Sean Moncrieff: Am I middle-aged? What is ‘middle-aged’ anyway?
Most people who are older don’t feel much different than they did when they were 25 or 40
There’s even less agreement on when middle age ends. Is it at some point in the 60s, or even the 70s?
People often say to Daughter Number Three that she should have been the age she is now in the 1980s.
She wears Smiths and Joy Division T-shirts; and the vast majority of music she listens to is from that era. Even more recent music she likes sounds like it’s from that era.
People say it to her, but she vehemently disagrees. She has no desire to live in a decade that, from her 19-year-old perspective, was like the Stone Age. She’s not listening to the music to rebel against anything, and she doesn’t fancy the idea of having to deal with some reactionary parent horrified by her clothes and her record collection.
This imaginary 80s parent would be a lot like how Morrissey is now.
She’s quite happy with her current time period and parenting arrangement. She, and the other kids, occasionally say I’m cool; which, in the moment I choose to believe as a genuine sentiment rather than a way of plámásing me to get money or takeaway. (Which works. Every time.)
Still, it is interesting that many of the signifiers of my youth – clothes and music – carry far less weight than they do now. There’s less of a generation gap: or perhaps the gap is demarcated by different things.
I don’t understand their need to vomit every feeling on social media, no matter how much they explain it to me.
From their vantage point, there are two stages of life: them, as young people, and everyone older than them. From mine, there are many: being in my 20s and being a bit of a dope, being in my 30s and a bit more grown up, being in my 40s when I was definitely grown up but depressed about it, and then hitting my 50s when I can’t deny that I am middle-aged.
Middle-aged is an odd term. For one thing, unless I live past 100, I’m not in the middle of my life. It’s also far from clear when I entered this phase and when I will exit. There are countless polls as to when middle-age starts. It could be 40, 45 or 50 – all of which, confusingly, are also the new 30, 35 or 40. It largely depends on how many miles you have on the clock. To my kids, 40 is old. Wait until you get to 39.
There’s even less agreement on when middle age ends. Is it at some point in the 60s, or even the 70s? Few people seem to embrace what comes after that, or agree on what to call it.
In one US poll, only 16 per cent of people in their sixties thought 65 could be categorised as ‘old’. And you can’t blame them: the word connotes frailty and obsolescence, as does ‘elderly’ or ‘senior’. Some 65-year-olds might be defeated by time. Some might be hitting the gym every day.
I have yet to experience it, but I reckon that most people who are older (than me) don’t feel much different than they did when they were 25 or 40. They might make a weird noise every time they stand up, (I’m doing that already), or find it odd to have to explain what a phone box was, but the same fears and passions and loves are still there. It’s just that they don’t get asked about that kind of thing so much; as if their soul is as wrinkled as their skin.
Go on: barrage me with platitudes. Ignore the number. You’re as young as you feel. Keep the mind active. Laugh every day. Keep learning.
None of them stop the rot of time, or adjust the western, capitalist attitude that your integral worth is directly linked to what you do and how much you buy on ASOS. All you can do is accept this with some grace, keep playing your records, and try your best not to end up like Morrissey.