there are many ways to react. You could, of course, graciously take the seat. Or you could take offence and lecture the poor woman on etiquette and the fact that you can still run the 100 metres in… well, you can still run the 100 metres. Or you could look around, find someone else, and offer him (or her) the newly vacated seat.
But in all this, one thing cannot be escaped – here, gift-wrapped for you, is an intimation of mortality. You can shout and scream (internally) or get rid of the ‘hot’ seat like it was stolen property. But you cannot dodge the message – you are what you are.
Especially if you are honest enough to tell yourself that you are grateful for the seat in a crowded train.
In this instance, my excuse is that London is hot, very humid, and I had been walking around a fair bit and there was nothing to do but thank the lady and sit down. My wife was one seat
What next? A pregnant woman offering-me her seat? Or a one-legged woman doing so?
away, and to add insult to injury, the person in-between asked me sweetly, “Would you like to switch seats?”.
Not just middle-aged, then, but addle-brained and perhaps drooling too.
Is that how the world sees me? The poet Robert Burns had something to say about that – but I can’t remember the lines we learnt in school, and in any case, I don’t do the accent well.
What next? A pregnant woman offering me her seat? A one-legged woman doing so? A one-legged, pregnant woman holding a child getting up so I can sit?
The future looks bleak. Perhaps I should have dyed my moustache after all.