“God,” I exhaled as I pulled on a suede Chelsea boot in a glamorous shoe shop sale, “that feels so comfortable!”
As I said it, I cringed. In revelling in the comfort of that flat-soled boot, was I crossing that unseen line into what was hitherto known as ‘middle age?’ The dark place where style is sacrificed to comfort?
Nobody wants to be described as ‘middle’ anything. Not middle England, not middle-of-the-road, or even middle management and absolutely never middle class.
The middle is mundane.
Bad things happen around the middle; the average gather there. So do rolls of fat.
“The thing is,” I confided to a friend, “I can’t be middle-aged. I’m not entirely sure I’ve actually grown up at all.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” she replied. “Of course you’ve grown up. You have a mortgage and two children. As for not being middle aged, how do you explain your National Trust membership and that cupboard full of Toilet Duck? These things are unquestionably middle aged. Face it. That’s where we are now.”
Middle age? Where does it start? Where does it end? I was dizzy with dismay and confusion.
Do I look middle aged? What does middle aged look like? Is Liz Hurley middle aged? Was David Bowie ever middle aged?
That night I dreamt that Dave from Showaddywaddy and I were frolicking (or something similar) in Lacock Abbey. I was wearing my new Chelsea boots (of course I bought them, they were so comfortable) while he splashed Toilet Duck over my nether regions.
Clearly an anxiety dream. I turned to my husband for reassurance.
“Surely I can’t be middle aged?” I said to him. “We still use the bread knife from my student house! I can’t keep a house plant alive and I plunge into overdraft with terrifying regularity. These are young people things! Middle aged people take advice about pensions; I take advice about smokey eye make-up!”
“It’s just a term.” My husband replied wearily. “They’re just words. If you don’t like them, find some others.”
I remembered a consultation I’d had with doctor at the spinal clinic I’d attended when I first suffered from a herniated disc.
“But I’m only 41!” I’d wailed as he handed me a sheet of exercises. “This shouldn’t be happening to me yet!”
He’d smiled a thirty-something smile at me. “Oh no, these things aren’t the preserve of the elderly; they do happen in middle age.”
My eyes narrowed. “I am not in middle age!” I’d said. “I am in Late Youth!”
“How about ‘Late Youth?” I said to my husband.
“Hmm. ‘Late’ suggests you’re towards the end of something, if not actually dead.”
An idea dawned.
‘Executive Chefs are chefs who’ve been cheffing for a long time. Executive Principals have been leading schools the longest. Executive anythings are the ones with the greatest experience in their fields… So why not ’Executive Youth!’ For people who are good at youthfulness! Executive Youth doesn’t suggest the end of something, it suggests the best at something!”
I beamed. I am in Executive Youth and here I shall stay because it’s a state of mind and there is no end.
Executive Youth is screaming around the water on kiteboards at 60, or taking pole dance classes after hip replacements.
It is the back seat on the coach and the top deck on the bus.
It is new careers after 50 and leather skirts after the menopause.
It is not being scared to be by yourself. Anywhere.
It is live music and making new friends and forgetting to care about contents insurance.
It is Helen Mirren in a bikini and Ronnie Wood with a new baby.
It is David Bowie. RIP.
So… Are you in Executive Youth? Answer the following questions to find out!
1. Staff meetings:
a) Arrive a little late; you’ve been for a smoke.
b) Arrive on time; you want to sit near the front to see the Powerpoint.
c) Arrive a little early to secure a seat on the back row.
a) What’s a newspaper?
b) I’m reading a newspaper to keep myself informed.
c) I’m reading a newspaper to avoid doing the ten things on my to-do list.
a) I’m never ill but I chuck sickies all the time!
b) Makes me the focus of attention; I have something to tell friends.
c) Stops me doing stuff I want to do.
4. Home Entertainment:
a) I watch KSI and Pewdiepie on Youtube.
b) I’ve watched Casualty since it started.
c) Netflix has changed my life.
a) Totally up for Boardmasters!
b) I went to a festival. Once.
c) Music, gin, literary, comedy – love a festival.
ANSWERS REVEALING MEANINGFUL INSIGHTS:
You are so young it hurts! Enjoy the elasticity of your bouncy skin. Marvel at your pert boobs and perky buttocks. In your dreams you’re knocking back jagerbombs then knocking off Harry Styles or Jessie J. Who knows? Anything could happen!
You have security lights, a pension and a plan. You never let the petrol tank drop below half. This is proper Middle Age. You cannot wait to retire and book a safari. Your dreams are filled with giraffes and bush babies. You’re willing to pay. It will happen.
Welcome to Executive Youth! Congratulations on not having a plan! Life is a kerb crawler offering you a ride to an unknown destination. Get the hell in and hope the tank’s more than half full. Dreams? Forget ’em. Take some advice from Executive Youth Tim Minchin and employ passionate dedication to the pursuit of short term goals. You never know where you might end up!