This is the year I turn 60. What a relief. It’s so satisfying on many fronts, notching up three score. Still being alive, for starters. Happy about that.
My wife, the mother of our three sons, didn’t make it to 50, snatched away too young by cancer. My best friend at school barely made it past 30 before his body failed him. We all know people who would love to have lived to 60 but never got close. I reserve a special scorn for anyone I hear moaning about growing old.
Having said that, one birthday did bring on a bout of self-pity. My 36th. I became quite maudlin that day because I was no longer eligible to go on an 18-35 Contiki bus tour in Europe. I’d never wanted to go on one, mind you, but that’s not the point. By excluding people of that age, Contiki is essentially saying “you’re not one of the cool kids anymore, you won’t fit in, you’re unlikely to be able to drink all night with the in-crowd, and you’ll just embarrass yourself trying to shag a 20-year-old”.
All of which is true, but who wants to face that scrotum-shrivelling reality?
I mean, up to that moment you own the planet, don’t you? From the age of 18 to 35 you are excluded from nothing. You are eligible for everything. Before 18 of course your options are limited by law — at varying ages before the magic 18 you can’t drink, can’t have sex, can’t leave school, can’t drive, can’t work, can’t watch certain movies — you’re trapped in a gulag of well-meaning but killjoy rules.
Then suddenly you’re free to do whatever you want. Woohoo! No legal activity is denied to you because of your age. You are a hatchling ready to soar.
For 17 glorious years you can come and go as you please. No one expects anything of you other than good hygiene and a semblance of a plan for the future. You are forgiven countless transgressions as you “find your feet”.
Then you turn 36, and those heady days are over. For the first time, someone adjudges you too old. Cruel, Contiki, cruel.
Far out. That just didn’t seem like much time at all being omnipotent.
But 60 is the new 18. When you hit 60, no one expects anything of you other than good hygiene and a semblance of a plan for the future that your children hope doesn’t require them to deal with your incontinence.
If your health stays intact, you can look forward to decades of not caring what other people think, freedom from self-doubt (because surely you’ve realised it is unwarranted by now), indulging in the luxury of time and focussing on what’s important to you because you’ve finally worked out what that is.
Sexagenarians generally have small mortgages and big kids. This means you are almost free of the crushing sense of responsibility that trudges beside you during those middle years in which you struggle to pay for the former and raise the latter. Finally, you can afford to tell your boss to get stuffed.
Then there’s the Seniors Card. Can’t wait to get one of those. Or go on a cruise. They look like fun.
I also keep pestering my boys to get cracking on the grandchildren front, because I’m really looking forward to being a granddad, but the selfish little sods have asked if they can finish uni first.
All in all, plenty to look forward to.