The glass is neither half full, nor half empty, it just contains exactly as much liquid as is left. And did you pay for the glass? No, that was a freebie. You’re already winning. The Optimist's Guide to Everything offers you short, uplifting life advice. Today, the topic of aging...
"I don't want to go to school and learn. No one is going to catch me, lady, and make me a man. I want to always be a little boy and have fun" - Peter Pan.
understand now why people don't like getting older. When I was younger, I didn't quite get it. At family birthdays, people would do that
kind of happy but maudlin slumping complaining thing
about how another year had gone by and they're getting old and I'd look at them and think that
makes no sense, you're not getting old, you just are
While getting to wear this silly hat is most enjoyable, I feel it doesn't fully compensate me for my increased proximity to death. Image Source: Egan Snow
This was mostly because I was a kid, and, therefore, stupid. In the
same way that popcorn comes in two flavours, caramel and salt, as far
as I was concerned, people were either young, like me, or old like
adults and trees and rocks and stuff. It was a binary decision made by some
higher power I hoped to please with handstands (I could do the more
exotic one handed kind!) and the drawings of me and mummy and daddy
standing next to our house, which I drew regularly and with great
fastidiousness, particularly with regard to windows which were
something of a specialism of mine. Noting my artistic talent and
flair from gymnastics I was confident this higher power would reward
me with eternal youth.
That plan worked just fine until it didn't.
But luckily, by then, as the first people were telling me my hair was
thinning on top, I was kind of done with that being young thing anyway, I had been for many years actually. Screw you, life. I remember exactly where that happened. Where I flipped from wanting to stay young and carefree, to actively wanting to become an adult. It was
in 1990, during Ipswich Cinema’s matinee showing of Peter
Pan. It was the birthday of a school friend who was young like me, but
neither capable of one handed handstands, nor showing the artistic
flair evident in my early crayon work. Middle management material, at best, whilst there was a distinct aura of Death or Glory about me.
Pan is supposed to be a kids movie. It has all the trappings. Songs.
Plot holes. A certain joyous peppiness. Crocodiles. Pirates. Fairies.
I can see how other children were hoodwinked. With all that
swashbuckling, plundering and general mischievousness. But I could
also see the deeper allegories. What with my superior intellect, even young, 7 year old me saw the real message. It's okay to get old.
There is no reason to fear it. People who try to stay young become
tragic embarrassments like Peter Pan.
Peter returning home after another bender, to Wendy's disapproval.
see, Peter is a drug addict. This is glossed over in the film with
the characters referring to the narcotic as "magic fairy dust".
Peter gets literally high on this drug and is able to float around
talking to the imaginary fairy in his mind, Tinkerbell, whilst he hangs around
with his orphan posse who are all boys. He's always with them, not
out of a sense of camaraderie and friendship which the film tried to
imply, but because obviously they're a gang, the other boys are his
muscle. He's a hoodlum. Leave the window of your car down one summer
night in Neverland and without resorting to racial profiling, I'm pretty
sure who'll be there jacking your stereo. The next morning, he'll be down
the secondhand shop pawning it for more cash for another hit of "magic fairy
does have a girlfriend, Wendy, but she's just not that into him,
mostly because he's so childish and she's bored of that shit already.
You see, he's exactly the sort of guy who would leave his pants on
the bathroom floor, never put the lid back on the toothpaste and on
market day, swap the last of their savings for magic beans.
in the end she leaves him and moves away and finds someone with
better career prospects and a car. He doesn't even get to second base
with her. He'll die a drug addicted, truant virgin. It’s really
just a tragic case all round.
years later, once I was older and already enjoying all the benefits of that, like access to the bodies of women, alcohol and movies containing scenes of a violent nature, I switched on the TV to a documentary about Michael
Jackson, entitled Neverland. In it, he basically hung around in his
big mansion riding amusement park rides on his own and bugging the
parents of the neighbourhood to loan him their children. In the
previous months I’d been debating shaving my head, since I’d been
steadily balding for many years, but not felt quite ready to
let my hair go, however little I had left. It would mean I was truly an adult, old and bald, which I'm remain until I died. Then Michael climbed a big
tree in his garden and turning to the camera talked of how he wished he could be
young forever, then he sung "heal the world, make it a better
place". I’d seen enough. I turned the TV off, walked into the
bathroom and shaved my head.
thanks, Peter. No thanks, Michael. Getting old is perfectly fine and natural and I'll do it with a quiet, slightly reluctant dignity and increasingly frequent naps.