I’m wrestling with a bit of a minor dilemma at the moment. Or as my kids would call it, a ‘First World problem’. It revolves around the thorny question of how do I describe my age, having improbably made it to the sixty-year benchmark in mid 2016. Once upon a time, in my naïve youth, I’d have described someone of my current age as ‘ancient’. Obviously now that I have made it this far, my opinions have completely changed. I’m experienced, mature, and wise. OK, I know I’m pushing it a bit with that last one, but what nobody ever told me was that when you get to sixty, you CAN still be (say) 32 in your head. So let’s head back to the conundrum of how to describe this state/frame of mind, given that the body is holding up reasonably well.
The acid test (I guess) is when you have to describe yourself in cold hard print, in some kind of profile. I’m not talking about dating agencies or anything, where I suppose ‘young at heart’ may be a default get-out-of-jail card. But say in some other social media platform, how to get across the fact that you have a number of miles on the clock (but not so many that you’d fail the NCT test). For years I’ve worked under the euphemism of ‘middle aged’ in any profile, which covers a multitude of options. Once or twice in a fit of honesty I’ve even gone as far as ‘late middle age’. But Old, Older or (God help us) Elderly? Forget it.
One other piece of this conundrum is the word ‘senior’. At work, ‘senior’ generally means (at worst) you’ve been around a long time. But what does it mean when it comes to buying tickets? I have lost count of the number of online ticketing websites that offer a discount, typically a small one, to ‘senior’ purchasers. But they NEVER define the word. I know if you turn up to claim a student discount it’s necessary to produce a student card. How about ‘senior’? Up till now I have been chary of taking this option lest it lead to horrific humiliation at the point of entry. As in ‘I’m sorry, but you need to be 65 to qualify as senior and you don’t fit the criteria. You’re a cheapskate, to be precise’. While the queue builds up behind you and you feel the pores open. And then you wake up and realise it was a graphic nightmare. But still…. And that’s why up to now I have not gone for the ‘senior’ option, but dammit I’m going to. Decision made.
Back to the main point. Is there actually a point in the continuum where Old is inescapable? Do you have to sign up, like the (aagh) old age pension? And more to the point, what do I call myself now? I know we keep going on about ‘sixty being the new fifty’ and all that kind of guff. But it’s really not very helpful. I can hardly say ‘Old, but under the new rules still middle-aged’, can I? In terms of my own mind-set, I can see a few changes creeping in, though some are probably societal rather than me becoming a grumpy old man. I seldom read newspapers anymore. I don’t get worked up too much about stuff I can’t change. I’m more selective in the books I read (but I DO read). However music is a pressure point of sorts.
I’m not as interested in new music as I think I probably should be. Meanwhile my ‘old’ heroes churn out what seem to be mostly mediocre offerings. Songs I’d regard as relatively new turn up on radio under ‘classic rock’ – this is a bad sign. Many of the people I used to listen to (and who are still on the planet) tour a lot more now to feed their pension funds in the era of the illegal download. But I can’t be bothered going to see most of them, it feels like we’re both going through the motions. Having said all that, I do still love the idea of hearing music live. I try to pick selected events to go to, and am seldom disappointed. I think that’s a watershed in waiting for me. If I stop going to gigs, I really will have turned that dreaded corner from ‘middle age’ to, well, whatever lies beyond. Music gigs seldom have ‘senior’ ticket categories, which is a relief. And I also find a cursory visual analysis of the age profile of the crowd at the gigs I do go to quite an interesting exercise in itself.
Anyway, as the late and sometimes great George Michael said in his classic song ‘Older’ – which I love…
Don’t you think I’m looking older?
But something good has happened to me
Change is a stranger
you have yet to know
Maybe that’s how it really works – just stop worrying about the labels and embrace the changes that maturity brings. The acid test will be the next profile I have to write, or else buying that ‘senior’ ticket and brazening it out.