Thursday, 1 July 2010

Grow Old Disgracefully

I’ve been lucky when it comes to growing old. People who meet me for the first time are shocked when I reveal my age, some of them visibly.

It’s been great.

I have a full head of hair and a young complexion, thanks to my sensitive skin that normally turns to fire when exposed to a little sunlight. Lessons have been learned along the way and I no longer spend any time in the sun if I can help it. Instead I sit in the shade and am mocked by those wrinkly old sun-worshippers with leathery skin and I simply don’t care – I am reaping the benefits of avoiding the sun.

I have a lot of friends who are younger than me and some of them are jealous. One friend said just a few days ago:

“I’m nearly forty and I look about five years older than you. How old are you now? Forty seven? You make me sick!”

Looking younger than my age has made me act a little younger too. I have been told that I can sometimes behave very immaturely (usually by my two teenage lads) and to be honest I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I have often said that I am a middle-aged goat with a teenager trying to escape from within. You may find that description a little peculiar but it is totally accurate.

And the good news is that by looking so young, I have been able to get away with it.

Until now.

Something has happened and I am a little shocked.

Before I reveal all, let me tell you about a little argument that I had with Mrs PM.

Some background first:

Age milestones can be traumatic – I know, I’ve been through a few myself.

My twentieth birthday was horrible. I was at university and I realised that I was no longer a teenager; all of a sudden I was supposed to start acting like a grown up human being. After a couple of pints I thought to myself “Bollocks to that!” and so began my battle with age.

On my thirtieth birthday I refused to bow to the pressure of settling down and continued to behave like an idiotic young arse despite people my age telling me that I was acting like a juvenile imbecile.

On my fortieth birthday I really struggled to cope with on-coming middle age and beat myself up daily in the months leading up to the big day, compensating for middle age by dressing up in young clothes and doing even more stupid things.

Thankfully, I came to my senses and grew up a little. Nevertheless, coming to terms with my age has turned me into an unsympathetic bonehead when it comes to others reaching similar milestones, responding harshly when people have said things like.

“Oh no – I’m old! I’m thirty next week.”

“What do you mean old?” I have replied, oblivious to their trauma. “I tell you what, when you are forty seven like me then you can start to bloody worry about your age. Thirty! THIRTY!!! What’s wrong with you? You’re still a child! No – you’re a BABY! It’s been so long since I’ve been thirty that I’ve forgotten what it felt like. Thirty – honestly. Do me a favour and go and moan about it to somebody who is twenty five. That’s the only way you’ll get a sympathetic ear. Worried about being THIRTY? STREWTH!!!”

To be honest, I do feel bad about giving people a hard time when they have wandered off feeling depressed, because I remember being afflicted by the same depression at the time myself.

Unfortunately, my insensitivity towards younger people reaching milestones came back and bit me on the arse yesterday. Why? Because Mrs PM is forty this year; that’s why we had an argument.

It started off as such a nice day. I returned home from work and found Mrs PM sitting in the garden, enjoying a wonderfully sunny day.

“Shall we eat out?” she said.

“Yeah,” I agreed. “Let’s go the pub and have dinner in the beer garden!”

We strolled to one of our local pubs and were enjoying a wonderful meal with a pint or two of the landlord’s finest ale in the lovely June sunshine, when the subject of age reared its ugly head. The conversation went something like this:

MRS PM: I’m forty in August.

PM: I know.

MRS PM: I don’t want to be forty. I’m slightly perturbed about it.

PM: It’ll be fine. Nothing will change. I was forty almost eight years ago. I’m fine.

MRS PM: I remember when you were forty; you were distraught.

PM: Yes, I know I was – but I was stupid.

MRS PM: What do you mean “stupid”?

PM: I mean what I say. I’m quite happy now, all these years later. I don’t know what the problem was. One minute I was thirty nine, the next I was forty. Nothing changed. Nothing dropped off. I didn’t die. I didn’t suddenly become old. I was fine. I am fine. I was a stupid bloody idiot.

MRS PM: You’ll feel the same when you turn fifty.

PM: I can assure you that I won’t. I’m absolutely delighted to be forty seven years old and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m very happy, thank you very much. I don’t know why I was so idiotic.

