A colleague of mine came into my office today, expressing concerns that he might be becoming a bit staid. I was hard put not to laugh; okay, so my colleague is no longer 25, bright eyed and bushy tailed, instead he’s 45 – just as bright eyed if somewhat less bushy tailed – but age sits lightly on this particular person, and staid is NOT an adjective I’d use in connection with him.
Our discussions of the word staid segued into a general reflection as to the drawbacks of growing older – primarily the fact that both of us admit to needing “time out” when we get home, a transition period between busy bust work and active, active leisure. So what do we do to time out? We watch TV. Me, I don’t care what’s on, I just sort of ooze down into the sofa and blink blankly at the screen. The other day I ended up watching ten minutes of “how to cut your dog’s claws” because I just couldn’t find the energy to locate the remote and zap to something more interesting. When I do animate myself sufficiently to grasp the remote, I prefer to watch something like “A Place in the Sun” or “Top Model” (I know; two very different shows, but hey, I’m a woman of varied tastes). The point is, when I’m in Time out mode, I watch something that requires nothing of me except to watch. No plot to grasp, no in-depth characterisation to analyse, no high-level jokes that require mental agility for me to get them.
My colleague, it transpires, watches cooking programs. he even admitted to watching the same program every night, and this had become something of a must for him. “Ooo, I must get going, can’t miss my TV show.” He even records it – just in case. Now that is …how shall I put it … STAID.
I studied him surreptitiously as he admitted to his addiction. Ten years ago – even five years ago – he’d have been unwinding over a beer, nattering away with someone in his wide, social circle. Definitely not by watching a bunch of wannabee Australian chefs prepare complicated dishes on the telly …Ten years ago he’d have shied away from being labelled middle-aged – heck, he’d have gone out of his way to ensure people saw him for the groovy, cool man about the world he was (is. Absolutely is. ) Now I don’t think he can be bothered to do the “Hey I’m still young, hot-blooded and full of life” spiel. Firstly because he’s come to the conclusion he doesn’t have to convince anyone but himself (and he knows he’s still full of life, somewhat less hot blooded and young only in relative terms), secondly because it’s too much of an effort.
Here, I believe, lies the true definition of middle age. It’s that glorious period in your life when you’re old enough not to give a rat’s arse about what other people may think about you, and young enough to still care about your own opinion. Middle age is when you REALLY mean it when you say ” I want to lose some weight for health reasons.” Prior to middle age you only say stuff like that because you don’t want to seem vain and admit “I want to lose weight because I really, really want to knock the socks of the guys this summer”.
My colleague went back to do his work thing, I returned to my numbers and powerpoints. Sometime halfway through the morning I opened the drawer and eyed my contraband chocolate bar (I have told you I’m on my “New Life” quest, haven’t I?). I should have thrown it away. Instead, I treated myself to half of it before chucking it. That’s another good thing about middle age – the capacity to compromise on everything increases tenfold. My “New Life” quest continues – but at a slower, gentler pace.(I do feel, however, that someone by now should have invented the “immediate weight loss pill”. A lime-green little thing that once consumed throws your metabolism into overdrive, thereby burning tons of calories.)
I have as yet not reached the point when I record TV shows so as to ensure I get my daily dose of relaxation. I don’t think I (or my colleague) are anywhere close to the true definition of staid – yet. One day we will be, of course. One day we’ll be like dinosaurs to the younger generations, awe inspiring and somewhat wacky people that must be approached with caution due to their age and wrinkles. I suspect this will happen around the age of sixty-two, as young people tend to think everyone over thirty is borderline ancient, anyone over fifty is more of a fossil than a person, and once you’ve hit sixty … well, it’s time for oversized cardigans, milky teas and soppy biscuits. (At that point, I will compare my facial features and general state of health with those ten years or more my senior – one has to choose one’s comparables – and conclude I’m still a youngish middle aged person). And just so you know, I WILL NOT do the cardigans. Or the milky teas. And I hate soppy biscuits, okay?