Monday, 14 July 2014

60? It Ain't No Thing.

I made a Big Deal about my 60th birthday, and I’d been making a big deal of it in my head for a few months before that. I thought when I got to 60, I’d be “done” somehow. I would have "made it”, “arrived”, “finished the race”, some damn metaphor with a hint of a promise of ease in it, anyway. Hell, I even considered getting ink, because all the other advice I’d been given back when I got the “don’t get a tattoo” advice turned out to be worthless junk. I didn’t do get the ink, but only because I couldn’t think of something that I would like.

Of course I still have to show up at work, even though I’ve passed the (now optional) retirement age, because my pensions aren’t worth pigeon-crap, and anyway, where else am I going to be surrounded by reasonably attractive women in their mid-20’s - early-30’s?

Turns out that 60 is symbolic of precisely nothing. 20 is the end of your teens; 30 the end of your future; 40 is when you notice you get tired more easily and recover more slowly; 50 is when you notice you have put on a lot of weight. 60 means nothing. It’s either 50 all over again, or it’s just one more day in the continuing fight against weight gain, tiredness, debt, boredom, and housework, a fight you realised some time in your fifties that for your self-respect you had to take on.

The rules changed. Back when who cares, at 60 we could start “Growing old gracefully”. That meant slowing down, putting on weight, no longer trying to figure out what the kids saw in the latest crooners, and spending more time in the garden and on some obscure local committee. It meant slowly disengaging from the mainstream world. If you had a big fat final salary pension from the Government or a previously nationalised industry, you could sod off on cruises and holidays all the time. No-one now has final salary pensions, and as for “growing old gracefully”? Not so much.

Our pensions are worth nothing, so we have to carry on working. And not in the back of the supermarket either. Mainstream work. Where the superior education and grounding in the fundamentals we got at proper schools give us - still! - an advantage over all but the smartest of the kids. It’s not acceptable to put on weight, lose muscle tone, wallow in bygone pop culture, decry the changing world, or dress shabbily.

“Growing old gracefully” might mean lifting less at the end of the year than at the start, but we’re still going to be lifting. We don’t have to know what’s in the pop charts, but we still keep discovering new music (or old music for the first time). The same goes for movies, fiction, philosophy, history, art and whatever else. We have to keep on learning work-related skills, partly to stay ahead of the kids, and because that’s what people who respect their skills do. I don’t keep up with the latest social networking apps, but I do keep up with the software I use to do what I do. A cute early-twenty-something at work said, as part of a discussion about age eligibility for our products “60 isn’t old anymore”.

Well, she’s half-right. Turns out 60 isn’t old for me. But then I’m still working in a mainstream job, with bright peppy kids half my age, and they think I’m some kind of guru. There are men twenty years younger in worse physical condition lifting less than me in my gym. I can get away with wearing closer-cut clothes than almost all men of my age. And of course, I’m single, and live alone. This is much better at sixty than your forty-year-old self thinks it will be. In fact, it’s close to awesome - or it can be, WHEN I make good use of it.

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