People have been making me feel old lately.
The British have long claimed that you may take it as a sign of your advancing years when policemen start to look young. I can’t say I have noticed this particularly, especially as policemen are a relatively rare sight on our streets nowadays, and in any case they are called ‘community support officers’ or something equally polysyllabic and daft. I don’t take much notice of them.
There are other criteria for assessing degree of senility, I have observed. Do you amass supermarket carrier bags, storing them neatly folded or tied into bows in a bag that hangs behind a cupboard door? Do you save plastic yogurt pots, convinced they’ll come in one day, until you have no more room for them, and then throw them out before starting again? Before retiring for the night, do you set the table for breakfast, with the cups upside down on the saucers? If you are male and gay, do you touch up your grey chest hair with ‘Just for Men’ Moustache, Beard and Sideburns colour? I’m not really all that old, and I only engage in one of the activities on this list for the time being, and do you know, it works a treat.
Extreme irascibility around the young is a definite sign that one is well into middle age. This evening on the train, three sixth-form college students were sprawled on the floor of the carriage vestibule. They were bright kids, but Jesus Christ, the grating bloody fucking awfulness of their manner of speech. ‘Say, y’neigh, I’m sort of like this, and say, obviously of course, Megan’s like thaaat, and say like Jack’s like whaaat?’ all delivered in a high-pitched, nasalized yap so infuriating that I was forced to rise and put an end to their pointless young lives. No, I didn’t. That was just a brief wish-fulfillment fantasy. I moved down the train until I could no longer hear them, meaning that I had to walk to the far end of the next carriage and sit next to the bog.
A young colleague, Emma, came out with a surprising criterion for senescence yesterday. She has acquired a blender, and the other day she made some soup.
‘I felt reeeelly old!’ she said.
Baffled, I asked why.
‘You don’t make fucking soup at twenty three!’ she said, as if it were as sure an indicator of decline as a hip replacement op.
‘So when should the urge to make soup come upon one, in the natural course of events?'
‘Well, I’d reckon forty-ish.’
At this point another colleague entered the room.
‘Dave, how old were you when you first made soup in a blender?’ Emma asked him.
‘Forty,’ he said, without a second’s hesitation.
‘There you go!’ Emma said.
Right. Come to think of it, I bought my blender in 2003, at the age of forty-four. It was my second, its predecessor having gone missing in a move some twenty years previously. So although I was obviously a young fogey who made soup back in the eighties, after a soupless interregnum I returned to the activity in the fifth decade, just as Emma’s theory predicts, and thus I am inescapably middle aged.