India Knight: You know you're getting old when...
Find yourself making funny noises when you sit down? Smiling at trees? Worrying about slipping in the snow? Oh dear, you must be hitting middle age, says India Knight
Here are some of the things I have started doing due to age. I am 46 years old.
Making sounds when I sit down or bend. The sound is often 'oof ', even though sitting or bending causes me no discomfort whatsoever. There is nothing physically the matter with me; in fact, I'm really bendy.
Sometimes I put my hand in the small of my back, for emphasis. I also groan with pleasure, quite loudly – 'wooaaarrrgh' – when entering either the bath or bed.
Asking, loudly and indignantly, "Who are these people?" when I read a gossip magazine. Occasionally jabbing crossly at the photographs with my finger.
A mere three years ago, I could have named every person in 'Heat' and given you a potted bio – "And that's Dyamondé, who got up the duff to the Loin, who was dating Pipette, you know, with the implants that went wrong. Keep up!"
In the rare instances when I do know who the people are, darkly muttering things such as, "Heh, that won't end well," Cassandra-like.
Going to new restaurants and saying, "Ooh, dreadful acoustics", as though I were hard of hearing, which I'm not. Leaning forward ostentatiously to emphasise the point.
Talking extra loudly. Making exaggerated facial expressions and over-articulating to convey non-existent partial deafness.
Being completely uninterested in meeting new people at, say, dinner parties. Being pleasant, obviously, but not even going through the pretence of swapping numbers/ emails.
Being too old for weddings. Thinking, "I'd better go but, oof, it's a very long day". Plus, see above.
Thinking, horribly, about many – though not all – weddings. "Yeah, good luck with that." Like a monster.
Forgetting people's names. Wishing I were camp enough to say, "Darling, meet darling". Not being as camp as I was.
Having two-day hangovers. Sometimes three-day ones. We're talking darkened room and death-feeling axe through the head and Temazepam, not Nurofen Plus and 'plenty of water'.
Wondering how it came to pass that the people in charge should be younger than me. Feeling, strongly, that a dreadful mistake has occurred – a rip in the time-space continuum, a grotesque, extra-anomalous anomaly – and that someone needs to notice, and fix it.
Realising that young people talk about the 1980s in the way that I used to talk about the 1950s – ie, as though speaking quite anthropologically about quaint prehistory. Also, noting that the films being remade are the films of my youth. Ditto the clothes.
Developing an interest in the weather. Talking and thinking about it a lot. Responding to the weather as if it were a person – more, a friend. Being outraged by the rain's behaviour, and wondering why it's doing it. Worrying about slipping in snow, despite snow being my favourite and despite my soles being snow-cautious and grippy.
Also developing a strong interest in nature, despite having been the kind of ultra-urban young woman who genuinely didn't understand what the countryside was for.
Being pleased when I see mushrooms. Smiling at trees. Examining leaves. Pondering sheep. Photographing cloud formations and learning their names.
Only finding babies interesting up to a point, unless I'm related to them. Sometimes finding the babies a bit irritating, rather than (as in the past) permanently adorable. Saying "oof" when they leave, and having a nice cup of tea.
Oh yes, tea. Pints of the stuff. Pints. Rivers.
Developing an unlovely fascination with my own bowel movements. Becoming pleased when I 'go' and disgruntled if I am denied my morning poo.
Being so breezy about this particular interest (hobby, almost) that I am not shy about discussing it with girlfriends, even though every man I've ever slept with is led to believe that I don't poo or wee, ever, because I am a princess made of special things.
Often feeling that there is too much choice. Wishing that there were 20 pairs of shoes to pick from, not 200. Wishing that coffee were just coffee, with three variants maximum and only one kind of milk.
Preferring small shops to the department stores that I once considered nirvana. Preferring shop assistants not to be versions of my children; craving the matronly.
Sometimes overhearing young people talking and, instead of being excited by the fact that language is a growing, ever-evolving, living thing, thinking, 'Language has just died in your mouth. You have murdered words'.
Being tyrannically intolerant of bad spelling, equating it with imbecility. Becoming a grammar pedant. Saying things like, 'How can you think if you can't even write?'
Having bits of poetry I learned by heart at school 30 years ago pop into my head unbidden, after a complete absence of three decades. Not unpleasant.
Ditto hymns. Also, wandering into churches and having a sit-down, feeling utterly at peace, even though I am not an especially devout person.
Minding about manners. This is not new, but now feeling actual rage at people who don't say please and thank you. Saying it for them, in a horrible, sarcastic, old-biddy tone. Speaking of which: noticing how prefixing anything with 'old' makes it a more effective insult.
Knowing that I'm more than halfway through, you know... my life ... and pushing the thought away with all my might.
Becoming incandescent about 1) litter and 2) dog turds. Chasing people who don't pick either up.
Saying, "Excuse me, excuse me" in a fluting, rising tone, almost singing, until they notice me.
Flirting in a completely mild, ordinary way with waiters and sometimes seeing the confusion in their faces, and realising they are thinking that I could be their mum
Knowing that one day somebody will ask my youngest child, whom I had at 38, if I am her granny. Not now. Not yet. But one day.
Hoicking my bosoms and sniffing to indicate disapprobation.
Not really. Not that last one. But it can only be a matter of time.
Extract from 'Mutton' by India Knight. Published by Penguin/Fig Tree at E16.99