The old and the beautiful

2008-03-10 00:00

There comes a point in everyone’s life when the realisation dawns that although you may still be young at heart, you’re slightly older in other places.

Sometimes it’s a mercifully slow awareness, ushered in by the odd ache and pain, a few extra grey hairs or the arrival of grandchildren.

But occasionally nature’s secretary forgets to forward the message that one’s youth has left the building and that middle-age is now waiting, none-too patiently, to make your better acquaintance.

Like a pushy salesperson, it barges in without an appointment and rummaging in its bag, hauls out a plethora of age-related symptoms.

“So what would you like to try today?” it asks. “How about a couple of hot flushes, one or two varicose veins and a dodgy knee to start with.”

And if you try to ignore the sales pitch, it’s been known to turn quite nasty.

“I shall borrow your memory from time to time,” it sniggers, “in exchange for some nice dimply thighs and a saggy belly.”

If, like me, you thought growing older only happened to other folk, it can be rather alarming, especially when it won’t take no for an answer and refuses to leave.

The day it barged uninvited into my life, I was sitting with my beloved in an airport departure lounge, trying not to gape at a young woman across from me, who sported piercings in some very peculiar places. And yes, I realise that to frown on this style of self-expression is a sure sign of one’s advancing maturity.

Just as I was wondering how she tolerated some of the adornments, a fleet of immaculately dressed flight attendants sailed past — all chignons and cool chicness.

These beautiful, poised creatures in their spiky heels and sleek uniforms make me feel like something the dog dug up at the best of times, but on this occasion it wasn’t so much them that caused me anguish, but the pilot and co-pilot who trotted behind like two naughty schoolboys.

I swear they were all of 18 years old, rosy cheeked, bright eyed and bushy tailed.

“Look at them,” I hissed at my man, who was torn between the departing derrières of the flight attendants and the pierced princess opposite, who’d stood up to reveal more ornaments skewered about her half-naked person. “They hardly look old enough to drive a car, never mind fly an aeroplane,” I bleated in distress.

Up to that point, people in positions of such responsibility have always been older than me, or at least the same age. It wouldn’t seem right ­otherwise.

I mean, imagine going to the doctor about your irritated bowel and he turns out to be the snotty-nosed brat your son used to play soccer with on your front lawn. Or how about going to the gynae and … okay, let’s not even go there.

Admittedly, the age issue might be tricky when I’m in my 70s — after all, one can hardly expect an 80-year-old to pilot an aeroplane, or perform bowel surgery for that matter.

“That’s the trouble with getting older,” chuckled my man as if it were a joke, “the older we get, the younger they’re going to look.”

It hit me like a bombshell, and in that moment middle age stuck out its hand and introduced itself.

I did my utmost to ignore it, but it would not be snubbed and, digging in its bag of dirty tricks, it whipped out a weak bladder.

And boy, then it had my attention.

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