Second adulthood: It’s just another desperate paean to the myth of immortality

Hilary Fannin: Like a buttock lift, it’s just another desperate paean to the immortality myth

'Second adulthood, which apparently kicks in at around the age of 50, seems to be a kind of adult adolescence.'

'Second adulthood, which apparently kicks in at around the age of 50, seems to be a kind of adult adolescence.'

 

One of the phrases that popped up a couple of times during my recent perusal of the self-help section in the bookshop was “second adulthood”. Now, for all I know, you lot could be entirely au fait with this concept. I, however, while barely managing the adulthood I’ve got, have yet to investigate what a second one might look like. 

Second adulthood, which apparently kicks in at around the age of 50, seems to be a kind of adult adolescence. (Can we, like, call it “SA” for the rest of the column? I get, like, totally bored, you know, typing the same phrase over and over. Duh.) 

According to the lifestyle writers I consulted, SA is a major life transition, only this time, instead of waking up one bleak morning with acne and attitude, you open your eyes to a whole load of marketing departments turning themselves inside out to convince you that your real life has only just begun and that as soon as you get over your sciatica you’ll be hot to trot.

You look around at all the impulse buys crowding your life: the rusting bench press and dusty barbells; the wardrobe full of tat, the out-of-date aduki beans

Depending on which unscientific study you read, one’s 50s and 60s can be light-hearted, fulfilling days when one has all the time in the world to water the agapanthuses and replace the fascias and get fitted for insoles and focus on what really matters. (Or alternatively, presumably, they can be fraught, pricey years, when we lose our hair and inhibitions and end up in Ibiza in a pair of badly-fitting disco pants, ladling cocaine up our hairy noses and salivating over nubile lovelies who are young enough to have learned life’s lessons at the knees of the Teletubbies.)

The “second adulterers” – sorry, I mean those who write and speak with enthusiasm about second adulthood – say that we are, during this volatile midlife cycle, in the process of growing up again. Only this time, they seek to reassure us, we bring wisdom, confidence and experience to the sandpit. (We might also consider bringing distance glasses, so that we can clearly see the unprecedented opportunities the lifestyle gurus insist lie ahead: boogie-boarding and camel trekking and cryogenic freezing and the opportunity to knit your own muesli on an organic ashram or maybe a nice watercolour class – all yours at the touch of the “Pay Now” button.)

Anyway, in case you’re wondering whether you’re in the throes of, or nearing the shore of, the SA condition, here are the symptoms to look out for. First, you find yourself staring at the scorched grass, asking: “What am I going to do with the rest of my life?” 

Then you notice yourself fantasising about breaking up with your old life. You’ve had it with trying to change from within; nothing has worked in the past. You look around at all the impulse buys crowding your life: the rusting bench press and dusty barbells; the wardrobe full of tat, with the labels still on, that you really won’t ever fit into, no matter how much cauliflower rice you consume; the yellowing gym membership; the out-of-date aduki beans. And what about all the promises to yourself that you never kept, to learn Urdu, for example, or to circumnavigate Japan on a unicycle? 

You’re antsy, out of sorts, tired of facilitating everyone else’s needs. The next time someone asks you where their bed-socks/dentures/reading glasses/Viagra stash are you’re going to smack them in the mouth with your leaky rubber gloves.

Is it time, you wonder, to leave your spouse and your trusted spaghetti bolognese recipes on the sagging shelf of familiarity, and take off into the great grey yonder?

There has to be a way out of all this, you whisper to yourself. Is it time, you wonder, to leave your spouse and your trusted spaghetti bolognese recipes on the sagging shelf of familiarity, and take off into the great grey yonder? And, more importantly, would they even notice that you’ve vacated the premises until after Bake-Off was finished?

Personally, I think this second adulthood malarkey is a pretty suspect notion, a phantasmagoria, a whisper in the wind. Like face filler and buttock lifts or gargling with grated unicorn horn, it’s just another desperate paean to the myth of immortality. Thinking about a second adolescence is simply something to keep us occupied for 10 minutes so we don’t think about death.

I don’t want another adulthood, I’d just like to continue with the one I have, even if it means accepting that we all have to grow up, put a cork in our bottle and confine our recreational drug use to a hefty dose of vitamin B complex. Time’s arrow only flies in one direction. Nope, there ain’t no going back, mate; no second time around, no matter what tune the guru is singing. 

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