14 things that made me feel old at the age of 31

Me being old

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

Record player

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.

My appearance on a Liberal Democrat leaflet

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.

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

Record player and a copy of Tri Repetae by Autechre

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

The Balvenie DoubleWood

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

Me lying hungover on the sofa

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.

I noticed something else interesting about the attitudes revealed in the survey.

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.

Reaction gifs

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.

Tumbleweed

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.

9 comments

  1. Love it Duncan great article! OK here goes… 32 myself and for me off the top of my head it has to be…
    – Still saying the word “cool” out loud every so often, but starting to get a bit worried that people don’t really say “cool” anymore. It could be that it hasn’t been cool to say “cool” for quite some time, I honestly don’t know.
    – Too many Friday nights seem to be spent watching TOTP2 re-runs, and music documentaries on BBC4. What’s worse is I really enjoy those nights in, and I look back on them fondly.
    – Being the owner a Nissan Qashqai. I feel like I’m stuck in the middle with my Qashqai + Demographic…
    – Recognising tunes on classic FM whilst I’m driving, giving a satisfied nod to myself when I think I realise who the composer is, and this is in turn confirmed by the DJ. I then proceed to turn up the radio feeling self-satisfied/cultured.
    – Good dog owner chat with other (usually my age or older) dog owners about each other’s dogs. The younger owners in their 20s tend to have earphones in, hood up, be shut off from the outside world and storm on by (quite understandably).
    – Buying new walking boots is quite a big deal.
    – I’m losing that ability to visit/crash at a mate’s house without any form of significant preparation prior. I used to just be able to take along change of underwear, phone, keys, wallet, sleep on a sofa/floor/bath and get by just fine. These days however, I do like to ensure luggage is all packed/pre-planning times/transport etc night before… then check it’s all in place just before leaving. I think in my 20s I just didn’t ask things like “hmm… what if…xyz? …hmm.. I’d better take along my phone charger/blutooth speaker and a bottle of wine just in case!”.

  2. Certainly relating to a lot of this.

    With the YouGov & other surveys, it is when you realise you’ve moved up an age bracket. Instinctively I look at 18-30 or 20-35 and have to remind myself, ah now, I’m 37, I’m with the old gits now. And that next banding is ridiculous, how can it be 35-60? That makes no sense at all.

    I really do feel like the current early-30s to mid-40s age range has been airbrushed out of culture. I’m at the very tail of ‘Gen X’. Not a ‘millennial’, so nobody cares.

    I’m falling more into Radio 2’s playlist – but then also Radio 2 is turning more toward me. And is it me, or are the likes of Zoe Ball and Sara Cox and Fearne Cotton and so forth actually much better on 2 than ever they were on Radio 1? Chris Evans though… talks over everyone, interrupts, pushes his stuff. I feel I’d be a natural 6 Music listener but I haven’t got DAB in my car and we aren’t allowed radio at work.

    Agree too about album ages. I’m going to a Sleeper gig in a couple of weeks which makes me happy because in 1997 I loved them, but makes me sad because 1997 was 21 years ago… I have a sister born in ’96 and she’s an adult now.

    Facebook drives me nuts. Timelines on all social media is nonsensical (just make it chronological!). I like reaction GIFs – if you use Twitter.com on desktop rather than an app there is a search function just for this – but like you, don’t understand half the references. And I don’t understand the ‘millennial’ sentence structure.

    I haven’t gone back to CDs though.

    Must resurrect the personal blog. Maybe I can turn this into a post there…

  3. Thanks for the comments!

    Dave, great list! The TOTP2 / BBC Four point is a good one. And of course, packing to stay over at someone’s house is indeed a nightmare — although I think it always was for me!

    Pat, I know what you mean. On the Radio 2 presenters, I feel like there’s probably a bit of both going on. They have ‘grown up’ to be Radio 2 presenters, and as we have aged our tastes accommodate them better as well.

    Very true points about Chris Evans as well. It does often feel like his breakfast show is only there to promote his other vehicles. I remember when he was presenting Top Gear and TFI Friday, and was organising his car festival. It felt like he never talked about anything other than those three subjects!

  4. I’m in the same age bracket, but still feel young. I’m just not allowed to say I feel young any more, if the reactions of friends and parents are anything to go by.