MRS PM: Well I feel down about it.

PM: Well that’s stupid. I know that everybody who reaches a milestone like that suddenly realises that they are getting old, but so what? Nothing will change. Everybody who worries about it is being daft.

MRS PM: Are you saying that I am stupid?

PM: No – I am saying that you are BEING stupid worrying about it – just like everybody else who worries about such things. I was stupid too.


At this point, a few people started listening in. I think I saw one person go to the local shop to get some popcorn. Of course, I was oblivious. I was on a roll. I was being a total dickhead.

PM: Look, sweetpea, there is nothing to worry about. Think about it. What’s wrong with being forty? What is so different about being forty? You’re not going to become an ugly, fat old bat overnight. If you think you are then you are being stupid.

It was a sunny evening and all of a sudden the atmosphere changed, as if a dark cloud had appeared above. I was oblivious to this because I was in full flow, ranting away about things that I shouldn’t even be pondering.

Sometimes I can be such a moron. I should have stopped; I didn’t.

PM: When a twenty nine year old comes up to me and says “Dave – I’m worried about being thirty”, I just want to scream at them. They are YOUNG at thirty. It’s ridiculous. It’s STUPID.


PM: I’m not calling you stupid. I am saying that you, like me and every other bugger who has beaten themselves up about entering a new decade, deserves a slap to bring them to their senses.

At this point, the audience winced, presumably anticipating the pain to come. I stopped my rant briefly to look into Mrs PM’s eyes.

They were red. They were fiery. She was angry. She was going to kill me.

A little voice popped into my head and said “FOR CRYING OUT LOUD – SHUT UP!!”

So I did.

But it was not over – not by a long way.

MRS PM: HOW DARE YOU CALL ME STUPID!!!! Do you know, you can be right arsehole sometimes and you're being one now.

Were some people applauding?

MRS PM: I know that turning forty won’t change anything …

PM: But …

MRS PM: SHUT UP!!!! I want to be in my thirties. I want to stay young. I don’t want to be forty but I know I will get over it. I just want some sympathy. I don’t know why I bothered trying to get any from you. You are such a pratt! I ask for sympathy and YOU CALL ME STUPID!!

PM: I didn’t call you stupid, I …

MRS PM: SHUT UP!!!! I haven’t finished.

There was definitely some applause and a little mocking laughter. I turned around to see who it was.


At this point I deservedly had to suffer a tirade of abuse. I tried to make amends by smiling and nodding. I endeavoured to reiterate the fact that I didn’t think she was stupid at all but my pleas fell on deaf ears. She lectured me about feelings, age and all sorts of things related to what an uncaring, cold-blooded, heartless, callous and cruel barbarian I could be. Her words struck home and I decided to take one for the team. I sat there and allowed her to chastise me.

And then I switched off.

Her words flowed over me and I tried to filter out the key phrases that would allow me to put my foot in the door and try to regain a place in her affections. I was humble. I hung my head in shame, seeking a gap where I could change the subject. I knew I was beaten.

And then it happened.

MRS PM: Hang on a second. Have you looked in the mirror lately?

The pitch of her voice had changed. She was no longer annoyed with my callous outburst. Moreover, there was a hint of humour in her voice, a hint of mischief – the tables were about to be well and truly turned. I decided that now was the time to lighten the mood with some self-deprecating humour.

PM: Of course, not. I don’t look in the mirror. You know that I am scared of baboons. And if I survive the ordeal I’m worried that the mirror might not. I’ve had enough bad luck over the years.

MRS PM: (now laughing): I think you should look in the mirror.

PM: (now slightly worried): Why?

MRS PM: You’re going grey!

PM: Nonsense.

MRS PM: Honestly – there are flecks of grey in your hair at the side.

PM: Rubbish! When the sun shines on my hair, it looks more blonde – not grey.

MRS PM: I’ll prove it.

PM: How?

The audience had their popcorn at the ready as Mrs PM gently reached into the hair at the side of my head.

PM: OUCH!!!!!

Mrs PM handed a hair to me – a genuine, bona fide grey hair. I was flabbergasted. I was shocked. It had grown out of my head. A bloody great big thick grey hair!!!

