Toby Young Toby Young

Status Anxiety | 14 January 2012

Looming decrepitude

Since turning 48 last October I’ve begun to obsess about getting old. In 21 months I’ll be 50 and by any definition that’s middle aged. For a man, turning 50 is a bit like turning 40 for a woman. It’s an unwelcome milestone. Adjustments have to be made, humiliations prepared for.

One form this obsession takes is incessantly monitoring myself for signs of ageing. For instance, there are the multiplying symptoms of early onset Alzheimer’s — or, as I prefer to think of them, ‘senior moments’. Sometimes these are quite endearing, such as when I find myself making two cups of tea even though I’m the only person in the house. But most of the time they’re distressing, like leaving the oven on all night. It won’t be long before all my meals have to be prepared by a professional carer.

Then there’s the burgeoning dyspepsia. I don’t mean heartburn — though, God knows, I suffer from that. Rather, I’m gradually turning into a curmudgeon. As each day passes, I add a new ‘pet peeve’ to my arsenal of irritants. The latest is the substitution of the word ‘cliché’ for ‘clichéd’, as in, ‘The problem with The Iron Lady is that it’s so cliché.’ Whenever someone makes this mistake I find myself muttering ‘clichéd’ under my breath, like some irascible old codger.

But, for some reason, the deterioration of my body bothers me more than the disintegration of my mind.  Five years ago, I thought it was a bad omen when I found myself waiting until both shoelaces were undone before reaching down to re-tie them, so uncomfortable had I begun to find the act of bending over. Now I look back on those days with heady nostalgia. Not only can I not tie my shoelaces without sitting down, but if I bend over too quickly I let out an involuntary fart.

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