postcard from a twentysomething

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Indy Lifestyle Online
My friend Ben and I are developing a masochistic ritual. Every month or so, he'll browse through some inferior Sunday paper or other, glancing at interviews with the latest writer or musician or actor whom we're all supposed to know about. And if they're under 30, he'll read out their age, preceding it with the words, "God, they're only". "God," I'll agree. Then I'll wonder what my ten-years-younger self would say if he looked (and listened) into the future and heard me swear about a moderately successful comedian being described as "only 28". "What do you mean, only?" he'd demand. "I'm going to be world-famous by the time I'm 28. And by the way, what happened to all your hair?"

Of course, my ten-years-older self would look back in time and say to me, "What do you know about the horrors of ageing, sonny? Besides, you've got plenty more hair than I have." And he'd have a point. Nonetheless, there comes a time when you can no longer read about everyone who is younger and more successful than you and think to yourself: "Well, he's a prodigy, isn't he? A weirdo. He may have written a West End smash, but is that any compensation for having no friends and a bed-wetting habit?" There comes a time when the trendiest pop star, footballer or model is younger than you are. And that time is when you're in your twenties.

If you know these celebrities personally - a factor which prevents you attributing all sorts of untold, unfair advantages to them - the trauma is twice as bad. I was flicking through daytime television the other day, which is what you do when you're a freelance journalist, and there, presenting their own show on Channel 4, were two women I was friends with at university. (At least, that's what I'm telling people. Friends is probably stretching things, but I do remember that one of them once addressed me by my Christian name.) Then, that evening, I saw a sketch show written by and starring another old university mate (I once addressed him by his Christian name).

And this, I fear, is just the beginning. Leave school and you've got a few years' grace while everyone you know drifts around a bit, in or out of further education. They would probably be quite happy to keep drifting, too, if it weren't for some atavistic survival instinct which prompts one of them to break ranks and publish their first novel or snog Keanu Reeves in a Hollywood blockbuster. There's always someone who has to spoil things for everyone.

Western literature's most celebrated literary figures, from Jonathan Swift to Oscar Wilde to Morrissey, have all written about the chagrin that consumes us when our friends become successful - which is slightly rich considering that they're Western literature's most celebrated literary figures, so are really in no position to complain about anyone else doing well. As someone who is in a much stronger position, I'd like to propose a deal. How about if all we twentysomethings promise to take it easy for another decade or so? How about we leave off the screenplay and the album, just until we're 35? I will if you will. Agreed?

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