Remember being young, ‘cool’, and full of enthusiasm? Yes, I do too. Or perhaps we simply thought we were cool and ‘happening’ when, really, we were naïve and somewhat annoying young adults who were yet to graduate with our quota of hard knocks from the School of Life. There we were at check-in, en route to accumulating enough personal baggage to fill the entire handling area at Gatwick Airport. Nobody told us the plane wasn’t coming. Ooh, aren’t I cynical, as well as being a user of mixed metaphors. Isn’t it vile (cue muffled snigger).
An old friend recently said to me: “Yeah Jo, you used to go out and have fun. Now you just sit at home poison penning everything.” That, sadly, is a fair criticism.
Almost four decades, two kids, a couple of questionable relationships (or “relationsh*ts” as my friend, Jules, wryly calls them), one too many copywriting jobs involving carpets et al, and a possible “double dip” recession later, and it’s not just the poison-penning that’s the problem… I must break the news to myself gently: I’m not young and ‘cool’ any more (if I ever was in the first place!). Do I know what’s Top of the sodding Pops (or whatever succeeded it), Britain’s Next Top Model, or whatever C-list celeb has the darn X-Factor? Could I identify key trends in vintage fashion or the hottest in handbag design? Nah! I’m more inclined to know which brand of nappy leaks the least around the sides, how to remove a grease stain from your favourite dress, or which campsite is best for a lively toddler. And when I go to parties these days (an increasingly rare luxury thanks to child-minding costs), I take Nurofen and antihistamines in my handbag. If I forget them, I practically have a nervous breakdown.
Actually – sigh - I can’t remember when I last went out without headache tablets or when I was ‘down’ with the latest happenings in music and fashion. This might’ve been sometime shortly before Pregnancy Number One, perhaps? Even the word “happenings” sounds outmoded… like my Mum calling student accommodation “digs”, much to my disgust when I was actually a student. I’m sure that the “yoof of today” has an entirely new and invented vocabulary, calling things they favour “da bomb” or similar. How lovely for them! Just don’t say it in the airport or on a train, young man. As for noise tolerance, I caught myself thinking of a banging tune at a recent party “that’s not music – it’s just noise”, an expression favoured by my Mother in the past. This was minutes before I fled back home to the safety of my own bed.
Oh god… where will it all end! Will I suddenly start finding those wheelie shopping bags favoured by old ladies “an attractive and practical solution to my family’s grocery transportation needs”? Will I start shopping online for candlewick bedspreads? Argh! No!
Is it a… dare I say it… midlife crisis?
According to Wikipedia (with some editing by yours truly): “Midlife crisis” is a term coined in 1965 by Elliott Jaques. It is used in Western societies to describe a period of self-doubt felt by some individuals in the "middle years", as a result of sensing the passing of their own youth and the imminence of their old age (tick!).
A crisis can be triggered by transitions experienced in these years, such as extramarital affairs, menopause, the death of parents, unemployment or underemployment (tick!), etc. The result may be a desire to make significant changes in core aspects of life such as career, work-life balance, romantic relationships, spending habits or physical appearance. Err… tick! Tick! Tick!
Perhaps I should just stop the process in its tracks and get out more? I went out with friends last weekend and re-emerged with a dead leg, glow sticks in my tent and gravel in my hair. I felt that it was, indeed, therapeutic.
Last night, I watched two programmes on ‘Bravo’ about large-scale parties in Thailand and Amsterdam. Although the Thai ‘Full Moon Party’ looked a tad too hectic (people having their passports nicked, being spiked with Rohypnol, burnt by fire sticks and imprisoned for smoking joints isn’t ‘cool’, man) the Amsterdam events - ‘Ex Pornstar’ and ‘Wasteland’ – looked enticing. However, there’s something wrong-ish about watching other people letting loose in a club when you’re lurking under a duvet after tidying remnants of your son’s hot chocolate away.
It’s not a hopeless case yet. Even though my colleague warns me that “getting out isn’t necessarily the road to being sensible” (and… your problem with that is?) when I get back to Brighton and no longer need to pay the GDP of a small country for babysitting, I’ll shut down the laptop and TV, tell my mate Auntie Debs that she can keep ‘Old Lady Mrs Brady’ to herself, and chuck me new Zimmer frame away.
Midlife crisis checklist:
1) Is it “just noise”?
2) Do you look forward to getting back home so you can put on your “leisure clothes”?
3) Do any of the following words or phrases excite you unduly: home-made soup / bread maker / Stain Devils / carpet slippers / duvet / ‘Cougar Dating’?
4) What is the most enticing option: (a) an evening in a nightclub with the chance of meeting a stranger for wild sex (b) a quiet cup of tea and your own bed?
5) What is there to look forward to in life: (a) your fulfilling career (b) exciting relationships (c) meeting new people (d) the menopause (e) your duvet (f) death.
6) If somebody says “it’s da bomb”, do you instantly think of terrorists?
7) You thought of buying the ‘Very Best of A-ha’ album, just once.
8) Your idea of a “hot date” is baking them some bread.
9) What’s wrong with duvets?
10) Oh grow up!!