    While I strongly dislike Facebook and the Google empire, I’ve strongly disliked it for several years, only partially for data protection concerns. Still feel OK-to-positive about Twitter and even Tumblr, despite both having made wrong turns over the past three years. Open source has been making a comeback in the last two years, so maybe this one can be the digital counterpart to vinyl?
    Most of the “albums from my childhood” turned out to be 10-15 years old when I first heard them, so that was one surprise I didn’t have to worry about. I also “discovered” the part of Fleetwood Mac that isn’t “The British F1 Theme Tune” in university, so I tend to associate them with youth despite the fact that my dad remembers it from when he was the same age!
    Haven’t felt the desire to join a political party since university.
    I joined a balance class last week where I was the youngest member. Turning out to also be the least fit member prevented it from being a time to feel old. And if my old age is as flexible and balanced as theirs was, then ceasing to be young may bring benefits as well as downsides…
    Never abandoned CDs to be reunited with them, still have my hi-fi player from 1999, and haven’t got a vinyl player.
    Still not into alcohol, therefore no idea about hangovers.
    Not really noticed the door thing, and haven’t heard “age before beauty” since secondary school.
    I’ve stopped listening to radio, apart from specific features. The news content is poor and the music selections too limited for my tastes. Commerical radio has too many ads. I’d rather listen to my own music, though at the gym the TV-based music station is apt to drown out some of the tracks.
    And if it makes you feel any better… …I don’t get reaction GIFs either. Though I put that down to not being particularly “visual” in how I think. An actor mouthing words does not make them more effective in any way, it just means I have to wait a few seconds longer to see what the message was (unless I’m at home, where the connection’s fast enough to display reaction GIFs promptly).

    As to the comments:

    “Cool” stopped being a thing about when the recession hit. Nowadays “sound” seems to be the equivalent where I live.
    I’ve definitely got better at packing to go and visit places. Though in some cases this has resulted in me taking less rather than more. I no longer go on two-hour hikes with a spare bottle of shampoo “just in case”…
    We’re Generation Y. The trouble is that some regard us as “generation why bother to think about them”.
    Sorry, I don’t know what a “millenial sentence structure” is.
    I’ve considered re-launching my F1 blog (this would be the 12th attempt) because I finally can put it on a platform that won’t collapse itself in six months. Is having one’s own personal website a sign of old age?

  5. Alianora, I think having a personal website is a bit of a sign of old age. I get the impression that younger people rely more on social media and messaging platforms, and possibly find the idea of setting up your own website quite odd.

  6. Thanks for this, an enjoyable read. I’m 28 and I think I’m reaching some of these things already! In particular:
    -Social media: Never been a huge user but do find myself logging into Facebook increasingly rarely. Though, with my sister recently getting Instagram, not sure if I should continue to stay away or drag myself into it more.
    -Anniversaries and events: I notice this more with sport than music (or politics), and also with life events. Twenty years ago we moved abroad (to France) for a few years as part of my Dad’s job and when we were out for a walk (another sign of old-age passtimes?) a few months ago he remarked that it was about the 20th anniversary of when we took the decision to move. It seemed amazing that this momentous decision (in many ways) was so long ago now, when some of my memories of our time there still feel quite fresh.
    -People you support/follow getting older: I am fascinated, eg, by Kimi Raikkonen’s transformation from angry, hellraising young man to F1’s elder statesman and devoted father! (Even if I’m sure he still parties a bit).
    -BBC Four music documentaries and Friday nights in. Even if some of the documentaries are from events or subjects before my time.

    Some other points:
    -Agree that I continue to buy CDs here and there and so haven’t really got out of it.
    -I also go to the theatre more but I think that’s more of a function of city-dwelling than ageing (I work in a big city though tbf don’t live there). Maybe a bit of both?
    -I’m well behind on meme culture but I do actually get response GIFs.

  7. Thanks for the comment Rishi.

    I’m with you on BBC Four documentaries, although I think I was always a little bit into these.

    20th anniversaries is also a big one. Remembering 10th anniversaries of this was one thing. But 20th anniversaries are a really weird one to get used to. I just keep on thinking, “that’s the equivalent of something from the 1970s when I was a child — ancient!”

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