Tomorrow I turn 32. That’s a good number. It’s the fifth power of two, so in binary terms I will now be into six figures. 32 is also equal to 1¹ + 2² + 3³, which is kind of cool.
As I look back on the past year, I realise it is the year that I came to feel old. Turning 30 passed relatively without incident. But for some reason, the year I became 31 is the year I started to believe I would never feel young again.
Here are some of the turning points that made me realise I was no longer down with the kids.
Developing a dislike of social media
Admittedly, this one has been a bit of a slow burner. Alex is only three years younger than me. But when I met her four years ago, it was immediately obvious that the way she and her friends used social media was almost totally alien to me.
They all used WhatsApp to talk to each other, and they frequently used Snapchat. I had never installed either before.
WhatsApp later became a staple, but mainly to communicate with Alex’s family. Snapchat completely went over my head. I sent very few Snapchats of my own, and received even fewer, before uninstalling.
Fast forward to this year, and I have found myself growing increasingly wary of all controlled forms of social media. It has become clear that social media is having some seriously damaging effects on society, as some of the original architects of Facebook now admit.
Even a few years ago, I would have considered rejecting social media as a fuddy-duddy attitude. Like many others, I was naively optimistic about the positives of social media. Now I think the only answer is to encourage everyone to ditch those silos, and work on forming their networks — independently, on the open web.
But webbies with this sort of attitude seem to be mainly a certain type of person of a certain age. Maybe it is hopelessly old-fashioned of me to assume that a technology from 30 years ago that I just so happened to grow up with is the answer.
Is this the first step towards my becoming the 2050s equivalent of a Brexit voter? Being a child of the 1990s, am I just predisposed to always assume that all the best stuff came from that decade, and that everything that came after it is confusing, frivolous or dangerous?
We should bring back the web. And while we’re at it, let’s bring back asbestos, Pogs, cathode ray tubes and four-star petrol.
OK Computer being 20 years old
I found the reissue of OK Computer significantly more exciting than the release of their actual recent album, A Moon Shaped Pool. I take this to be a sign of my age.
I didn’t buy OK Computer until four years after its release. But even so, this was an album from my childhood that was now being officially celebrated as a classic.
I can remember being in Virgin Megastore in the 1990s and seeing a 20th anniverary edition of Dark Side of the Moon. I thought it was absolutely ancient.
Some kid would be thinking that now about OK Computer, if only they thought to set foot in something so archaic as a record store. One of my favourite albums is now absolutely ancient.
Joining a political party
Right, so I joined the Liberal Democrats following the Brexit vote. I’ve been volunteering a bit, delivering leaflets from time to time.
I even agreed to provide a quote and a photograph to be featured in an election leaflet.
At first it seemed perfectly normal. After all, I had already been a member of the Liberal Democrats a few years ago after I was an intern for Willie Rennie.
But this past year, the reality sunk in: Joining a political party is something old people do. There are statistics to prove it.
— Matt Chorley (@MattChorley) October 9, 2017
The average age of a Liberal Democrat member is 52 years. On the plus side, that is the second-youngest of any party, behind only the Greens (47).
But goodness me, don’t my legs hurt after a couple of hours delivering leaflets to tenements.
Riding with mamils
As I prepared to train up for Pedal for Scotland, I decided to go on an organised ride put on by a local cycling organisation. Perhaps my desire to build up slowly caused me to join the wrong group.
I found myself riding with a group of people who were definitely at least in middle age. I was riding with that group written about in newspapers: middle aged men (and women) in Lycra.
It was an enjoyable outing, but I definitely felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb. The chat was a little bit on the twee side for me.
Most likely I just joined the wrong group for someone of my fitness. The pace was slower than I would have liked. On the plus side, it was an early sign that Pedal for Scotland wasn’t going to be too difficult for me.
Being reunited with my music collection
This year I bought myself a record player. That has a certain retro twinge to it, but it isn’t old-fashioned. It is full-on fashionable; prime hipster territory. So that didn’t make me feel old.
But I decided to ask Alex for a new CD player for Christmas. I realised this year that I had nothing to play my CDs on any more, except for my computer.
I have never stopped collecting CDs. But increasingly, it has become totally unusual to buy CDs. It has got to the point where I feel a little bit self-conscious browsing through CDs in record shops, while everyone else is busy inspecting the vinyl racks.
Getting a CD player feels like something only someone in their 40s or 50s should be doing. But since I own almost 1,000 CDs, it was getting daft not having anything decent to play them on.
I got a Marantz CD6006, and I’ve had a lot of good fun listening to CDs — familiar and new — through the new set-up. I’ve not asked my neighbours what they think.
