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52 is the new 51

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I have just had a birthday and am now of an age where it’s impossible to grumble about it without someone feeling the need to tell me that ‘age is just a number’. Although this is factually correct it is rarely meant just as a statement of fact. It’s an admonishment usually delivered by some smug 20 something who would rather be dead than imagine life beyond 50. Or by one of your elders who at this point has forgotten what year they were born and is essentially treading water.

My worry is that I’m losing my edge when it comes to risk-taking. Every year I try to take on new projects that scare me. In the past I’ve done stand-up, written new shows, taken up adventure racing, tried the trapeze. In 2017 I lost my nerve a bit and nothing really stands out.

It’s a lot easier to be brave once you’re properly old. If you’re 80 and feeling good then why not give hot air ballooning a try? What do you really have to lose if the wicker basket goes up in flames? But at 52 then you’re neither young nor really old but you are heading towards the valley of the shadow of death. (I suspect the writer of that psalm was in his early 50s too and glad of the advice to have a lie down in green pastures for a bit of a kip). I fear that I might be on the cusp of taking up a pottery class or joining a book club.

52 is a particularly interesting age because there are 52 playing cards in a desk and there are 52 weeks in a year. Coincidence? This goes to prove that there are definitely other things in the universe that also have the number 52 in them. Just think how poignant that would be if I died at age 52 on the eve of my birthday during the 52nd week of 2018 clutching a deck of cards.

My one and only joy of getting older is being able to transpose the birthday numbers and either look back or forward. Some years are better than others. 51 going on 15 was sort of fun to reflect back on and I celebrated with a few Marlboros and a Cinzano and lemonade. 52 makes even more sense as I am currently working with two 25 year olds. It’s a little strange to work with people who are more than half your age because at the back of both of your minds is the idea that you could be their mother and the temptation to pass on life lessons from the 1980s can be overwhelming. Fortunately, being British, my old person foibles can be passed off as cultural differences and snobbish pretensions. Cropped top? Yeah that’s how we say it in England, crops are things we grow in the fields. Dumbass.

But I am glad to have the chance to work with millennials, if only to disprove most of the generalized myths about their generation. Fortunately my two are about as interested in seeking a life of meaning as I was at 25. And as money hungry and consumerist as I was, and still am. Not that I would want to go back to the anxiety of my 20s. It’s been a while since I had to take the morning after pill.  And Jeff Davison has been happily married for at least 25 years.

But going into 2018 and my 52nd year here’s an incomplete list of reasons why turning 52 is far more pants than 25:

  1. I’m moving ever closer to taking a women’s only kayaking or hiking the Himalayas trip.
  2. Starvation is the only way to stay at my current weight.
  3. I sometimes consider popping into ‘Michaels’ craft store, just to BROWSE.
  4. I have had disturbing thoughts about buying a ‘statement blazer’.
  5. When my 25-year-old employees are my age, I will be 79.
  6. I will probably only own 2 more dogs, at most.
  7. I will never ever use Snapchat.
  8. Cardigans will soon outnumber any other item of clothing in my wardrobe.
  9. I am at my maximum height.
  10. At least 4 of my idols will die in the next 12 months.
  11. If not vigilant, I could end up embroidering my life story in 10 easy-sew panels.
  12. I’m softening up on long and proudly held family grudges.
  13. No-one gives a toss how wise I am. They’ll still google it.
  14. No-one remembers the Fine Young Cannibals.

Roll on 53 going on 35. Cannot wait.


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