Thursday 29 April 2010

She thinks 50 sounds unimaginably old. Trouble is, so do I!

50 years old minus 17 days and counting. Never had a problem with big number birthdays before. In the past I've always managed to sniff at the crassness of this arbitrary numerical human construct. Or simply just not given a damn, depending on my need for fewer syllables.

Not this time though. ‘Tis wrecking my head in a minor way.

Seeking consolation and the wisdom of experience, I emailed my friend Jon, who passed 50 last year, asking how it was for him.

Jon offered the following cheery observation:

“I think 50 is a bit tricky because if you have my miserabilist tendencies it’s easy to reflect that you haven’t got that much to show for the preceding years ... and yet the future must hold less rather than more than what’s gone before.”

Thanks mate. Self pity has never been my style, so refusing to drown in a sea of melancholy alone at home, I head into town, where I start chatting to a young American backpacker lass sitting outside The Quays.

She offers consolation as only a young person can:

“50? Wow! Like like wow wow wow! I just can’t imagine what it’s like to be that old. What’s it feel like? Hey, you know, you should really tweet about it.”

I bite my tongue which is dying to point out that my making a half century is hardly a newsworthy event. Several others on this planet have turned 50 too; just none that this lass had ever spoken to.

“What’s it like?” she persists.

Well, nearing 50 means I know what twitter means, but I don’t feel any desire whatsoever to tweet. My 'social networking' consists these days of such radical notions as talking to living breathing people who are standing in front of me, as well as talking on the phone, which is my Jewish imperative.

Oh, and texting, of course.

Aha! Yes! Of course! I have an answer for her.

“What’s it like nearing 50? Well, it’s like when you’ve been using predictive text on your mobile phone for 5 years and only just discovered last week that when you put a full stop into it.s or their.s or somebody.s name, you don’t actually need to press and twiddle the changy letter button round until it becomes an apostrophe.

"Nearing 50 is feeling quietly happy and smug that you’ve finally discovered that it changes to an apostrophe all on its own, and yes, of course YOU all knew that years ago, but I didn’t."

She has heard enough of my nonsensical ramblings and moves on to talk to a rugged yoof wearing a Palestinian scarf, evidently this year's 'Must Have' fashion item.

Nearing 50 is feeling silently proud that you’ve finally caught up with 10 year-old technology. But equally, nearing 50 means that such tiny quiet discoveries turn into minor victories, to be sniggered at by one’s self at home, when nobody’s looking.

"Enjoy your feelings of immortality" I yell after her, as I swing my aching old leg over the chair and hobble homewards. Nearing 50 is being happy to settle for staying vaguely in touch, rather than seeking the cutting edge.

In the 1970’s I ripped the heart out of my teenage years, taking every illicit substance London had to offer, while seeing every hot band play live before they’d even scored a mention in the NME. I travelled around the world in my 20’s and then went around it again in my 30’s, finally finding my home in my 40’s.

I didn’t waste a single day.

Now my knee hurts.


Paz said...

been busy of late, which is a frowned upon condition these days and I am only catching up on reading the interwebs. Great article, made me laugh as I recover from a Chianti hangover

Charlie Adley said...

Thanks Paz. I am a busy person by nature, but also able to sit and stare at nothing for hours. Yoda calls it meditation. Others might call it Sloth. Hope you enjoyed your Chianti with fava beans....

Paz said...

:), unforunaley no census takers knocking about

TW said...

Hi Mate,luv this one and enjoyed the short stories very much! Jon's comment was probably right but a bit sad. 50 was a big deal for me, in my head it was more about "giving myself permission" to do and think as I want, probaly always have done. It's allowing yourself to be angry or P'd off, hang "political correctness" mate! But it's more subtle too,I allow my gut not to be as tight as it was at 20, I allow myself a look in the mirror and a smile as the years make my face fall off. I'm allowed to get bored, to think twitter is rubbish, to have a drink when I want to. My 20's was all about well "what am I gonna do?" 30's was ..well "how well am I doing?" gee they're doing well, are they doing as well as us? "I'm not doing so well..." etc....40's was wierd "am I there yet?" what is all this s#@t?" 50 is much better, it's more "oh, I get it! it's actually not that complicated" I might allow myself not to get so wound up about but I'll enjoy having my say! Luv your stuff! TW

Charlie Adley said...

Thanks TW- wish I was in your shoes. My 20s were 'I know it all and deserve to be loved', my 30s were "I am great and whose she and why doesn't she know me?". My forties were "Oh that's who she was and what am I doing here?' and my 50s so far have been 'Whaddya know? Nuttin'. Whaddya know? Nuttin."

But that's the great wonder of life. The more you think you understand it, the less you really know.

Thanks for looking at the colyooms and keep the comments coming when you can!