I’m 50 years old. Lots of people already know this because I keep telling them. It’s only just dawned on me that I keep mentioning my age (I’m a bit like the Queen Mother on Spitting Image – “I’m 93 you know”), and it got me wondering why.
I expect in part it’s vanity. OK, it’s all vanity. Only a minority of people like growing older. Once you reach 30 you start to realise that you’re actually a real live grown up and that middle age is only a few years away. But here I am at 50. I’m not bald, I haven’t yet gone grey and I’m as fresh faced as can be expected of someone whose first half century has mostly been spent with his nose in a glass, or dragging on a ciggie. Incidentally I started smoking at the grand old age of 12 and finally gave up 13 years ago; this means my life has been equally divided between being a smoker and a non-smoker. I hate the fact that I even bothered to work that out. Sorry, forgive the digression, it’s because I’m so old.
So I mention my age in the hope that people will say “Oh you don’t look it” or “I thought you were early 40s”. I have no idea why this should be a source of pride when they do so; it’s not like I’ve actually done anything worthwhile to make myself look younger. I’m not a fitness fanatic, I eat lots of rubbish and I sleep less than I would like. I suppose it’s just in the genes, and even I couldn’t claim the credit for that.
And it’s not like I am actually old! Logically, age is really just a number. In my heart I’m much the same person as I ever was, even if I don’t run around like an idiot so much nowadays. But most of us (young, old and somewhere in between) make judgements about others based to an extent on their age, and are in turn judged by them.
In truth I haven’t really got so very much to be vain about. Sometimes as I walk by a shop window, I catch sight of somebody who looks really familiar. It’s only me of course, but for a split second it could be my Dad in the reflection as he looked in middle age. My Dad is a man who, in his 40s, was asked not once but twice for his autograph by people believing him to be Benny Hill. Apart from having a very round face and a similar hair ‘style’, he didn’t really look that much like the tubby girl-chasing TV funster, and neither do I as far as I’m aware. I think not; certainly nobody has ever sung “Ernie” at me. It came as a surprise to my Dad too; he didn’t know whether to be pleased or annoyed by the attention.
I suppose it just goes to show that we never quite see ourselves as others do, and perhaps that’s why I seek the reassurance. I am however determined to be less needy in the future. If you ever hear me say “I’m 50 you know!” - just give me a slap!