The truth is that nothing ages you more than having kids – or is it rather that the act of having kids becomes a constant reminder of ‘tempus fugit’ as they grow up into adulthood?
Whilst there’s an eternal truth in the adage that we instinctively tend to feel eighteen inside whatever our actual age, there’s little more calculated to drag you towards reflection upon your own journey across the spectrum of time than watching from the sidelines as your kids wrestle with life’s little complications such as sexual relationships, student-hood, careers, property-buying and indeed success & failure generally.
Some things never change.
I recall eons ago making the happy call to my parents in order to break the news that my wife was pregnant. My father answered the phone. After saying those momentous first words, I tried to introduce some levity by asking him how he left about the prospect of being a grandfather.
“Absolutely terrific …” he responded, “… ‘cept that I don’t like the idea of being married to a grandmother!”
More recently, I recall him teasing me by saying that, when chatting up the ladies, nothing was more destined to ‘kill the moment’ than when he had to admit that that his eldest son was over sixty.
Now my own kids are in their early thirties – both beyond the age at which I was married and had produced them – I can ‘sense’ them beginning to treat me like an ancient parent, e.g. my daughter suggesting that I should get my hearing tested, or indeed my memory (in the context of potential early-onset dementia), and urging me to look after myself health-wise when I’m busy making light of some minor ailment.
I recall the occasion when she was in her early twenties and I was subjecting to her to a general moan about my current list of minor aches and strains. She offered the consolation “Don’t worry, Dad – you’re only as young as you feel …” and I replied “No, Grace – I think that should be ‘you’re only as young as the woman you feel’ …”, whereupon she uttered one of those “Eeeeuuuughh!” (pass the sick bag quick, please) exclamations that the young always do whenever they are forced to contemplate their parents or elders being sexually intimate with anyone. [I know this because I did it regularly in similar circumstances myself when I was her age].
Speaking of which, as someone who instinctively regards himself as still eighteen inside [well, okay – twenty-eight, but that’s the absolute max], I found myself having an “Eeeeuuuughh!” moment of my own overnight when I came across this article by Chris Green upon the website of the soon-to-be-digital-only – THE INDEPENDENT
It’s double standards all the way here, I admit.
However, the very concept that people of both genders aged 76 to 80 years old are thinking about sex at all, still less that 30% of men and 7% of women of that vintage might be thinking about it at least once a week, is simultaneously both a heartening reaffirmation of the triumph of the human spirit and yet also somehow a source of revulsion – even in me, who is notionally only a decade or so off belonging to the age-group in question.
Because, of course, just as these days reading reports in the media of older celebrities doing something (anything) in the public eye will prompt a degree of envy tinged with incredulity that they should be still trying to ‘do their thing’ at their stage of life … this just before we realise that we are de facto the same vintage, or even older … the issue is that (for most humans, most of the time) ageing is something that happens to others, and not to ourselves.
The final irony of all is that, in my case, it’s actually true.