I got on a bus recently, the first time for ages. There was one seat available, so I sat until the next stop, where I stood to allow an older woman to take the seat. A moment later, a woman in her 20s stood up and asked me if I wanted to sit down. I politely declined and smiled my thanks, while inside I was shouting, “WTF! How dare you! What are you thinking?!”
You see, when I look in the mirror, the person staring back is someone largely unchanged in the last 40 years. If anything, since I stopped wearing my glasses in the bathroom, I’ve noticed I am actually becoming even younger and better looking. I’m in very good health and, had I lived during the Renaissance, no doubt Michelangelo would have shunted the other blokes aside and it would my image adorning his statue of David. In short, alone in my bathroom, I am a God.
However, on a bus and at work, among people with less discerning taste – I am the dreaded Man of a Certain Age. And you know you are a Man of a Certain Age when you make people uncertain. Is it safe to joke with you, or should they be respectful? Can a workmate chance clapping you lightly on the shoulder without making you topple over? Should they dash over to assist when they see you reach for a stapler? The list goes on. They are uncertain as to whether you have or are about to tip over the edge into dotage.
In the 1960s, when I grew up, people looked old at 60. Before hip and knee replacements and modern medicine, there were lots more wheelchairs and walking sticks and people in chronic pain, many more people working in physically demanding jobs. No wonder they aged more quickly. They died younger, too. I don’t know how many times my dad announced at the dinner table, “Old so-and-so dropped dead yesterday. Only retired six months ago”. Dropping dead was a very popular cause of death back then. It seemed like men retired at 65, dropped dead with unseemly haste, and their wives hung around until their mid-70s before shuffling off into eternity themselves.
The upshot of this lifestyle was that Men of Certain Age were much more easily identified. They were in their mid-40s to mid-50s, the time they travelled rapidly from maturity to old age. This short transition must have been a relief compared to today when this Certain Age can last for many decades. My father-in-law, for instance, has been a Man of a Certain Age for more than 40 years and has decided not to bother with old age at all.
But back to the treatment of Men of a Certain Age by the younger ‘set’. Their condescending treatment of us is one thing, but at the other extreme we no longer appear to, well, appear. I have been embarrassed more than once lately when I thought someone was saying hello to me, but they were actually addressing the person behind me, and as I am not aware of a breakthrough in Xray vision technology, I can only assume I have achieved invisibility.
I know that Women of a Certain Age also complain of the same thing, but be assured you are not the only ones who stand at the counter of a shop in shock when the young attendant asks the person directly behind you what they want.
Of course, I know most of us are not actually invisible (I’m hedging my bets, just in case). There is clearly something wrong with young people. Modern technology has resulted in a genetic mutation that makes it very difficult for them to see anything older than the digital age. If they concentrate, they can see everyone, but as the ability to concentrate has reduced to two or three seconds, older people have to move frequently to remain visible. On the plus side, any older criminals can remain completely undetected as long as they only rob young people and move in one and a half second bursts with a rest in between. It’s the perfect crime scenario.
But perhaps I am being too charitable to younger people in ascribing their see-though behaviour to an external cause. The fact is that Men and Women of a Certain Age have never had it so good. We are healthier, fitter, better looking, wealthier and more intelligent than at any other time in history. Obviously, this means younger people are jealous and in awe of our fabulousness and have to block us out of their vision because we provide an uncomfortable reminder of the years of misery they must endure before they join our ranks.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Do you agree with Steven? Do you feel better than ever before yet somehow invisible to the younger generation? Share with us below.