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It’s a trait that we look older than we are in our family. My dad looked 50 when he was actually 40. I’m now 53 but look older. So what? Does it matter? Not a jot. It’s all about how you feel inside.
Those who say you’re only young once only get it half right. Mentally I still think like a 25-year-old, but with the wisdom of someone more than twice that. I still have the same exuberance for life that I had in my 20s. I still like occasionally eating and drinking more than my body wants and that my brain knows I should have. I still sometimes watch films long after midnight even if I have to be up early the next day.
I’m not craving to be young again or trying to grow old disgracefully. So have I got a rebellious streak in me? Well, maybe a bit. I know it can rear its head from time to time if it feels continually constrained by convention.
Turning 50 isn’t about age, it’s about attitude and appetite for life. It’s not often that I get to quote or even agree with Hugh Hefner, the founder of Playboy, but I think he’s right when he said “I truly believe that age – if you’re healthy – age is just a number” Now there’s a man who has turned grey disgracefully!
So have I gone grey? You bet. When I started turning grey about 10 years ago, I talked to my kids about it: I asked them if I should dye my hair? “Oh no, ” they said, “don’t do that”. So I joked: “But I could then turn it all grey!”
Nowadays I smile and say that I dye my hair this grey colour, because if I just left it my natural dark shade then it would look ridiculous!
The point of this is that as we get older we feel more comfortable in our own skin and less worried about what others think about us. When you’re young, you’re in a hurry to get somewhere in life, so you do care more about what others think of you…
I remember John Delorean, the American who built the infamous winged cars in Northern Ireland: he had previously been the youngest Division Head of General Motors at the grand old age of 40 and had dyed his hair grey so that he looked older!
One of the great things about getting older is that you don’t have to take yourself too seriously – or your other half either. I used to work in retail and mail order – so I often describe myself as a BOGOF – a Big Old Git Over Fifty. I often wryly say that my wife and I have been together long enough now to have a healthy disrespect for each other! She was asked once if there was anything that she’d change about me – she quickly quipped: “His address”. The truth of becoming comfortable in your own skin is that we don’t just laugh with each other – but often at each other. Weirdly, I find that I laugh more while lying down in bed than anywhere else – maybe it’s that the funny tummy muscles are more relaxed. Sure helps you unwind and sleep well though.
So what are the benefits of turning fifty? Well you don’t have to pretend that you know how to dance anymore! You can leave that to the young uns.
I have noticed that with age does come a degree of respect: people listen to you more. Sure, I’ve learned more knowledge and gained more experience, but I also know that even though I’m still saying some of the same things as I was 30 years ago, I’m now taken with a greater degree of gravitas
We never stop learning, but we’ve probably less to learn. We’ve stored a lot in our grey matter already. So we have fewer first time experiences. But hopefully, now we’ve all more time on your hands to go out and find them.
Have I read EL James’s Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy? Absolutely. Is it worth it? Not really. But unlike a lot of people who’ve slated it, at least I can slate it having actually read it. Is it right to criticise things before you’ve tried them? Yes, for some things of course… you’re not going to do hard drugs, burglary or terrorism just so you can argue against them. But I persisted with the books to the bitter end – often struggling – as I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Is it titillating? Occasionally. I often struggled to get through them and almost stopped reading after the first few pages when the author used a metaphor in utterly the wrong way. And yes, that kind of thing still makes me ‘grrr’ just as much today as it did 30 years ago.
So I have turned 50, turned grey and read 50 Shades of Grey – but I don’t feel grey on the inside. I feel alive. So embrace the wisdom, knowledge and experience you’ve already gained and embrace the future with hope and enthusiasm.