Tuesday 3 April 2012

18 in the head

I was doing that delving in dusty boxes thing at the weekend and came across some scary 1970s memorabilia. My younger self.

For a laugh, I posted a photo on Facebook. Everyone loved it. Well, various family members and some people who knew me back then.

“That's how I picture you in my mind,” wrote an old friend.

The problem is, that's how I picture myself in my mind too. So it's always a shock when I see the reality, thirty-plus years later.

I like to think I'm still cool, but it's definitely more than skin deep.

I like to think I still brush up well and can make myself presentable when I try. Until I see the photos. The camera liked me once but it definitely doesn't love me any more.

Yes, Oscar Wilde was right and we're all slowly turning into our mothers (or fathers), and we all know it will happen and we all know it's a middle-aged cliché. But that's not the tragedy.

The tragedy is that we don't ever feel like our mothers (or fathers). We feel like the person we were when we first set foot on our own way in life. Over the years I've formulated a theory for it. I call it '18 in the head'.

I suspect we all do it, but it's more obvious in men. My friend dancing to Teenage Kicks at his 50th birthday party? 18 in the head. My 60-something dance partner jiving with grace and cool to rock'n'roll records? He's bald now but he still dresses the same as when he first heard Elvis. 18 in the head. The three middle-aged men having a Facebook conversation about air drumming to the Clash, right this moment? 18 in the head.

As for me, I've been trying to be a grown-up for, oh, at least ten years now, and I almost thought I'd cracked it. But on Saturday I got out that 1977 diary and realised I haven't changed much at all.  I'm still ignoring the same advice (“Don't be a perfectionist for anyone but yourself.” “If you want to write, do it.”). I'm still raging against injustice and conformity and people who don't recognise good music when they hear it. And I still don't want to be my mother.

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