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Does it have to be like this?

October 7, 2010

A tweet from the inestimable Bill Thompson (@BillT) this morning about being over 50 and throwing yoghurt on his trousers prompted me to contemplate the pros and cons (mainly cons, I admit) of being in my 50s. It has to be said that it’s a bit depressing…

What was I saying? Yes, that’s the worst. I haven’t got to the point of forgetting what I’m saying mid sentence yet, but I’m sure it’s coming. I sure as hell forget what I climbed the stairs for, only to remember just as I reach the bottom step. I guess the exercise is good for me.

I am the invisible man. I work in the City of London, most of the time    anyway. And there are dozens of stunningly attractive women who also work/travel there. I have been told, in the past, that I don’t look so bad myself. Clearly this is no longer true – I get the distinct impression that these hordes of gorgeous women just don’t see me. Maybe it’s just that I’m generally in the company of my younger (and admittedly also good looking) colleagues.

I’m becoming my Dad. As I mentioned in my twittered response to @BillT, somehow in your 50’s you forget just how many buttons and zips perfectly ordinary items of clothing have. From time to time I forget to do up my flies. And I remember my Dad doing that too… (at least I remember something, even if it was 30 years ago).

“When I was your age… ” This morning I was walking home from the Post Office and spotted two small children on three-wheel scooters. I had a scooter when I was a kid. But mine had two wheels at the back and one at the front – unlike today’s model which is the other way round. I was taken with an almost overwhelming desire to explain that to these children. Fortunately I resisted. It’s fortunate because an unshaven 50-something speaking to two small children is almost inevitably assumed to be a child molester, but it’s mainly fortunate because frankly – they don’t care. For small children my childhood is ancient history, and they really don’t care if we had scooters, or electricity, or lived in caves and painted ourselves with wode. The future is theirs, the past is ours.

Facial hair. It’s remarkable how cool and trendy a two or three day growth of beard can look. On a young man. For 50-something who’s starting to show the odd speck of grey, the result is my looking like a tramp – one of those unfortunates who sleeps in doorways in the backstreets of the City. So for me it’s either a full beard (but Mrs M objects to that) or remaining clean shaven. Sigh.

Other types of hair. Why, when you reach a certain age, does hair start appearing in places it never grew before, and you really don’t want it now? I don’t want hairy ears, why does that happen?

Now, the way to lift that is… No it’s not. Not any more. My body is falling to bits around me. I can’t lift things I used to be able to, I’m just not as strong as I used to be. I can’t play squash or badminton any more because of tennis elbow and knackered knees, I can’t run any distance because my calf muscles tear, and I need a sit down and a cup of tea when I’ve cut the lawn. At least I can still cycle.

Sagacity and a sense of proportion. At last, a benefit. Those of us who are over 50 have lived through a lot. Admittedly I’m a baby boomer, so I didn’t suffer the war – but we did still have rationing when I was a kid. I’ve lived through recessions, severe winters, boom times, Labour governments, Tory governments, Liberal sex scandals, the Cuban missile crisis, Ipswich Town winning the First Division, Wimbledon winning the FA cup and Birmingham City winning the League Cup (and beating Aston Villa to do it). They all may seem unlikely now (update: Birmingham City won the League Cup again in 2011, and beat Arsenal to do it!), but they really happened. So we can take most things that happen today in our stride, and view them with a sense of historic proportion.

Now where did I put my glasses…

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