Being an incorrigible cynic and unabashed hair-shirt sort of a guy, I have felt ever since my mid-twenties that I was always going to be naturally suited to the role of being an old, ‘off the pace’ curmudgeon – basically an object of (behind my back) amusement to young generations – by the time I reached the age of sixty and beyond.
I suppose in my mind’s eye this was going to be a positive development rather in the manner of the experience of a half-decent actor whose genetically-inherited thoroughly nondescript looks – shall we say – had given him ‘a good face for radio’ (and thereby precluded him from ever becoming the object of mass female hysteria as a romantic lead).
However, the unlikely hero of our tale – and this is the sort of payback that makes us all feel that there is Justice in this world if not a God – then later finds that, from about the age of thirty, he is suddenly launched upon the luxury of three to four decades’ worth of lucrative character acting and/or the playing of middle-aged heavies, this at a time of life when his contemporary (and earlier far more successful) former juvenile heart-throbs are beginning to fade … not only in the looks department, but also in terms of both sex and box office appeal.
The majority of the latter – and here I’m not referring to those lucky few who morph into Hollywood greats and remain forever at the peak of their profession – then either disappear altogether or else make desperate attempts to remain in the public eye by living in the gymnasium, filling themselves with Botox, appearing in ludicrous reality television series and employing second-rate agents and/or PR executives to keep their names (and latest contrived escapades) in the media.
Sadly, I have to report that on two counts my recent festive (Christmas and New Year) period – otherwise happily understated and low-key by personal choice – provided reminders of my ‘ascent’ to past-it and irrelevant curmudgeon status.
Having flogged myself for the first eleven months of 2017 upon a self-devised ‘diet and fitness’ regime that had taken me from being a lacking-in-energy couch potato – weighing 13 stone 12.2 pounds addicted to fast and unhealthy food & drink – to a somewhat (subjectively-judged) fitter and healthier state tipping the scales at 13 stone 4 pounds, early in December I gave all that up via the excuse that it was it was the month of Christmas and not only were the chances of eating healthily zero but (what the hell?) I could always resume my aforementioned ‘diet and fitness’ regime on 1st January – yesterday – anyway.
[I would just like to add for the sake of completeness that my above ‘path to relative health and fitness’ was never a smooth one. Depending upon where (and who with) I was staying/visiting – and the cooking there available – there was a significant degree of feast and famine.
It is a fact of life that you have to join in with those you are spending time with. If they don’t take exercise and/or habitually eat unhealthy (or love highly-calorific) meals, the avid ‘aspiring fitness freak’ is basically snookered for the duration. That’s why my overall January to November journey from 13 stone 12.2 pounds to 13 stone 4 pounds was anything but a smooth, natural progression. More like a cork being flung about upon the high seas during a force 7 gale, maybe, as I bounced randomly up and down that almost 8 pound overall apparent drop in weight.]
Secondly, how others see us.
You know how it is. You proceed through life imagining that how you see yourself, and therefore how you think you present to others, is how they will regard you.
That fond perception only ever survives to the point where your front door closes behind you.
The humbling truth is that you have no control over how others view you at all. You can only look and act as yourself and trust/hope that this will give an accurate impression of who you really are to the world at large.
The chances it will do so are only about fifty-fifty.
Take the festive period just passed, for example. Twice during it, jocular references were made – by persons of two different generations in two quite separate family gatherings – to my supposed ludicrous (and therefore hilarious) ‘Dad-dancing’ eccentricities on the dance floor at parties.
Let me be clear about this. I don’t do dancing, never have. Well, unless – when as drunk as a skunk – someone forces me onto the dancing area and I spend a few minutes swaying modestly and unexceptionally to the music of the moment.
Or alternatively (as apparently others see it) I suddenly begin channelling a combination of Mick Jagger circa 1970 … Michael Jackson during his Thriller period … and some unidentified puppet bouncing up and down on strings operated by someone hidden in the ceiling … for either the next half an hour and/or until I have completely ‘cleared the floor’ (whichever of those two comes first).
I am not afraid to confess that I was completely mortified by the above mentions of my alleged performances on the dance floor. Especially since both were made in the context of regret that it had quite been so long since I had last made such a fool of myself …
Happily, I managed to get my own back upon an unsuspecting distant relative who had called me on the phone on New Year’s Eve for a general catch-up on family news.
This gave her the opportunity to do what she wanted, which was to hold forth for twenty minutes on her favourite subject, most of it dripping with her usual highly-embellished bullshit (I have known said lady for four decades so could recognise this instantly). The climax of her tale was the ever-upwards trajectory of her own business and her recent taking up (at sixty-something) of triathlons, cycling and ‘adventure holidays to exotic foreign lands’.
When she finally drew breath – and I had the opportunity to interject that I must ring off because lunch had been called – she concluded by asking to where I might be considering jetting off as regards exotic foreign lands in which to pursue adventure holidays.
“Nowhere …”, I replied “… I hate travelling abroad, and I also hate all kind of ‘adventure’ activity, so I’m staying resolutely at home these days doing absolutely nothing”.
[I think that at last I’m finally getting the hang of knowing my place and being an oldie.]