European referendums, puffball skirts, the Bay City Rollers, poodle perms, three-channel TV, public phone booths and interest rates of 15% (thank you Norman Lamont).
If you are 50 or above you’ll probably remember it all.
Which means that unlike the kids, who are all fretting on about their melting smartphones and how Brexit has trashed their plans to get trashed in Prague, you’ll remember how no one actually died because you had to queue up to use the neighbourhood phone box, and show your passport to go round Europe in 1978.
Feeling like you’ve seen it all is just one of the joys of turning 50. Another is the knowledge that – give or take a responsibility or two – it’s your time now, to do all those things you ever wanted.
I know I felt like this when the half-century loomed, busily drawing up a massive To Do list of places to visit, experiences to have and dreams to fulfil.
And then I realised the awful truth.Most of them were a ridiculous waste of time and money and the sensible, smartest thing to do would be to compile a To Don’t List, instead.
To Don’t lists are easier, cheaper and far less faff, designed, as they are, to save you from wasting your precious cash and time and – possibly – embarrassing yourself into an early grave.
So, as you advance towards the best years of your life so far, improve them massively by making sure you DON’T:
- Get a tattoo. Not even a tiny one. Not even if you have the stomach of Elle MacPherson, or the incredibly toned shoulders of Daniel Craig. Because what would look fresh and crisp and a little bit sexy on them, or on your 25-year-old relative, will very soon make you look as if you have been scribbled on by the Year 6 art class. Your tattooed legs will look like a ‘before’ advert for a varicose vein removal company. And that intricate mandala on your instep will simply make it look as if you have a pizza on your foot.
- Buy anything (sweatpants aside) with an elasticated waistband. You think it’s a vital aid to comfort and that no one will even notice. Everyone else who clocks the garment will be thinking: “Why didn’t they just hang up a big sign on their forehead saying: ‘I’ve given up on life’.” Yes, elasticated waistbands really are that bad.
- Start a collection. It begins innocently enough. You’re so enamoured of that little pottery cottage, or that pristine vinyl Cure album, or that owl made of seashells that you decide to get another because what harm can it do? Next time you look, your sitting room resembles a ceramic Stratford-upon-Avon, your wife claims you love the records more than her, and a researcher from Channel 5 calls up to ask if you’d like to be ridiculed on a show about people who collect stupid things.
- Be tempted to bungee jump. If, during the first five decades years of your life you’ve never felt a huge hankering to fling yourself off a high place attached to an oversized rubber band, then it’s a fair bet that doing it now won’t make you any happier.
- Talk about your bowels/dodgy shoulder/allergy to gluten. Apart from being icky and tedious, it is a truth, universally acknowledged, that no one is interested in your inner workings. Mainly because they are all far more interested in theirs.
- Purchase any skin cream where the adverts feature a model who was patently born after the year 1995. Of course these people look young and fresh-faced. It’s because they are.
- Feel obliged to watch ‘must-see’ films or purchase ‘must-read’ books. In fact, don’t read or watch anything where the blurb talks about the quality of the writing or the direction and doesn’t tell you what the story’s about. Life’s too short. My family spend hours urging me to watch Les Miserables but how can I make them understand that movies where the characters burst spontaneously into song just make my scalp itch?
- Go to the Full Moon party in Thailand. It’s for the kids, OK? Leave it that way.
- Put photos of your cappuccino on Facebook. Cappuccinos are for drinking, not photographing and plastering all over social media. Even if the pattern on top really does resemble Pope Francis/Jeremy Clarkson/Tina Turner.
- Save clothes/shoes/crockery/scented candles for ‘best’ or some mythical future occasion. This is not the 1950s. It is also not a rehearsal. It’s your wonderful life! So don’t keep things for some day in the future. Because the sheer and utter joy of turning 50 (or 60, or whatever) is that you really do know that the future is already here.