Listening to BBC Radio 2
I’m not what you might call a natural BBC Radio 2 listener. The only reason I started listening to Radio 2 is because I have a deal with Alex. In the morning, the bedroom has Radio 2 on, and the kitchen has Radio 4 on.
I am not really a morning person. I take a while to get out of bed. This means I actually end up listening to a lot of Radio 2.
In fairness, the Today programme seems to be getting worse by the week. It leans ever more heavily on its tired old trope of contriving frothy debates between people with polar opposite views, generating lots of heat and anger, and not much light.
And let’s not even get started on John Humphrys’ performances nowadays — the less said the better.
This all makes it difficult to justify having it on even in the kitchen, never mind the bedroom.
So, Radio 2 it is. And the disturbing thing is that I have often found myself actually enjoying it and the music that is being played.
You know you are old when you think, “I’m really enjoying this Electric Light Orchestra song.”
Buying a Fleetwood Mac album
Perhaps related to the exposure to Radio 2, I found myself purchasing Rumours by Fleetwood Mac. Not on vinyl, but on CD — like a proper sad old loser.
I became convinced that Rumours is perhaps the most culturally significant album of the 20th century.
That might be overstating it. But the fact that I am even considering thinking this way is a great big red alert that I am becoming old.
Good album though.
Getting into whisky
OK, this one is manufactured a little bit. I began drinking whisky because I felt like it was something I ought to like. Quite quickly I realised that I actually do like it. Now a bottle of whisky is Alex’s go-to present if I have been a good boy.
Monster surprise hangovers everywhere
This is the one that has shocked me, because I already thought I got bad hangovers. I would get one or two a year that would knock me out for most of the day, and it would normally be because I had indeed taken things to excess.
Now, it feels like I get a terrible hangover about once a month. Often it’s for absolutely no good reason. A few beers now seems to be enough to leave me spending the morning crouching over the crapper. The rest of the day is spent horizontally with a blanket over my head — incommunicado, dead to the world — until up to 8pm.
A man holding open a door for me
One day I was returning to the office after my lunchtime walk. As I arrived at the entrance, a workman was there. I thought he looked about the same age as me. He then proceeded to hold the door open for me and say, “age before beauty”.
“Haha, yeah!” I said, without really thinking. Then I realised that he was basically calling me very old.
A YouGov poll telling me I’m not young
YouGov did some interesting research on where people put the boundaries of youth, middle age and old age.
On the plus side, it showed that I am not yet middle-aged. But the consensus of Brits taking this poll is that “youth ends by the age of 30”. Instead, I am part of a “no-man’s land” between ages 30–47 that has no name. I am literally part of the forgotten generation.
Comedians I grew up admiring now talking mainly about middle age
There are a few comedians I grew up watching on TV when they were in their 20s and I was in my early teens. People like Richard Herring, Adam Buxton and Iain Lee.
They were obviously a fair bit older than me, but they were also young enough to feel part of youth culture. Well, my youth culture, at least.
I returned to them all in my 20s, finding them all seeming rather older. Fast-forward to today, and a lot of the time they are talking about being middle-aged. Richard Herring even did a show called Oh Frig, I’m 50.
It all makes me feel a step closer to being middle-aged myself.
This is a staple of modern day internet culture that I just don’t get. I’ve tried to understand them, but I keep drawing a blank.
In almost all cases I don’t get the references in reaction gifs. Perhaps it’s because I don’t watch much film and TV.
But whenever I see a reaction gif, I can’t begin to understand the context. I know who the guy is that’s pulling a stupid face. I’ve never heard of that TV show. And often I can’t even follow the logic of what makes a reaction gif a relevant response.
On the odd occasion I have attempted to post a reaction gif, it has been met with stony silence. Or tumbleweed. I don’t know how to find them, and I’m not sure I have the inclincation to find out.
Going to the theatre
I still may not watch many films, but over the past couple of years I have developed a taste for going to the theatre.
At the Edinburgh Fringe we book a variety of different types of shows, mainly comedy and theatre. I have found myself generally enjoying the theatre more than the comedy.
Here are some plus points to the theatre:
- It is very civilised, and you will definitely get a seat.
- Physically seeing the actors in front of you, where anything might happen, is much more engaging than watching a film.
- It will probably make you think.
- Plays are normally only an hour long, which is good for my aging bladder which will be getting weaker.
Even three years ago I would never have imagined becoming a theatre goer. Now I actively look forward to watching plays.
So being 31 made me feel pretty old. I wonder what the year to come has in store.