How we despise the middle-aged when we are young. ‘The middle-aged’ are non-people: bland friends of our parents with spreading waistlines, atrocious clothes, and boring concerns like ‘finances’ and ‘housework’. Middle-aged people are sensible, sexless killjoys who don’t understand youth in any way. In today’s parlance, they are ‘beneath the radar’, only (briefly) significant when they dispense money to the young for the buying of surfboards or phone contracts.
Now I am middle-aged. The Edinburgh Fringe bludgeons me with this fact every day. Young, clear-skinned teenagers race past me as I toil up hills, a patina of sweat forming on my wrinkly brow. Gigantic ensembles of skinny waifs trample me on the Royal Mile because I am invisible, in spite of my thickening waist. Youngsters to whom I am introduced look at me askance if forced to talk to me. ‘You are doing a show!!!!?’ they say incredulously. Subtext: ‘But shouldn’t you be doing a boring job somewhere and leaving all this fun to us?’ Worse subtext: ‘But shouldn’t you be DEAD?’
I have heard quite elderly people remark that, at 75 or 80, one stills feels like the same person as when 25, it’s just the mirror that shows otherwise. I am starting to feel this at 49. Apart from a little less puff, and a lack of desire to pull strangers in The Gilded Balloon, I feel pretty much the same person as I was when I came to the Fringe at 19, 21, 25, 27, 28, 32, 34, 37, 38, and 40. The thing is that now, I cannot pass for a girl. Even my chubby cheeks and babyish features have been attacked by Time and there’s no escaping I’m a woman now, a really grown-up looking one, if you itemise the crevices and slippages of the face and body. I still have a propensity for wearing skinny jeans and red and yellow trainers – I cannot, just cannot buy elegant age-appropriate clobber just yet, and besides, Fringe lifestyle would be impossible if I was dressed like an old bird, all court shoes and blouses.
In my show, Lady in Bed, I play myself as a teenager from 14-17, and also at various ages as an adult. In the excavation of memory that the process of writing required, I found it quite easy to reenter those ages.When it comes to love (which you could call a hobby of mine) I can recall my emotions and thoughts with regard to just about any relationship, long or short. I wish I could remember names, dates and Important Facts with such clarity.
One of the hardest things about being older is how people don’t flirt with you anymore (apart from Joe, of course, my ‘civilian’ friend here at the Fringe, who boosts my ego regularly by twinkling at me through the carapace of tattoos on his face – at least I think he’s twinkling….he might be grimacing). Oh, I lie! I think Mervyn Stutter may have flirted with me yesterday. I know Merv of old, he’s such a lovely chap, and he went in for a snog yesterday when we bumped into one another. I did the polite thing and offered my cheek, but he went for my gob so we had a slightly awkward moment. It was bloody nice to be seen as kissable though.
Let me tell you, striplings and cherubs and yoof in general: middle-aged people do not give up on love, still like a bit of bedroom-action, still want their egos boosted, still get drunk (just wine not cider), still want to make their mark, still want to be valued and still PERFORM SHOWS ON THE FRINGE.
And if you want a bit of wisdom from a wise woman who’s seen the world, I’m doing flirting tips on the Royal Mile today. Ignore me at your peril….