Thursday, 9 March 2017

It's a sticky wicket once you hit 50

This column in The Australian, was meant to be a light-hearted and somewhat exaggerated look at hitting the big five-oh. But boy did I get under the skin of the 70-is-the-new-50 brigade. It was the number one read piece on The Australian's website that day, and the almost 300 comments are more entertaining and revealing than the column itself. 

In a little over a fortnight, I’ll be turning 50. And let’s be clear about this — 50 is not the new 40, or the new 30, or this season’s orange or the new black. Fifty is just 50, and it sucks. Half a century, the big five-o, call it what you will, the plain fact of the matter is, barring exceptional genetics and some luck, your life is way more than half over and there’s not much to look forward to except a long slow slide into decrepitude, forgetfulness and aching in the places where you used to play.
More people you know, and more of your heroes, start dying. You talk about the television shows and movies you grew up with, and get blank stares from younger folk (call yourself a millennial and I’ll punch you on the nose). You might still feel 21 inside, but you get out of a taxi in slow motion and you have become strangely invisible to the opposite sex (unless you are turning 50 and a squillionaire, in which case, party on, Bruce Wayne).
You stop going to bars and clubs, because everyone is younger and better looking and you can’t understand a damned thing they are saying anyway, even if you could hear them. It’s pointless going to restaurants because you can’t read the menu, and by the time the waiter deigns to notice you, you’ve forgotten what you wanted to order.
All your friends are married, often several times over, and are becoming grandparents at a rate of knots (or dealing with their daughter’s puberty and their wife’s menopause at the same time). If, like me, you find yourself a swinging single at 50 (well, parts of you that never used to now keep swinging after the music stops) you face a terrifying new world of dating apps, where Snapchat is the new chat-up, Tinder isn’t something you use to start a fire and Grindr isn’t just the reason you need false teeth.
Slim-fit jeans are no longer an option, a Michelin Man roll of lard settles around your middle that simply won’t be shifted, and putting on socks becomes a physical challenge, involving grunts, groans, torn hamstrings and wrecked backs. (Pro tip: lie back on the bed, feet in the air, and apply sockage, to avoid hamstring and back injuries. There may still be grunts and groans.)
You consider buying a belt-maker’s leather punch so you can put that extra hole in your belt without skewering your finger on the pointy end of your scissors. You know you have to exercise — and let’s not forget, procrastination is a form of exercise, like denial is a river in Egypt — but you no longer bother with macho pursuits like running marathons, kiteboarding or surfing, and instead opt for walking, cycling, lawn bowls or sports involving carts with someone to do the heavy lifting and tell you when it’s cocktail hour. Aching limbs take longer to stop aching, and the hangovers get exponentially more brutal.
You are strolling down the street in good spirits when you see some bent and wrinkled old fart — and realise you went to school with them. Worse, you catch your reflection in a shop window, and it takes you a minute to realise the bent and wrinkled old fart is you. The end is nigh when younger folks start calling you “sir’’ or “ma’am” and stand up for you on the bus or train.
Your thatch may be silvered and thinning, but there’s plenty of new hair growth to deal with, on your back, up your nose and in your ears. Fifty Shades of Grey isn’t some risible cinematic sex romp but a backyard barbecue with your mates.
Old age and treachery may beat youth and exuberance, and youth may be wasted on the young, but then so is your codgerly wisdom and sage advice. Although there may be nuggets to glean from your contemporaries — never waste an erection, always take the opportunity to pee and be extra careful when you fart was the sum total of hard-won knowledge imparted by one
50-something friend. Take half a Viagra … so you don’t pee on your shoes, advised another.
But perhaps the worst thing about turning 50 is a creeping lassitude and a growing sense of weltschmerz with a light sprinkling of ennui. You stop worrying about all the things you were going to do by 50 and just think, bugger it. Your personal too-hard basket gets bigger and easier to put things in. For example, this column was to be 50 Reasons it Sucks to Be Turning 50. Instead, I give you a handful of half-baked reasons and some grumpy old man rambling.

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