Angela Neustatter 'Is my life over, or is the best yet to come?'

Share

Watching Arthur Miller's new short play,
Mr Peters' Connections, the other evening, I was struck by what melancholy nostalgia this vigorous trooper was serving up as he reflected on the losses that started amassing once he reached the second half of life. Less eloquently, in the same week, I had seen Britt Ekland, 57, quoted as saying she was "finished" as an actress and a desirable partner for a man in LA because of her age. Words redolent of Cher's pithier, "Fifty sucks", when she notched up her half-century birthday.

Watching Arthur Miller's new short play, Mr Peters' Connections, the other evening, I was struck by what melancholy nostalgia this vigorous trooper was serving up as he reflected on the losses that started amassing once he reached the second half of life. Less eloquently, in the same week, I had seen Britt Ekland, 57, quoted as saying she was "finished" as an actress and a desirable partner for a man in LA because of her age. Words redolent of Cher's pithier, "Fifty sucks", when she notched up her half-century birthday.

Well what a couple of old Jeremiahs they are at a time when you can hardly turn around but someone is chanting about Isn't it Great to be Grey? and all that . The sound of Marj Thorburn, seasoned and spirited therapist with Relate, declaring recently that sex often gets better for the over-50s rings in my ears.

But in truth, it's not that simple. Once we hit mid-life - and right now, a quarter of us erstwhile baby-boomers are there - you are faced with growing up.

My own abrupt fall from grace came when visiting my son during his gap year in Zimbabwe. It was several months since I had seen him and we journeyed up country to a remote park where, that evening, we booked into a small wooden hut for the night. As we sat reading our books, I felt wonderfully ageless, a traveller alongside my son, and our ages were immaterial.

He didn't see it quite that way. Turning to look at me squinting over the pages of the novel I was reading, he burst out: "You've really aged since I left England."

Filial love was a tad strained for the next 24 hours until I'd thought hard about why it felt so bad to be seen to get older, remembering the writer Anthony Powell growling: "Growing old is like being increasingly penalised for a crime you haven't committed."

But the curious thing was that I felt liberated, once dreams of ever being mistaken for a cool Babe again had run their course and that I had accepted I had to move out of the youth camp and into a life stage which is uncharted territory.

Not so long ago, Marketing Weekly carried an article describing the ageing baby-boomers as "a new generation of selfish oldies", discovering new freedoms, new priorities and above all the opportunity to behave badly. Hooray.

All the same, making the transition, forging a new identity isn't all plain sailing. As I mentioned when writing my book on mid-life, This Is Our Time, I celebrated my 40th birthday in high spirits and a spray-on outfit, defying the world to see ME worry about the odd wrinkle depicting a life well-lived. Yet within a couple of years my equilibrium had vanished and my certainties with it. An experience echoed, albeit in different ways, by many of the 150 men and women I interviewed for the book.

And one of the toughest parts is being told that we should no longer imagine we're OK as we were. And never more so than in how we dress. Listen to Lowri Turner, a stripling in her mid-thirties ticking off stars such as Cher at the Oscars: "The spirit may be willing but the flesh is just not of recent enough vintage to carry off spray-on Lycra and flannel-size skirts". I bought into that the day I went trotting off to Camden market to replace a worn out pair of leopardskin tights.

The feeling of no longer knowing who you are was expressed nicely by one woman I met: "I only know I'm too long in the tooth for Nirvana, not decrepit enough for Mantovani." And as Seneca told the ancient Romans: "The fates lead him who will. He who won't, they drag."

Of course there are losses: creaking bones, post-prandial dozing rather than disco nights and fewer opportunities on the whole for chandelier-shaking sex. But my aim is to echo the wonderful poet May Sarton, who said on her 70th birthday: "I am more myself than ever."

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst- Insurance

Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst - Insurance ...

Recruitment Genius: Property Manager

£25000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This independent, growing Sales...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Multi-skilled graphic designer ...

Austen Lloyd: Court of Protection Solicitor

£30000 - £50000 per annum + EXCELLENT: Austen Lloyd: Court of Protection Solic...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: The demise of a Sixties monster

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
A CCTV camera is seen in front of a large poster opposite in central London  

Home Office is creating more powers to turn everyone into suspects – but leave us no safer

Shami Chakrabarti
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?