I’m So Sick Of Being Told That Getting Old Is Something To Celebrate
It’s my birthday this weekend. I will be turning 40.
I don’t say this so you will congratulate me, or give me gifts. I only desire one thing from you: pity.
Yes, I want you to feel sorry for me. I want your condolences. I want you to look at me, shake your head and say, “Shame… he had such potential, once.”
Obviously I know this is not the attitude I’m supposed to have. Thanks to the frankly revolting culture of positivity that our cretinous society has constructed around ageing, I’m supposed to pretend that I’m fine with turning 40.
Convention dictates that I say things like, “I feel better than ever”, or “this age suits me” or, if I’m a real irredeemable tool, “I’m like a fine wine...”.
Well, I won’t. I feel worse than ever, this age is miserable, and the wine has been corked.
I’m so sick of being told that getting older is something to celebrate. We all know it’s not, right? We all know that ageing means deterioration and decay, don’t we? We all know that every birthday we have -- even if it’s not as symbolically horrific as the 40th -- is a marker of how much closer we have become to death.
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We understand that ageing is the process by which we become progressively more aware of how many of our dreams will go unfulfilled.
Yet still that culture tries to convince us otherwise. The media will hurl propaganda at me designed to trick me into believing that turning 40 need not prevent me from living a vibrant, active, satisfying life. And in a way they’re right: it’s actually turning 35 that did that; turning 40 is more about the fossilisation of the skeletal system.
But the point is, the media lies.
You know how commercials like to depict happy, energetic old people playing tennis and sharing iced tea in manicured gardens?
Well, in real life that never happens. In real life old people just sit around resenting their children and having dinner at 3.30 in the afternoon because otherwise they won’t be able to go to bed. In real life every day after the age of 30 makes you increasingly sure that music stopped being music when you were 15.
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So extreme has the anti-anti-ageing movement become that now we even have to endure ads for funeral insurance where people literally discuss how happy they are about their impending death. This is a level of denial that is surely unsustainable.
We have to stop the lies. It is time to admit some hard facts. The first one: ageing is terrible.
Life does not begin at 40: 40 is a milestone in the ever-quickening process of life ending. Forty is not the new 30: 40 is the old 40, and based on how I feel might well be the middle-aged 55. Age is not just a number: it is a number that indicates how decrepit you are and how much less value to the world you have than someone with a lower number.
And you are not only as old you feel: you are only as old as you are, and the older that is the worse off you are. The fact that we get older is an inescapable one, but that doesn’t mean we have to like it.
We dislike all sorts of inevitabilities: hailstorms, dog turds. Ageing is like these: unavoidable, but objectively loathsome.
The second hard fact: being younger is objectively better than being older.
When you’re young, you can do all sorts of things like run marathons and play football and have meaningless anonymous sex. When you’re young, things are taut and firm and elastic, but the older you are the more they wrinkle and sag and produce unexpected hairs.
The human body is a disgusting thing, but you don’t really get a sense of how disgusting it is until you get older: when you’re young you can still maintain the illusion that it’s attractive.
But perhaps the greatest thing about being young is that you still have time. At the age of 20 you can look ahead and imagine all the wonderful things you can do with your life. At the age of 40 -- as is currently being thrown into sharp focus for me -- all you can do is consider all the wonderful things you failed to do, and all the wonderful things you’re going to run out of time to do, and reflect on the bleak, blasted landscape your life has become.
I now know that most of my ambitions will go unfulfilled, and if you expect me to be happy about that you can stick it.
The third hard fact is this: existence is inherently unfair.
We don’t deserve to age, and we don’t deserve to die, but we’re going to anyway, and it’s a crying shame. As I contemplate 40, I realise a profound truth: life is one massive kick in the nuts. The gruesome reality of ageing is an atrocity, a nightmare: if a person deliberately inflicted ageing on another person, we’d consider them a monster beyond imagining. The fact it’s merely a natural process doesn’t make it any less dreadful, it just means we have nobody to blame -- which frankly makes it even worse.
So if you please, save your filthy lies about the joys of getting older and the loveliness of the autumn years.
Just give me pity, and leave me alone this weekend to sink into an utterly justified depression.