Here is the proof:

So you see, ladies and gentlemen, age is finally catching up with me. For those who are wondering what happened after Mrs PM’s fantastic revelation, we walked back home with Mrs PM chuckling to herself as I did my greatest Victor Meldrew impersonation: “I DON’T BELIEVE IT!!”

Mrs PM has forgotten about the trauma of reaching forty because there is now visible evidence that I am a middle-aged git and to her that is funny enough to allow her to forget the approaching milestone - at least for now.

And I can imagine what you are thinking - IT SERVES YOU RIGHT - and you are of course totally correct.

Dear reader, I am no longer the Peter Pan of the blogosphere. My hair, which has irritated me ever since I can remember has now climbed to new heights of annoyance.

But, fear not – I won’t let it bother me. I shall continue to grow old disgracefully – the only problem is that I may now start looking the part.

I no longer have an excuse to act like a pratt.

But one thing’s for sure – I will definitely, definitely, definitely not be buying “Just For Men”.


Pandora Behr said...

Love it PM, Love it. Greys are a badge of honour. Enjoy.
Mind you, now I'm forty I love it - best thing to have ever happened.
Mind you - thirty was complete crap and I don't remember 20 - blocked the whole incident out.
Verification word: Gonscran

Nomadic View said...

I have the same painful realization of age and my own mortality whenever I go to a barber nowadays. Having to stare at myself for an hour is in itself fairly traumatic for a glory masterpiece like me but in this last decade, it seems like every time I get my hair cut, the barber isn't listening and starts hacking at what little remains of my lovely locks at the top. I like short hair but that doesn't mean I have to look like my father. First I am furious, silent and bitter- which doesn't improve my looks at all- and then as I glare at my angry self, I inevitably begin thinking how much old I've started looking. How my neutral expression has taken on a sort of sneer or, equally as bad, a dull, blank droopiness. Like looking into a bowl of porridge.

Anyway, there's nothing one can do about and I've always been the one that snickered at the apparent desperation of those that refused to accept their age. Bitch Karma.

The thing is, I just don't feel all that old. True, I am hardly able to bound up stairs any more but then, what on earth is the rush? True, there's a roundness in my middle that I can't fix, but really, isn't that a sign of a life well lived? I can still flex in some places too!

So I've decided to wear a blindfold when I go to the barber from now on. I'm only surprised I hadn't thought of it before.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Pandora,

It is kind of exciting in a weird way - but still a shock; I never thought I would turn grey, even though all of my grandparents did, even the one with blond hair.

It comes to us all.

I also can't reiterate enough how good it is being this age - things will only get better, Pandora, as you are discovering.

I just hope Mrs PM does too.




Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Nomad,

I don't have that problem at the barbers. First there is an audible sigh of pain when I go in ("Oh no - not him again! Quick - get the hedge trimmers!") but once I've settled down in the chair, I can take off my glasses and simply see a blurred version of myself - which is all I ever want to see. Of course the bad side of that is that when I put them back on, I can see what a complete mess has been made.

I love the description "Like looking into a bowl of porridge" - my face is drooping too - until the grey hair appeared, it was the only sign, to me at least, that I was forty seven.

But, as I have said in previous posts on the subject, we MUST grow old gracefully. I have no intention of intervening. I will just let it should everybody.

Can I come and watch when you go into the barbers with a blindfold?




River said...

I haven't read the whole post yet, I'll go back in a second. I just have to say, Mrs PM has got it wrong. You are/were NOT calling her stupid. Her fears about being forty are stupid, but she herself is not.

River said...

Oooh! Grey hair!
Not to worry, I have lots of those. I gave up dying my hair quite some time ago, there's still plenty of brown (dark blonde), but the grey is overtaking them.
I've ignored my age all my life, easy enough when one has young genes, (thanks mum), but I've had to admit that I'm getting older now that I can no longer move as freely as I used to. Lots of muscle strain, and a little arthritis, (again, thanks mum).
most people I know guess me to be 40-45, to which I say thank you. I'll be 58 in August.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi River,

Somebody else who looks young for her age, eh?

I inherit my youthful looks from my Dad's mum who looked younger than her years even when she was in her 70's.

I will monitor my hair out of interest but rest assured that the idea of covering up nature's progress is no something I will ever consider - I simply don't see the point.




