You see, according to everything I’ve ever read, seen and understood about men of a certain age, I should be shoehorning myself into skintight jeans, scouring Exchange and Mart for a sports car or motorbike, and trying to impress 18 year-old girls with my knowledge of The Feeling or some other piss-poor Indie whelps right about now. If I'm going to be alloted the requisite three score years and ten, I’m well into the mid-life stage right now – so why don't I give a toss about getting older?
Maybe I’m an incredibly charismatic individual (or I'm doing a superlative job of conning myself), but as a single bloke, the generation gap seems to be getting smaller. Due to the fact that the only places in town that pander to the older sort are this shithole and its equally depressing sister, and I’m not interested in being stuck at home in front of the telly every night, I have a circle of friends in a range of ages right down to 21. Obviously, if I was trying to cop off with them it would be a different matter, but I don’t feel like Hugh Hefner.
Obviously, there are a few drawbacks to this arrangement; it's a pisser when you're having a tremendously important conversation about England shirts in the 1982 World Cup and someone says "I don't know. I was only three then" - but then again, I can always say "Guns n' Roses? Yeah, I was offered a ticket to see them when they were playing that crappy little club in town, but I couldn't be arsed" and watch their little faces light up in jealous awe. As for relationships, my last two dalliances were with women who were 13 years younger than I, which meant I was old enough to be their Dad if I had lived on the grotty estate next door. Was that me being, to use the parlance of the playground, a Len Fairclough? Not really - I'd love to have a relationship with a woman my own age, but single, available women in their late 30s/early 40s seem to be pretty thin on the ground outside of London, unless you want to go to Jumpin' Jaks. Which I don't.
The thing is - and I'm guessing I'm not the only one - I think I've already had my mid-life crisis when I was 28, when my long-term live-in girlfriend shat on me from a great height, the career I was intending to stay in for the rest of my life derailed, and my grandparents died in the same month and I suddenly felt older and more useless. I even lost my hair when I was 27 (luckily, when head-shaving was at its most fashionable - thank you, Grant Mitchell). I look back at myself in the late 90s, and see all the symptoms of mid-life crisis; inappropriate clothing, being in the wrong clubs at the wrong time of night with the wrong set of people, going on a rebounded shag-rampage with women who deserved better, and explaining in painful detail to anyone who would listen that no, it wasn’t male pattern baldness; my hair was just fine, that’s all. Go on, feel the stubble on the bits where there isn't supposed to be any hair. Aw, go on. Please.
(Admittedly, as far as looks go, they went a while back. But then again, I was only reasonably attractive for a three-week period sometime in late 1991, so I'm not that arsed. And thanks to Metrosexuality, I’m still being marketed to - unlike my Dad when he was my age and he ceased to exist to the advertising industry. Alright, so maybe they’re more interested in pinpointing my fears rather than hyping my aspirations these days, but it’s still nice to be noticed. But anyway.)
I reckon a lot of men my age avoided the life that was set up for our Dads (and their Dads), whether they intended to or not. A job for life was a concept that was alien to us right from the start. A lot of us never married or have had kids. All of us grew up in the 80s, so we were practically groomed to cope hard times (global warming and the credit crunch? Ha – we had YTS schemes,
If you ask me, the mid-life crisis seems to have slipped. Twentysomethings are the ones bearing the brunt at the moment. The lucky ones are coming out of university looking down the barrel of five-figure debt, into a volatile job market that can’t fulfil the promises of higher education for the majority. I have a friend who works at an arts centre that had a vacancy for someone to work in the box office; 200 arts graduates applied for the privilege of answering the phone for bookings. The unlucky ones appear to have even less to look forward to.
In fact, people of my age may well be the first to look back at the generation below us and think, ooh, I don’t fancy that. The media has done such a good job of leaping upon any new youth cultures and dissecting them before they’ve fully developed that there appears to be little to be jealous, resentful or frightened of (we were also the first generation to want our second childhood roughly two weeks into adulthood, rather cleverly getting all that rubbish out of the way as early as possible).
So if I'm right, and the worries traditionally associated with the mid-life crisis appear to have slipped a decade, there must be thousands of men in their late thirties who have missed it completely, who know that they're not going to wake up on the morning of their 40th birthday with a cardigan and slippers welded to them. But having said that, 50 is not that far away. And that looks very scary indeed.
(oh, and forgive me for rambling, but that's what old people do, in't it?)