There is no official start date to middle-age, so how do you know when it hits you. I’m in my early forties but I don’t think of myself as middle-aged, yet recently I’ve realised, how should I put it, that I’m displaying characteristics one could, possibly, associate with middle-age. It got me thinking. Maybe we should produce a checklist to help those of us to realise we aren’t young any more. Here is my first attempt at this list. If you have any others, please feel free to comment below.
1. You correct people’s grammar
You are walking down the street when you hear somebody say “I didn’t do nothing.” If the first thought that came into your head wasn’t “I wonder what they’ve done,” or “What’s going on here,” but “I didn’t do anything. If you didn’t do nothing you did, in fact, do something. It’s a double negative,” you are on the road to middle-age.
2. You don’t know who is in the charts
When I was younger I used to follow the charts avidly. Even though I hated most pop music, I knew who all the bands were and what the latest songs in their latest releases. I remember being thrilled seeing Nirvana on Top of the Pops as it was a sign that I wasn’t the only one who liked this type of music. Moving on to today, I was at a school fayre the other day (a middle-aged activity if ever there was one) which had a DJ to entertain the kids. At one point my wife came up to me and said “Did you know this is One Direction?” I hadn’t a clue. I’ve heard of One Direction and know they are big in the US, but I couldn’t have told you what they sounded like, which is a sure sign that I’m approaching middle-age.
3. You start to shop at clothing stores your parents shopped at
It starts off innocently enough. You need some new socks and you just want some that will last. Instead of going to one of the high street fashion stores, you find yourself in a department store, or even worse, Marks and Spencers. As you walk through the clothes section a shirt catches your eye. It’s just the type you like, in the colour you like and similar to one you already own. You then see another shirt, then another. Suddenly you realise that unlike the shop you used to shop in, you don’t need to filter out three-quarters of the clothes because you’d look like mutton dressed as lamb. No, in this shop the clothes don’t make you stand out, they make you blend in, and this feels good.
4. You’ve had the same haircut for at least ten years now
Short at the back and the sides, a little longer on top. I’ve said these twelve words in every hairdresser’s I’ve visited since I was in my mid-twenties. Now there may be a little less hair at the top to keep long, and the colour may have changed slightly, but my haircut is the same one I’ve been happy with for over ten years. The only time I don’t say those words are when the hairdresser says “Your usual?” That’s if they need to ask anymore.
5. You enjoy gardening
I’m not talking about the young tyro’s who have been brought up with dirt between their fingernails. If you’ve always loved gardening this isn’t for you. If, however, you’ve suddenly discovered the pleasure of mowing a lawn, maybe even with stripes, or you find yourself pulling the odd weed from your decorative border when in the past you used to strim down the waist high grass only when you wanted a barbecue, then it’s another sign you are approaching middle-age. If you have rented an allotment however, there is no doubt.
6. You start to desire a simpler life
When you were younger, every evening used to be full, whether it was playing a sport, going out drinking with friends, clubbing, weekends away; there was never a dull moment. Nowadays you could at home watching a re-run of Magnum when a text comes through asking if you fancy going to the pub. If you have to think twice because getting your arse off the sofa and putting some shoes on is too much bother, you’re approaching middle-age.
7. You go for a walk for the sheer pleasure of it
Walking used to be a means to an end. The only time you used to walk is if you wanted to get somewhere. That was it. Now, however, you could find yourself looking outside after a good lunch and realising that it’s such a nice day that it would be great to go for a walk. Not to anywhere, but because it seems a nice thing to do. You may even have a regular walk you go on whenever the desire hits you. This is not a young person’s thoughts. You are approaching middle-age.
8. Clubbing is something that happens to the young or arctic seals
Have you had the pleasure of going to a club recently and ended up wondering why you used to think it was fun to stand in a converted warehouse space where young women walked around in semi-naked groups to protect themselves from the meerkat-like packs of young men, desperation in their eyes, hunting for mates in a room where the music is so loud you have to shout in the ear of the person next to you to be heard, and you pay three to four times as much for a drink than the pub next door. Then you realise that most of the clubbers are avoiding you in case you report what they were doing to their parents. If this has been your experience then it’s time to admit that clubbing is a young person’s game, or for Canadians*.
9. Hangovers last three days
There was a reason I was sober in the nightclub. When I was younger I used to drink all weekend, have about four hours sleep, then turn up for work the following week fully fit and able to function. About four months ago I decided to stop drinking alcohol because even one beer would give me a hangover, and a few would leave me suffering for days. If this has recently happened to you, you’re approaching middle-age.
10. You look in the mirror and see one of your parents staring back at you
For the past few years you have only looked in the mirror to check an aspect of your appearance; is your hair OK, or have you got spinach between your teeth? Then, one day, you have a proper look at your face for the first time and to your horror you see one of your parents staring back at you. Unless you are the natural son or daughter of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, this is going to be a bit of a shock.
* Before you shout, yes, I know seal culling takes place in Norway, Greenland, Russia and other arctic states, it’s just most of us associate it with Canada. Sorry. It’s nothing personal. If you want somebody to blame, blame PeTA