Monday, 29 September 2008
Farewell Sweet Youth...
On Sunday, over a scrumptious breakfast at a cafe on Cowley Road, I experienced my first serious bout of 'Holy crap, I am nearly 30 and I am not [insert various personal/ societal expectations and one obvious biological function]!'
I am one of those treasures who has always liked the 'guess my age' game. I have pretty much always been told that I look far younger than I am. 'You fools', I think, 'it's just my smooth skin, puppy eyes and as for that merry glint in in my eye...Well, that's just in wonderful anticipation of being told I look youthful.'
But perhaps this whole squinting at the screen all day has started to take its toll, or perhaps I am more of a drinker than I think I am (I am pretty sure I am of the 'nurse one drink for 3 hours 'kind), or maybe it's all this damned endless worrying about how I might not look or feel young at any point and therefore had better make the most of my youth by acting recklessly that is sapping me of my vital chi. Maybe I should be going to bed for lights out at 9:30pm instead of 11:00pm for some reading and analysing.
In any case, I was reclining against the wine red cushions on the bench, half-committed to the papers, very committed to my hot chocolate, when my new German friend (and it's not that relevant that he's German, but it might explain how seriously I am taking his comment; they're not known for frivolity or exaggeration) made a comment along the lines of me 'getting on in life'. I said, rather perplexed, 'How old do you think I am?' He said, '29'. I said, a little winded, 'Yeah, I am. How did you know?' He replied, 'You can tell it from your eyes, they look like they've seen and experienced a few things' (or something very similar to this, Your Honour). But what I heard was: 'You can tell from your crack whore, heavily-lined eyes that you're a bitter, washed-up, hopeless, has-been who should either be married with brats or at least not hanging out with people in their early 20s'.
I said, 'Wow, most people think I look around 26.' He said, 'Does this bother you? Is this something you worry about all the time?' (Clever bastard). I wanted to say that I felt like he had just drop-kicked me into the backyard BBQ of a team of 30 year olds: the men (big boys) sporting babies strapped to their chests, Mambo T-shirts, cargo shorts and chunky slip-on shoes and the women singlet tops, floral skirts or linen pants, bulky diamond rings and gold sandals. Men tending to the steaks, women tossing the salads. Opinions on property, skiing holidays, school selection and fees competing with the latest Ministry of Sound compilation.
I wanted to say that I hadn't really worried about my age before, and thank him for pointing out my quickening march towards death, and, what's more, for making me feel like that undignified parent who tries to make friends with their children and their children's friends, those ones who brought out Champagne at parties when you were 13 and you sensed that the world wasn't quite as ordered or safe as you'd been led to believe.
What I said was, 'No, no, I am not worried about that at all.' But I am. I am not devastated, I can see the light-hearted side of it all, but I am changed somehow. I know this is tied up with vanity and perhaps I should embrace my overflowing wisdom and more even temperament, but I also feel this whole thing has doused some of my sense of play and sparkle.
If you have any words (your own or of others) that would help me perceive this differently, I would be most grateful.