Thursday, April 17, 2014

Mid-life crisis

This time last Easter I had an operation to solve some sinus problems I'd been having, and then the resulting 2 weeks spent in bed exacerbated 2 slipped discs I have in my back. So most of last spring and summer were spent in quite a lot of pain of one sort or another. Fortunately, physiotherapy and swimming sorted out my back and my sinuses are fine now. This Easter I've had more of an existential crisis. In some ways it is no less painful than last year.

I've always been happy with what I see when I look in the mirror. But as the months and years pass, you start to notice changes. There are the physical ones - many of them involving hair appearing in all these places you don't want it to, and disappearing from the places where it should be. And even the ones who are kind enough to stay in place can change colour, to a sickly translucent shade, or going boldly white. Then there are lines which start to thicken, little downturned ones at the sides of your mouth, and longer ones which run down the sides of your cheeks, making you look like Deputy Dawg. And there are the dark circles under your eyes which refuse to go away as deposits of fat start to congeal under your eyelids.

You realise you can't do as much in the gym as you used to. Your relationship with food becomes a wary series of negotiations, occasional truces and all-out war. I have a fast metabolism and used to be able to gobble up as much chocolate and chips as I liked without having to worry about putting weight on. Now I have a stomach which no amount of exercise or diet is going to shift. It can be maintained in its present state, but only if I permanently reduce my calorie intake and swim three times a week. Otherwise, it is just going to get bigger and bigger. And there's sleep. As a teenager I could easily sleep for a 12 hour stretch without waking once. Now I struggle to get to sleep, on the worst nights I have to make use of whiskey and Nytol to help. I usually wake up after 2 hours, and then again after another 3. I'm lucky to get 6 hours a night now.

And as well as all the physical changes there are the social ones. Especially around younger people I increasingly feel like the uncool, out-of-touch Dad figure, at best a kinder version of Alan Partridge or Jeremy Clarkson. I unironically say things like "of course, bike technology's improved considerably in the last 20 years." Bike technology?! I get annoyed when young people broadcast their every movement on twitter and facebook, or when you're in a conversation with them and they get out their mobile phone and start a lengthy texting interaction with someone else. I find their lack of interest in politics irritating, their attitudes towards safe sex horrifying, their view of immigrants and the poor depressing. Of course all these are over-generalisations. I think the pop music of today is awful - nihilistic, celebratory of a pointless consumer lifestyle that sexualises women and embraces gangster violence. Everyone is auto-tuned and its all presentation rather than substance. Give me the wry social commentary of Pulp's Common People or Blur's Girls and Boys or even a good tune like Definitely Maybe by Oasis. I'm sure there is better stuff out there now, but I don't know about it, I'm so disengaged.

Of course, there's not much you can do about it. Raging feebly against the younger generation and bemoaning your lost youth is one of those cliched rites of passage. I think you are allowed to do it for a few months, and then you have to just get over it, accept your new position in society and count your paycheck. It's a consolation that the people older than me felt the same way, and that it will happen to the younger ones too. If they're lucky enough to live that long.


Paul Brownsey said...

Welcome back.

As for the rest... I dunno, and that's not meant to be dismissive. I suppose most of the time I forget I am the old man I saw in the mirror at the barber's today and think of myself as though I were not retired but home from school in the hols, still wondering what I'm going to do with my life; but that's not the sort of thing you can do deliberately.

theguyliner said...

God, totally, Lubin. Totally. Getting older has made me realise how dismissive young people are of anyone over 25 – your relevance dribbles away before your very eyes. I hear ageist remarks almost every day. It is a mistake perhaps we all made in our youth – that we were utterly fascinating, as cool as we were ever going to be and that older people wished they were just like us. It is only as you age that you realise how dumb and superficial youth can be.
My hair is greying and my metabollism is slowing and my muscles are disappearing, but my hindsight is still crystal clear and I am so glad of it, for it allows me to see just how much better things are now.