This article first appeared in Gallery magazine – Issue 94 [hr]

Six Signs of Growing Long in the Tooth

Written by Grant Runyon. Illustrations by Matthew le Maistre Smith


Growing old is an unavoidable fact of life – well, not strictly unavoidable, but the alternative is less desirable. ‘Old’ is relative of course, but there’s a certain stage of your life where you start becoming more aware of the decreasing number of people you know that are older and the increasing number that are younger than you. I’m 28 years old. Not quite ready for the retirement home of course (although some mornings I feel like it), but old enough to actually start having to consider boring things like the future, which in my book is enough to qualify me as at least ‘a bit old.’

Here are some telltale signs that you’re getting old. If you’re my age or older, you’ll recognise some of these. If you’re still a wee whippersnapper, you’ve got it all to look forward to.

People born after you start to get on your nerves… [hr_invisible]

I’ve written about this previously within the pages of Gallery, but it bears repeating. There’s a certain point in one’s life after which your brain refuses to accept that new people will be born. Mine is July 1993, the release date of Jurassic Park. I went to see it four times at the cinema and was marginally obsessed: I read everything there was to read about it, collected every bit of merchandise I could afford with my pocket money, and to this day my first viewing remains an important milestone for me. I assumed it was the same for everyone. However, some time between 2009 and 2011 I started to notice more and more young adults born after July 1993. The very concept of someone being born after Jurassic Park – the very epitome of modernity, with its groundbreaking CGI and depictions of such cutting edge sciences as genetic engineering and chaos theory – seemed to me inherently absurd. Now, there are people born after Jurassic Park (AJP) who are NINETEEN years old. Old enough to get jobs and drink in pubs and drive cars. Who the hell do they think they are?

[hr_invisible] You start creating spreadsheets for meal plans… [hr_invisible]

I’ve never actually done this, but I came close recently, creating a Word document to make a list of all the possible meals I could make using the ingredients from my latest shop and thus to see how long it would be until my next supermarket trip. Incidentally, I figured I had about three weeks worth of food. That alone is symptomatic of getting old I think. Ten years ago, my fridge may as well have been unplugged: if I was hungry I’d go to the shop and buy a pizza to put in the oven. If I was hungry and the shops were shut, I’d go without food. That’s how prepared I was to live life on the edge. More broadly, planning ahead is just a simple fact of life when you reach a certain age. It’s obviously an entirely reasonable thing to do in many respects, such as saving for a mortgage or making sure you have insurance on stuff that you don’t want to pay to replace at a later stage. It’s when that ‘planning ahead’ mentality takes a hold of the aspects of your life which are meant to be fun – like planning your route home on a night out before you’ve even left the house, or buying Christmas presents three months in advance – that you realise that those days of joyful, spontaneous frivolity are a thing of the past.

You start to realise what grownups meant when they told you your favourite bands were just copying old ones…

Around 2001 and 2002, I was a huge fan of the new wave of garage rock revivalist bands like The Strokes, The White Stripes and The Libertines. Dubbed the ‘New Rock Revolution’ by the NME, many, myself included, were convinced it was the most important movement in popular music since the Britpop years. My parents, and my friends’ parents, however, were summarily dismissive, telling me that The Libertines were a mere rip-off of The Jam and The Clash, that The White Stripes were simply copying Led Zeppelin and that The Strokes were a pale imitation of The Velvet Underground and Television. Now, I was a big fan of those bands and it wasn’t as if I couldn’t see the comparison, but I always tried to argue that the contemporary bands were adding a modern twist that spoke to my generation in the same way that Led Zep and co spoke to theirs. So why is it that now, I can’t apply the same logic when I hear a new, modern band? “Oh ‘X Band’ is just a rip-off of The Libertines. ‘Y Band’ is just a rip-off of The White Stripes.” I catch myself doing it all the time. If youth culture starts to get away from you at the age of 28, it’s little wonder that governments run by ageing politicians are so out of touch with the kids.

[hr_invisible] Retro nights become a nostalgic affair rather than an ironic one… [hr_invisible]

Remember when you used to go to ‘70s parties wearing oh-so-hilarious orange flared trousers with a paisley shirt and a massive afro wig, because the seventies were just, like, SO HILARIOUS, and dancing to disco music was really, really funny? Okay, now you know when you go to 90s nights nowadays and you hear Blur and Ash and Supergrass and Pulp, and it’s really cool because that music was so great and it reminds you of getting drunk on one can of cider and of your first snog and of watching Shaun Ryder swear on TFI Friday? Well, there are kids at those 90s nights who are a lot younger than you, and they’re there not for Blur, Ash, Supergrass and Pulp, but instead for Take That, The Spice Girls, 2 Unlimited and Kris Kross. Why, I hear you ask? For a laugh. Just as you once did to people that grew up in the 70s, the kids are trampling on your dreams, because it’s HILARIOUS.
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Young people’s vernacular annoys the hell out of you… [hr_invisible]

At a certain point in your life it becomes undignified to keep up with modern slang terminology unless you’re a rapper, or mental. Have you ever heard someone in their forties use the phrase ‘sick’ or ‘sweet’? If not, picture it. They sound stupid don’t they? Far from being something you’re sad to not be joining in with any longer, youth vernacular will actually just start to wind you up something chronic. It’s inevitable. Text speak, people referring to mobile phones as ‘burners’, kids using the word ‘beast’ as an adjective – e.g. ‘A guy just smacked himself full in the face for no reason. It was beast” – grate on me in the same way that words like crikey, lawks-a-lumme, gadzooks and boyakasha have grated on elder folks at various points throughout the ages. If you do feel a sense of loss at not being able to get involved with youth lingo, however, don’t fret. When you’re seventy-ish, you’ll be able to start using modern slang and people will think you’re being ironic, and therefore both cool and funny.
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You start checking the ages of successful people for comparison… [hr_invisible]

I’m sure I’m not the only person to do this. I guess I’ve always looked at people that I admire, whether they’re writers, actors, musicians, athletes or whatever, and made a note of their ages when they first tasted success to see how I measure up and how much time I’ve got to ‘make it’ myself. The point is though, that this used to be a source of reassurance and now it’s a reason to panic. At the age of eighteen I’d look at someone like Jack Kerouac and think, ‘oh that’s fine, he didn’t publish anything until he was 28. I’ve got ten years.” Now I look at him and think, “Oh yeah, I forgot to write a book.” I guess the people I’ll have to aspire to be like now are people like Ricky Gervais, who didn’t do The Office until he was forty, or Stan Lee who didn’t create Spiderman until he was 43. If I get to 43 and I’m still waiting for some sort of breakthrough, I’ll comfort myself with the thought that Colonel Sanders was 66 before he started KFC and he’d never previously worked with food. Yeah, I could be the new Colonel Sanders. Shoot for the moon and all that.
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