Saturday, July 2, 2011
Forty and counting
The tell-tale signs of incipient middle-age; how many do you identify with?
One of my daily trawls across the Internet threw up this interesting fact. According to a recent study, people become more concerned about their health once they hit 40. And by the time they are 45 they tend to make serious lifestyle changes so as to improve their quality of life. They start to eat better, exercise more, take their daily supplements, have preventive health check-ups, and so on and so forth.
Or I guess, in other words, they become a little more aware of their own mortality and start taking steps to defer it for as long as possible.
Looking around me in my peer group of 40-somethings, I have to admit that there is something to this study. These days it’s impossible to have a meal with a friend without it turning into an exercise in calorie-counting. Do you think the salad is a better bet than the soup if we order the dressing on the side? Wine? You must be joking; a Diet Coke, please. If we skip the main course, can we share a dessert instead? Let’s have an Americano rather than a cappuccino (and no, I don’t care if they make it with low-fat milk).
And that’s just the men. The women, on the other hand, have perfected the art of ordering the least calorific meals without even looking at the menu. So, it’s sashimi rather than sushi; fish rather than meat; steamed rather than sautéed (and please don’t even mention the ‘f’ word: ‘frying’); mushrooms rather than potatoes; coffee rather than cake.
The conversation follows much the same line. When we are not discussing the latest injuries we picked up doing power yoga/Pilates/kick-boxing, we are playing the ‘my work-out is more aerobic than yours’ game. The merits of Dukan Diet are debated endlessly (did you see how good Carole Middleton looked at her daughter’s wedding thanks to that regimen?). We swap notes about our latest spa retreats, trekking holidays or wellness resorts. We advise each other to have Omega 3 capsules, glucosamine, primrose oil and lots of goji berries.
So yes, you can tell the onset of middle-age by what we eat, how much we exercise and what we talk about. But that is – as is usual – just part of the story. There are several other markers of incipient middle-age and here is just a sampling of the most common. Read on and weep for your lost youth...
• You worry much more about exams than you ever did as a kid. Only this time round, it’s your children’s board exams that you are obsessing over. I mean, honestly, have you seen the cut-offs this year? They are insane!
• If you have spent most of your youth trying not to get pregnant then this is when Sod’s Law catches up with you. Now, it’s time to obsess about having a baby before your body clock gives up on you. So bring on the basal thermometer, the hormone treatments, the IVF, whatever it takes. Tick tock, tick tock.
• You think more about comfort than style when you go shoe-shopping. You may gaze longingly at those vertiginous heels that you used to go dancing in (God, when was the last time you went dancing?) but you settle for the sensible wedges in which you can do the school run and the grocery shopping after a hard day at work.
• For someone whose hearing is beginning to present the teeniest-tiniest problem, you develop an astonishing sensitivity to sound. Do your kids really need to have the music up this loud? Must the folks upstairs move heavy furniture around every morning? And why does everybody on the Metro have to talk so loudly into their mobile phones? Honestly, couldn’t they have made it an Underground like the one in London?
• It gets easier and easier to fall asleep when the night is still young – but harder and harder to wake up after a night out. And when you do surface, you need industrial doses of caffeine to feel human again.
• You begin to measure your day in pills: for blood pressure, for diabetes, for constipation, for back pain, and several other bodily functions that we will draw a discreet veil over.
• The fashions of your youth roll by again; but your kids kill themselves laughing when you try them on. Honestly, don’t you think I can work these ‘boyfriend’ jeans? Er, no, Mum. I think that biker jacket would look great on me. In your dreams, Dad!
• To make matter worse, the nice young couple who have moved in next door call you ‘Aunty’ or ‘Uncle’ when they can’t be more than a few years older than you. (Okay, so maybe a decade older, but hey, who’s counting?)
• In an attempt to cheer yourself up, you go to the nightclub with your buddies to check out the babe action – and realise that all of them could be your daughter’s friends. Eww!
• You have to think twice before going on your knees to retrieve a shoe that’s rolled under the bed – because you’re not sure if you can ever get up again.
If you identify with four or more of the items listed above, then you’re officially part of the middle-aged club.
But hey, don’t get too depressed. You know what they say about growing old. It’s seems like bad news – until you consider the alternative.