Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Act your age!

I once tried to explain why a friend of mine in his early 40s had never had never had a proper job - I reasoned that he had spent a number of years travelling, partying and woke up one day to find that he had turned 40. The response as you can imagine was 'You don't just wake up and find that you're 40 years old' A baffled listener added ' He had four decades to prepare for it'. Now when I think back perhaps my explanation wasn't the best but I still maintain that it is possible. The fact is the years really do creep up on you and there is nothing to prepare you for it, one minute you're 15 and thinking of your 35 year old Aunty as ancient, the next minute you're 35 and talking to a 15 year old who thinks you're ancient. Really it's a quick as that, no warning, no signs and if you have good genes your skin at 40 may be as firm as it was when you finished college, but alas you are no longer young and the worse part is that you have to adjust to it and are expected to know what to do and most importantly what not to do!
I accept that for most of us, life happens in easily identifiable stages which may be for instance the 'socially acceptable' path  of - studies-career-marriage-family. Therefore the presumption is that by the time you get married, your party days are dying a natural death so that when the sprogs pop out you're quite happy to sit in front of the telly after an exhausting day chasing after them. At this point a night out which is rare, is a quiet meal in a lovely restaurant that's not too noisy or crowded. The thought of a night club, loud music and a sweaty crowd leaves you hyperventilating.
But what happens if you opt out of the marriage and family thing, your career progression may well be the factor that reflect your years, but the reality is that life may not be remarkably different in your 30s than it was in your 20s. Perhaps there's a bigger job title and pay packet but your energy levels could still be the same, give or take a few hours of dancing. This is where I think life becomes tricky and the case for a 'Getting Older Manual' convincing.
Taking myself as a case study - I will be hitting my 'middle age' in a few years time and although I no longer want to go clubbing as much as I did in my 20s, I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy the occasional party. I still love to dance to songs like Passout even though I know me singing or jumping about will be met with a look of disapproval from my 11 year old neice who thinks I should act my age and not my size 6 shoe size. And yes I know at my age I'm probably not supposed to know all the words to Only Girl and have a desire to belt out a song by a girl who is more than a decade younger than me, but the truth is I do. I not only want to sing it out loud but I get the urge to twirl around and shake my head 'rave-style' too. And before you ask me to sit down and act like the grown woman I am, spare a thought for people like me whose minds are clearly out of sync with their biological age. I know that a lot of my peers once they reach a certain age whip out their foral prints and 'sensible' shoes but does that mean I have to? I mean if at 40 a woman has the body for it then why can't she rock her short shorts or harem pants? Am I still mutton dressed as lamb if I look as young as my 25 year old colleague?

The truth is we are an aging population, we're living longer and I would argue, judging from friends and family around me, looking younger for longer. Therefore life and society have to be accomodating or alternatively make it clear to us at what point we have to change the way we behave. Is it when we turn 30 or 35 or perhaps it's 40 - who knows and how is the distinction made anyway? I know many of us have sniggered at the sight of a man with a pot belly wearing ripped jeans and a so-called cool retro t-shirt but I think what makes him laughable is less his age and more the bags under his eyes and that awful pot belly. This is where I think the rule can be simplified - if your body screams middle age, then you should dress and act accordingly. If however Mother Nature has been kind to you then why not flaunt it?

It may be wise to ease up on the raves or queuing up outside a nightclub in a tight mini skirt and platforms that are bound to give you bunions but if you're invited to a house party why not go and have a blast especially now that you're 40something and the children are away at Uni. Life really should begin at 40!

For the sake of my neice I have decided to refrain from dancing to house music in public but I fully intend to shake my moneymaker in the privacy of my home with the volume on full as Choice FM plays my favourite bashment tunes.
Ask me again how I feel about 'acting young' in 5 years time; at that point I may completely grasp what is expected of me, and may take no interest in popular culture, I may even describe my children's music as noise. Although I seriously doubt it. I will however make a concerted effort not to embarass them in public. I can't promise to change my favourite dance move to a 'middle-aged side step' but you wont catch me doing the head shoulders knees and toes dance either....unless ofcourse you're visiting me at home.


Momma Iz said...

HEAR HEAR! for all the "young" 'old' people out there. Thank you! :o)

Lomaswazi said...

I didn't realise the young-old divide quite so well until a colleague mentioned rather annoyed that he was at a bar with all these "cougars who were like, in their 30's or something". What is nice though is that he clearly had no idea I was a member of that club....

So T, sing on sister. I was very proud that I actually recognised one song in your article!