Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.


I might be a student, but all I really want is to be old

Not for her, the endless late nights and equally endless hangovers, says Eleanor Doughty. No, what makes her really happy is an expensive vacuum cleaner...

Tonight I am going to a Radio 4 recording. I knew something had changed when the confirmation email came through. Specifically, my mental age: worryingly in advance of my physical age.

It was in the middle of a Bank Holiday weekend changing room that I asked 'is it too noisy in here?' As my companion paraded dress after dress and as we wound from one side of W1 to the other, my head was pounding. And by the time we sat down for supper, both our hands were full. Having bought nothing, the wine was on me - for my mother and I. Isn’t there something wrong with this scene?

I find myself considering age frequently. American journalist Bill Vaughn puts it best: ‘youth is when you’re allowed to stay up late on New Year’s Eve; middle age is when you’re forced to’.

Perhaps I’m just boring, but New Year is on the list of many things I already feel too old for. My attention span is too short - there's too much waiting around for nothing but flashbacks of previous years necking champagne (I don’t recommend it, the bubbles get up your nose). I am 20 years too young to feel anything but youthful, but I don’t. My teenage years are over, and there’s only nine years until I’d like to be married with children. But it gets worse than that, too...

When Mummy last visited she brought homemade bread, a large pile of post and a terrific cheese and potato pie. Naturally, I was thrilled. Prior to her entrance, she announced the bringing of a surprise gift. I considered the options: bed linen or a one-way ticket to New York. Or perhaps she’d bought me a kitten?

In fact, it was something better than them all: a shiny Dyson. A stand-up, sit-on-its-bum, amber and purple hoover with all the trimmings. All cute and cuddly things were forgotten. The excitement caused a spontaneous pyjama-clad jumping up and down on the main road. I must be 40 at heart, because no one born after 1970 should be so enthusiastic about an appliance.

My Dyson affair is now 10 years old. So it’s about time I had one, because it’s an anniversary. The day we bought our family one I remember mock-hoovering in John Lewis while the normal children looked at me strangely. When it arrived home, it was treasured and never dropped, unlike an incident my father had with a Vax in 1999.

With my shiny new Dyson – Barney, because of the colour – hoovering is now a joy. I can hoover every day if I want! It’s too tall for the cupboard so it’s in my room as a constant reminder of its joyous arrival. I know I shouldn’t be so eager to clean.

So I’ve turned into my mother, what of it? That weekend she bought half of London and I filled us up with fizz. The next day she rummaged through my makeup drawers asking ‘can I have this?’ as she found dream products. I obliged, feeling like tomorrow ought to be the day I claim my pension.

Trying to find excuses for this was nostalgic. My insatiable desire for everything to ‘just get a move on’ meant that upper school was mostly spent inhaling of my older friends’ university lives. I felt the most reckless and brave between my fifteenth and seventeenth birthdays. But then alcohol became legal and the flame went out. Shortly after this I cut my hair to flapper length in a midlife crisis. And then we finished school and went to a Norfolk beach for a week to sleep in tents in the rain. I went running on the beach at 7am and got drunk on air.

I’m still rushing. I am also a daughter supplying her mother’s cosmetics collection, carrying her shopping bags and buying the drinks. And now I have an adult hoover. I consider a Saturday night in a luxury, not a tragedy. And I’m really very okay with that. My name is Eleanor Doughty and I am middle-aged.

Eleanor Doughty is a second-year student at Queen Mary, University of London. Follow her on Twitter here. She probably won't follow you back.