You know you are well and truly middle-aged when...
You know you're getting old when a historic anniversary comes along and you realize with a start that you remember the event itself like it was yesterday. Well, that's certainly how I felt when I read that Princes William and Harry were planning to celebrate their late mother's memory by installing her statue at Kensington Palace. This was where Princess Diana had lived and brought up her boys, and the brothers believed that this would be a fitting tribute to their mother on her 20th death anniversary.
It was the phrase '20th death anniversary' that took my breath away. I still have crystal-clear recollection of the morning Princess Diana died. I remember sitting on my purple polka-dotted wrought-iron chair to take a call on the landline in my little barsati in Defence Colony. It was my office calling from Calcutta to tell me that a) Princess Diana had been killed in a car accident in Paris and b) they wanted a feature story on her life and times by 5 pm latest.
I remember the utter shock and disbelief I felt when I first heard the words "Princess Diana is dead." I remember lurching to the TV to see for myself if this unbelievable news was true. I remember spending the day glued to BBC and CNN, breaking away just long enough to file my piece.
Was it really that long ago? Can 20 years really have passed by so quickly?
On a rational level, of course, I know that they have. Prince William is now practically middle-aged himself, loyal husband to his wife and loving father to two kids of his own. And Prince Harry is, well, still Prince Harry. So, yes, the death of the Princess took place a lifetime ago. And yet it doesn't really feel like that. And every time I think about the fact that two whole decades have passed since that horrific car crash in Paris, I can't help but feel terribly old myself.
Nor is it world events alone that make me feel every one of my years. There are many other things in daily life that conspire to make me feel more middle-aged every day.
Last night was a good example. I walked into a new, trendy watering hole in Delhi, with my husband, looking for a post-dinner drink. And the first person we bumped into was the daughter of a friend, a lovely young woman whom we have known since she was a child. We said hello, hugged her, and then exchanged a speaking glance. When you're called 'Uncle' and 'Aunty' the moment you walk into a bar, it may be the universe telling you that this place is not for you, after all!
Of late, these epiphanies pile up every day, telling me that I am now well and truly middle-aged. Here's just a random sampling:
* Watching the controversial Netflix show, 13 Reasons Why, with one of my young nieces, I was astonished to discover that she had never used a cassette tape in her life. When did they go out of fashion? Did nobody make 'mixed tapes' any more as presents for their boyfriend/girlfriend? Will this new generation just see them as a vehicle for a suicidal teen to send a message from beyond the grave? For some reason, that makes me very sad.
* Matters have improved since Donald Trump became President of the United States (now there's a sentence I never thought that I would write) but when Barack Obama was in the White House and David Cameron in Downing Street, I always felt that there was something wrong with the world. These people were my generation, for God's sake! How did they get to be in charge? Where were the real grown-ups? And then came the sobering realization that we were now truly the adults in the room. What a scary thought!
* I guess there is a first time for everything, but I never thought that the day would come when I would turn down champagne on a long-haul flight because it was too early in the afternoon. No, I said to myself, as the drinks trolley rolled up. If you drink that now, you will be ready for bed when you land. So pace yourself and hold out for a nice glass of red with dinner. Clearly, my days of irresponsible drinking and flying are well and truly over. Now, it's going to be middle-aged moderation all the way. (What a bore!)
* And then, there is the small stuff. When staying in sounds like a far more attractive proposition than going out; when you choose the elevator rather than the stairs even if you're only going up one floor; when a gentle walk seems more do-able than a full-throttle jog around the park; when a pair of ballet flats seem more enticing than vertiginous stilettos; when you need those glasses to actually read rather than just work the librarian-chic look; well, that's when you know that middle age has struck.
If any of this sounds remotely familiar, then I have bad news for you. No matter how glossy your hair, no matter how trim your waistline, no matter how trendy your playlist, no matter how exciting your social life, your youth is well and truly behind you.
You, my friends, are now middle-aged. Acknowledge it; accept it; and, if you can, embrace it.