Tomorrow doesn't belong to me

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The Independent Culture
IT'S 4.27am, and I'm sitting here waiting to grow up. I used not to worry about it. I used to think there was plenty of time for all that, later. But it is later, now, and if I'm not careful...

I used to think it would happen, and I would know it when it did. I used to think that one day I would wake up and think: "Here we are, then: grown- up." But it hasn't. It won't. I've just about got used to thinking of myself as a man, without some supercilious internal official saying, "Man? Man? You're not a man, Sonny Jim," but I still can't think of myself as Mister Bywater.

I want to, though. I want 1996 to be the year when I start to think of myself as Mister Bywater. I want to start 1996 having taken an inventory of myself: my character, achievements, weaknesses, areas for improvement, causes for self-congratulation. I want a plan. I want a career. I want to feel that it isn't too late to have a plan and a career.

I want a pension scheme.

No; I want to be the sort of grown-up person who understands how important it is to have a pension scheme, and therefore arranges one. I want to stop thinking I will live forever, that I'm the exception, the one who escaped mortality. I want to come to terms with the inev-itability of death so that I can stop worrying about cancer and computers and accessories and hand-tailored clothes. I want to switch to grape products - sherry, claret, port and madeira - instead of roaring for Wild Turkey and Old Crow and terrible Jamaican rum.

I want to switch to grape products without thinking, "Here's Mister Bywater, the well-known grown-up, switching to grape products."

I want to stop wanting to take women to cheap motels under a false name and rope them spreadeagled on the bed and practise Tantric luxuries upon their helpless warm bodies for hour after hour, pausing only to tighten their bonds and take pictures. If I cannot stop wanting to do this, I want at least to stop telling them that I want to do this, because, oh hell, sod it.

I want a political philosophy. At the mom-ent, all I have is a sort of political Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I know that I hope the people of Brixton get fed up with smashing up their neighbourhood and smash up Michael "Howard" instead. I know that I want Malcolm Rifkind to choke on one of his own vowels. I know that I want Michael Portillo to grow a third lip, then a fourth, and a fifth, and so on until his entire face is a mass of fat, writhing lips like a man engulfed in leeches, and we never have to hear what he has to say about anything, ever again. But I know that that is not a philosophy. I want a philosophy.

I want to be able to tell how old men are. I can't. They seem to be only two ages: cocky little schmuck, and past it.

I want to stop being nosey about trivial things. I want to stop worrying about whether the Crispy Bacon man just has crispy bacon on his lorry, or whether he has other things, and, if so, whether the other things are Crispy, too. And if I can't stop worrying about it, I want to be the sort of person who finds out the answer instead of fretting about it in the bath.

I want to know why, if I am a convinced and evangelical Darwinist, the business practices of the Nineties fill me with revulsion, when they are nothing more than natural selection translated into economic terms.

I want to know why I haven't been salsa-dancing since that time, months ago, when I enjoyed it so much I spent a whole day being sad that I hadn't found out about it years ago.

I want to stop wanting to know all these things, because wanting to know is not grown-up. Grown-ups know what they are like, and why. Grown-ups get on with the business in hand, which is easy for them to do because they know what the business in hand is. Grown-ups know what their net worth is, and update the information at the end of each fiscal year. Grown-ups know when the fiscal year ends. Grown-ups have a net worth.

Grown-ups can answer magazine questionnaires about the structure of their career, their day, their life. Grown-ups get out of bed at the same time each day; they don't just lie there, smirking, with their arms around their honey-pie until there is a compelling reason to get up. Grown-ups have breakfast, an actual thing, a specific event; they think to themselves, "Now I'll have breakfast," and they have it, rather than poodling about, having a look at the typewriter, running a bath, making a cup of coffee, taking the coffee-machine apart to see how it makes the froth, reading John Donne's Nocturnall Upon St Lucies Day, weeping, playing steam-engine- drivers with the hot tap, shambling around the bedroom eating a bana-na and going "Ooh, ooh, ooh" and being an ape.

Grown-ups don't then get back into bed and lie there thinking that it would all be all right if only they had a Sheaffer Legacy pen, a Breit- ling Navitimer, a herringbone suit, a bottle of Royal English Leather, an Apollo Precedus GPS receiver and a Leatherman folding tool.

Grown-ups just get dressed, and they don't think, "I'll put a suit on, and a collar-and-tie, and pretend to be grown-up." They don't need to pretend to be. Grown-ups didn't just sort of get bigger; they actually grew up.

Grown-ups are consistent, internally and externally. Grown-ups know who they are. Grown-ups face the New Year with the calm determination of those who know their position in the world, and where they are going, their lists of resolutions growing smaller every year, as things are ticked off.

Grown-ups would make a dog's arse of this column, though, just like they have made a pig's fanny of the economy, buggered up the railways, crapped all over the NHS and dragged us all back 150 years in the name of progress. I want to know what's so damned grown-up about that. But most of all, I want to let things ride for another year. It's 6.15am; plenty of time. !

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