Forty seven and male. A trying time for a bloke. The hair is starting to thin on the top for start. If it were 30,000 years ago you’d be a tribal elder and keeping your eye open for a nice retirement cave but forty seven in our world is a strange no mans land. Not respected as an elder, no longer a youthful warrior. We’re a strange sort of middle management, there to stoically keep the show on the road and not make too much of a fuss.
Although we know we might have a shot at 80 we also know that there’s a very real chance we won’t make it. People are already dropping from the race. An old acquaintance, someone my brother was at school with, died last week. A healthy and successful father of two who had a heart attack at his work desk. Dealing with a spreadsheet one minute, dead the next. Shit said everyone, outwardly worried about the wife and kids, inwardly thinking ‘this is me’. And one thing is for sure, we’re well over the over the midway point. We’re all dealing with this knowledge in our own way of course; drink, career, fanatical exercise, shagging about, porn, being an arsehole at work, writing a never ending novel, eating, dieting, god, cults, box sets, golf, drugs, anything to distract our minds from the undeniable truth. But I can handle all that. I know it’s all finite. I can deal with the slow breakdown of the body, the sigh as you sink into your favourite chair (and the fact I even have a favourite chair), the teeth, grey pubes and all that.
The really challenging thing about being forty seven is the tragic invisibility. In the pub you’re blended into a group of 40 year old middle aged men laughing about some un PC joke trying not to look at the arse of a girl who’s not much older than your daughter because that’s just grim and letchy and you’re certainly not that bloke. You remember those types when you were young, the old guys who tried to be young, the combovers with the convertibles who you all laughed at. Besides, a woman will never look at you twice, you’re the least attractive catch in there: dependents coming out of your ears, bit of a paunch, house mortgaged to the hilt, trapped in a career that won’t let you escape all combined with a mindset of 17 year old (because no matter what anyone says that is what we still are). This isn’t a call for sympathy for the middling male, in the ranks of victimhood middle age and confrontation with mortality are pretty low down and life, on the whole, has been good. There’s no regret, no remorse, the dependents being your everything, your real tangible mark on the world, your sense of purpose, they’re your immortality. You’d do it all again, but if someone did lend you a time machine, just for an hour or so, you’d pop back to tell your 20 year old self with a rucksack in Thailand to blag a grand off your dad and push on for another 6 months before sorting your shit out.