THERE’S NO ESCAPE from it I’m afraid; we all get older. Even Dorian Gray was, in the end, unable to escape the ravages of time. As the celebrated Canadian psychologist and public intellectual Dr Jordan Peterson neatly put it, “life is a fatal disease”. We all come to the end, in the end, to paraphrase Jim Morrison.
There are, however, many things to rejoice about as the years advance, perhaps in compensation for the gradual loss of fitness and suppleness, eyesight and hearing, and general wellbeing. Of course, there is no real substitute for good health, and those of us who have managed to keep going with only one or two minor bumps along the road have much for which to be grateful. Given that, though, here are a few things which give oldies like me great pleasure.
Chief amongst them all is the wonderful, liberating realisation that you just don’t have to give a damn anymore, if indeed you ever did. With a bit of luck you’ll have been sensible with your finances and – barring divorce or some other cash-consuming disaster – what you have plus one or two pensions funds a modest but enjoyable lifestyle. So you’re beholden to no-one and need not kow-tow to others if you don’t feel like it. As a well-known TV presenter said to me the other day, “Life becomes much more pleasant when you stop competing”. Amen to that.
Another aspect in which I find great enjoyment is that I don’t know who anybody is. If you have discovered the Daily Mail Online’s “sidebar of shame”, as my children call it, you’ll find that we are being constantly informed about people who are “flaunting their toned pins” in a “barely there” bikini in St Barts (wherever that might be). The problem is, I don’t know any of them from Adam, and nor do I wish to do so. Their seemingly shallow and vacuous lives might be attractive to some, but to me less so to the point of not at all.
A further joy is the realisation that you don’t have to have an opinion on everything, or indeed on anything. Until you have tried this drinks-party conversational trick you have no idea of how just irritating it will be for your erstwhile fellow guests, and what a marvellous wave of smugness and satisfaction it will provide you. I have regularly trotted this line out when confronted in conversation on such divisive topics as Scottish independence and transgenderism, both such tedious subjects that they are best avoided. And, if you do have an opinion on something and folk don’t like it, tough titty to them!
Harking back to finances, hopefully stable by the time you get to my age, it’s just exhilarating not to be interested in money any more. There is a time, obviously, when money (or possibly the lack of it) is a major driving force in life, what with mortgages and school fees and the like to pay, but when those times are over you can relax. People still occasionally approach me and ask me to do some work for them, but when I say I’m not interested in money they are somewhat discombobulated. But it’s true, and the pleasure I get from telling them to pay me what they think it’s worth is just the greatest feeling. I’m much more interested in the subject matter to be honest.
I also find that I’m not really interested in fame – not event the fifteen minutes that Andy Warhol promised us all way back when – nor, like Shania Twain, am I impressed by very much these days. My particular bête noir is the ubiquitous media habit (or certain parts of the media to be more accurate) to major on what a successful athlete, say, or wonderful author earns rather than what they have achieved in the world of sport or books. The achievement should stand by itself, the earning power is of second or third order importance, if that.
The huge advantage we oldies have over younger generations is, however, in one aspect irrefutable. We are old, yes, but we have also been young; the young have yet to be old and in debate or argument can only play half a hand. For perhaps the first time in living memory the young envy the old, not the other way round.
For example, a frequent and lazy put-down in inter-generational discussions on social media is the phrase “OK, Boomer”, a cheap cop-out when things are not going the younger person’s way. I always respond that, if by “Boomer” they mean someone who went through university on a grant, got a permanent job on graduation, bought their first property in their mid-twenties (despite mortgage interest rates at 15%), raised a family, paid off said mortgage and is now living securely, if not necessarily in the lap of luxury, on a couple or pensions, then that’s me! I then ask how it’s going for them, and there is never any reply.
In the final analysis, the truth is that we have indeed seen it all before. I’m pretty sure that my youth and that of my contemporaries involved more outrageous and challenging experimental behaviour than my kids’ generation ever did nowadays. And whilst hankering back to the good ol’ days is a bit of an overplayed cliché even to me, where is the comparable contemporary spirit of 1968, when the campuses of the USA and the streets of Paris were full of passionate young people raging against Vietnam and the Establishment? Who are the Rudy Dutchske and Abbie Hoffmann of today, eh?
There’s an old saying which goes something like “if you weren’t a communist at twenty you have no soul, but if you’re still a communist at thirty you have no sense”. Those of us in our advanced years stage can relate to that. Can today’s young?
© Stuart Crawford 2021