Robin Easton said...

well, well, well, if this isn't coincidence!! Plastic Man goes gray!! Whoooo hooo!!!!!

I laughed my head off over the interaction between you and your wife. It sounded like something out a sitcom. And YET, it is exactly how we all feel. Since I read this post this AM, I've been thinking what the heck is up with the decade markers of 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, etc. We are pretty fine once we get over the marker and are on the low end of the next decade/marker, like 21, 31, 41, 51, 61, and so forth, but as we nudge closer to 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 etc, we get all nervous and feel all old and quake in our boots. So I ask you, "Why did we humans EVER learn to count?" Bad business this counting!! :)

Seriously! Why didn't we just NEVER learn to count and NEVER invent mirrors (to see gray hairs and wrinkles) then we would have gone blissfully through our days, until one day we just keeled over?!!

Now THAT makes more sense to me than the way currently do it. The only problem with that is that if we were single much of our life and we had NO idea how old we were and NO idea what we looked like, we might see all these 70 year old woman running after 20 year old men, or we might see all these 70 year old men running after 20 year old woman.....well...we ALREADY see THAT......Hahahaahahahaha!!!!

Okay, okay, I'm getting out of hand now, (which I often do on when I am here :) But take away, clocks, calendars, mirrors, decades, and just envision the wild mayhem that would ensue. Aaahhh, life as it should be!!!

Anyway, I am so relived to know that "someone" else is going gray with me!!! LOL!!!

You made my whole week PM. I think you will look very distinguished gray!!! And yes, I know what you mean about it seeming weird. I just NEVER thought it would happen to ME!! :)

Funny how we see aging as something that happens to OTHERS but NEVER to ourselves. But then I was like you, looked a lot younger that I am. I was still getting carded at 40. I kid you not! So imagine the shock of my first gray hair. Aaahhh, but I do adjust!

You are a delightful hoot! Thank you for bringing laughter to all our lives. You do it unlike ANYONE I know.




Anonymous said...

My husband is almost 42 and he looks 35. I always reminded him , until it became a habit, that he'd slather facial sunscreen every day even on the winter, and put on an anti-aging moisturizing treatment on his face every night before going to bed. The only thing that gave away his age was his receding hairline, and gray just recently, after being convinced by me, he shaved his head ----no hair, not a single half-inch. He looks way much younger and now his face is the "focus" instead of his receding hairline.
I know I am aging too, but I try to grow old gracefully not only physically but also through spiritual , and intellectual----to practice wisdom that I learned from the greatest life's guide--the Bible. That's why at 42, people think I am 25. (yea, I'm not kidding).
Well then, I still recommend you to use "Just for Men." Go white haired when you're 60. but in your 40's, it's still fine to look younger than you are , including hair.

Kath Lockett said...

Greys look great on a man, so leave them there and enjoy.

It's the ear hair (no, not just th ones emanating from the canal but those weird sproingly ones that grow on the outside) that are worse for a bloke to deal with. Trust me, they don't like their wives pointing out they're shining in the sunlight.....

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Robin,

I totally agree - we should ALL stop counting. If it weren't for counting, Mrs PM and I wouldn't have had the argument in the first place.


And yes - I never thought it would happen to me, despite that little voice at the back of my head saying "It will you know - don't kid yourself!"

So, Robin - two mantras for us:

(1) Grey Power (or "Gray" because you are American :-) )
(2) Grow Old (Dis)Gracefully!

I like it!




Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Bingkee,

I suggested that I shave all my hair off, like your husband, but Mrs PM told me in no uncertain terms that I shouldn't do it. It wiould kill two birds with one stone - I would get rid of the grey and, more importantly, get rid of the hair that has caused so much pain and embarrassment over the years.

I won't use "Just For Men" I'm afraid because I think old men with jet black hair look "strange". I will just let it happen.




Plastic Mancunian said...

G'Day Kath,

I HATE ear hair and I have lots of it. Thankfully it is blond (not grey) so you only see it when you come up close.

The problem is that *I* can see it and if I shave it off it comes back thinker.

I mean - whats the point of it?

Honestly - what is the point?

Mrs PM has suggested "waxing" but you can imagine my response the THAT!