I’m getting old.
I can tell.
Not from the fact that my hair is going grey at the sides (though this is a definite indication of approaching decrepitude). Not from the fact it takes very little these days to give me a bad back. And not even from the fact that if I have to run anywhere I no longer take any pleasure in the sensation of getting there quicker.
I can tell I’m getting old because ‘young people’ annoy the living hell out of me.
Young adults. Youngsters. Teens... OK, OK. To be more exact: students.
I’m now into my last academic year of a part-time English degree that has taken me well over a decade to complete. When I started it back in the nineties I felt I had far more in common with the young full-time students who shared the seminars than the grouchy semi-retired mature part-timers. I felt I was still young and hip and wore my spring chicken-ness with pride along with my indie band t-shirts and my waist-length hair (oh yes, it’s all true).
Now I have short hair, wear sensible boots, clothes that don’t endorse anyone or anything at all and regularly armour myself with an unfashionable waterproof hill-walking jacket (hey, you just never know, right?) – and my trips to Uni make me so grouchy I must surely be walking around with a snarl big enough to make any student’s union rep wet their baggy-arsed trousers through to the gusset.
I can’t help it. They slouch around like they’ve got the whole effing day to waste (which they probably do) – while I’m having to rush around like a maniac to get to my seminars and then high-tail it back to work so that I don’t lose too many hours and therefore too much money. They punctuate every third word with “yeah?” and start every sentence with “Ok right...” They seem proud of the fact that they haven’t done the preparatory reading that I’ve slaved over for the last two days or attended the lecture that I panicked about getting to.
But most, most of all one of them actually complained the other day about getting up “early”. “Yeah, like, I woke up this morning at 8.30, yeah? And it was like, way too early, and I just thought, right, that I only had to be on campus for the New Lits lecture at 11, yeah? And I just thought, right, oh man, I just can’t be bothered, right? 8.30 is way, way too early so, like, I went back to sleep cos, like, I’d had about 7 pints the night before, right, at the union bar and I was totally wasted, it was too much...”
For the last week I’ve been regularly woken up at 5.20am by my eldest boy. I haven’t had a lie-in (i.e. slept past 7.0am) since 2003. Neither Karen nor I stop from the moment we get up until the moment the kids are both in bed in the evening. And we do it day after day after day. It’s no big thing really. It’s just life.
Now I realize I’m probably being unfair and knee-jerk and reactionary and an old fuddy-duddy but I just can’t deny my feelings. And if it makes it sound any better I can honestly say that – hand-on-heart – I didn’t particularly like other teenagers when I was a teenager. They annoyed me then and they annoy me now.
So maybe I’ve always been old?
Or maybe I’m not getting any older at all – I’m just staying the same while the world gets younger?
Who knows? But if these young whipper-snappers don’t learn to get out of my way when I’m walking about in a hurry I shall tan the backs of their hairless little legs with the rough end of my walking stick and no mistake! Harrumph!