Monday, 12 February 2007
Ten Years Younger
I've been thinking about getting older; I mean as a subject, not a life choice. What is it that makes us older, what makes us look at someone in the street and think of them as an 'old man or woman'?.
On Thursday evenings we enjoy the Channel 4 programme Ten Years Younger. Nicky Hambleton-Jones takes some poor wrinkled wreck whom time has not treated kindly and, using a combination of expensive surgery, expensive dentistry, posh hair, costly cosmetics and cutting-edge clothes, transforms them into a much younger version of themselves.
We debate the serious issues raised by the programme and make pertinent observations like: 'I'll bet a night in bed will put a few of those years back on' and 'How many hours do you think it will take to get ready to go out now?" Actually, thinking about it, both of those pertinent comments are from me.
I'm generally of the opinion that ageing is not about appearance, but rather a diminution of our abilities and confidence in them, that does the deed. Let me use an example:
As you know I am still on crutches, unable to put any weight on my left leg. A week or so ago I watched a fabulous production of Swan Lake on television. I had forgotten why I love ballet: the incomparable combination of grace, strength and beauty. So enamoured of the whole thing was I, that I allowed my inner-idiot to have a moment's free reign.
Picture the scene: in the lounge I test my strength carrying out balletic moves, deftly balancing my weight between crutches, gently swinging between them in a graceful arc. All well and good. Then, in need of a refreshing cup of tea, I progress to the kitchen, still moving with the poise of Billy Elliot, overwhelmed by my dance muse, I repeat some of my better gymnastic moves in the open space of the kitchen. The floor is tiled, it was also slightly wet in places. Do I need to explain what happened next? My poise disappeared as I landed with a clatter of crutches. Fortunately I was alone (this is how you know I'm a man: the thing that mattered most at that moment was that nobody saw me make an arse of myself), I regained my crutches, my pride and my vertical position without fuss or pain.
Here is my point: each step I took after my fall from grace was hesitant and awkward; I didn't dare place a crutch more than a few inches ahead of me; and only when really sure, did I put my weight on it: I was walking like an old man.
We become old not when we start shaving our ears, plucking three inch hairs from our eyebrows or marvelling at hairy patches in new places (you don't do that?), but when life's knocks take their toll. My theory for being ten years younger is to be personally resilient in life: take the knocks and get over them. We don't need the fashion fascist Nicky Hambleton-Jones to go through our drawers with sneering forensic fastidiousness to look ten years younger.