Several months ago, my youngest sister threw a party. Back then, I didn’t know her friends too well, but it wasn’t long before my boyfriend and I got caught up in a conversation that was friendly and foul-mouthed in equal measure: our favourite kind of chat. We all started talking about our lives—their undergraduate studies; our daytime jobs—until I must have said something that made them look at us with suspicion.
“Wait a minute,” they said. “Exactly how old are you guys?” Slowly, we told them our ages—I’m turning 28 this year—which prompted something odd to happen. Everyone began to shriek. And by “shriek”, I mean that what came out of their mouths was truly awful: scandalised, wraith-like howls that you’d only make in the presence of Death. For the first time ever, we were the oldest people in the room. I’d hit my late 20s and was already a goddamned hag.
I’m not about to start complaining that I’m hideously old. That would be a lie and an insult. There is a generation of hilarious 50-something women out there who make great quips about their trials with menopause, and I’m not about to intrude on their turf. For Christ’s sake, I’m a man in my 20s, full of youth and vitality. I have an unquenchable zest for life, and my testes are packed full of robust and capable sperm.
But for the first time ever, I do feel myself getting older. Slowly but surely, my metabolism is starting to work against me. I’ve always been a skinny guy (and always will be), but if I don’t swim or do sit-ups every week now, I start developing a weird paunch I affectionately refer to as “seatbelt overhang”. That definitely wasn’t there a couple of years ago.
My tastes and interests are also developing in wild and unpredictable directions. Alcohol still excites me (I said I was getting old; I didn’t say I was dead), but there are rare occasions where the prospect of soup excites me even more. Instead of wanting to stay up until 4am, I get giddy thinking about sensible bedtimes and crawling into bed with a novel.
Some of these changes, though, are genuinely alarming. My current crushes include Jonathan Franzen and Ira Glass, men who are both greying and 51-years-old. Music festivals used to stir something deep within me—perhaps my heart; maybe my groin—but now my body says: “Benjamin, wouldn’t you rather go to a literary festival instead? This way, you get to sit down in air-conditioning!” Call me crazy, but I’m now involuntarily drawn to the smell of paperbacks and old women’s perfume, rather than the telling odours of the mosh pit: VB, unwashed armpits and overused crotches.
I do miss my teen years and early 20s, but I don’t have the heart for some of my favourite activities of that era any more. Back then, leisure time meant marathon sessions of Toohey’s New and Nintendo, or stealing bottles of cheap champagne from art exhibitions before sculling it behind industrial bins like glamorous hobos. It was fun and we were poor, but now that whole process sounds exhausting.
Young people: you are allowed to be horrified by what I’ve become. By the time you read this, I’ll have turned 28, and it will only roughly 700 days before I turn 30. But most of my best friends are well into their 30s and 40s now, and they’re already showing me that it’s the period in your life where you evolve into the smartest, most attractive and capable version of yourself. And it’s no use worrying about getting older, especially when you can take a nap instead. Whatever happens, wake me up when I’m 30. Maybe I’ll surprise myself by getting wild and disgracing myself. But for now, it’s 10pm. Sorry, folks. Bedtime calls.