Monday, 14 November 2011

Which Way to 309?

I was at Wimbledon with a friend this Summer. We’d had a glass of Pimm's. It was sunny. We were giggly. We couldn’t find the entrance to our seats. "Don't worry," I said. "I’ll ask that lovely looking young man with the helpful looking badge". “Hi there," I said to him, flashing my best I'm-all-dressed-up-and-without-the-kids smile. "Could you tell me where Gangway 309 is please?” The young man nodded and pointed. “Second on the right.” Then he turned away from me, readying himself to be helpful to somebody else. It felt like a kick in the stomach. He didn’t offer to show me the way. He didn’t suggest we discuss the directions over a drink. He didn’t even wink at me. I stood gawping like a guppy. My friend, who's four years older than me, laughed. “Oh, yes,” she said. “Didn’t anyone tell you? Get to about thirty-eight and to anyone under the age of twenty-two you might as well be wearing Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak. Don’t worry,” she said, with a kindly pat on my arm. “The upside is octogenarians will now find you irresistible.”

We found our way to Gangway 309, which now felt like Room 101. The first match was Ladies Singles. Two women, nubile, tanned and toned, throwing their perfect early-twenty something bodies around Number 1 Court for my so-called enjoyment. I let my mind drift. I thought about those first wiry grey hairs that had appeared a few years earlier. How I used to tear them out with angry fervour, but how, now they came in such numbers, I left them be, content to let them reproduce and multiply. Wrinkles I ignored. Aching joints didn’t surprise me anymore. I’d even grown used to having to stretch my arm out as far as possible in order to read words on a menu. A few years ago I met a passive aggresive American publisher who told me categorically that no person had anything of merit to say until they passed the age of forty-five. I was thirty-three, opinionated, educated and full of passionate aspiration. I stomped home, huffing and puffing, finding her dismissiveness both narrow-minded and misguided. I put her comment down to her jealousy of my comparative youth. Everybody, of every age, has something to say, I grumbled. All opinion is valid. Youth has a voice and that voice has a right to be heard.
But at Wimbledon this Summer I began to understand what she meant. I still disagree with her sentiment; young people have much to say and should always be listened to, from the very first babble. But perhaps until you reach the age where you begin to rationalise your own mortality, until you start to view life from the wider angle that age brings, objectively rather than subjectively, you cannot have the breadth of understanding to fully appreciate a situation. Science has backed this up. White-coats from the University of California found that older people are less affected by the chemical responsible for emotional and impulsive reaction, and hence, as one gets older, decisions are reached more carefully, using experience and knowledge instead. It's called Wisdom. And it comes with age. Of course this was of little help to me at Wimbledon. I just wanted the young man with the I'm-ever-so-helpful name badge to flirt with me. Christ, truth be told, I just wanted him to acknowledge my existence.
To lift my distinctly immature, self-pitying mood we decided on another Pimm’s in the sunshine. And then, lo and behold, a knight in shining armour. My friend was right: 'All hail the Octogenarian!' As we poured our drinks an elderly couple approached us, and the rather dapper gentleman – for this is what he was, my friends – asked if he and his wife could share our bench. “It would make my day,” he said, with a glint. “To sit with two lovely ladies like you.” His wife chuckled and shook her head indulgently. “He’s always had an eye for the ladies,” she offered. “Only the young and pretty ones,” said the twinkly, wrinkly love god. Then he winked and patted my knee. I beamed at him. I was visible. I was back. All was well with the world.
And to those blinded twenty-two year olds? Pah. I am so over you. After all, nobody under the age of forty-five has anything remotely worthwhile to say, right?..
...including, arguably, me. 

Roll on the glorious arrival of Wisdom.  I'm ready for you now.


  1. So grateful to be world's most unobservant person. Not great for the writing though. Chin up, they all lack adequate experience, shall we say. Cathy x

  2. Thanks for your comment, Cathy. And yes, I happen to be the world's most sensitive (and clearly needy) person, who needs to remember tha sometimes it's just about the tennis. Right, I'm off to pull out a couple of rude grey hairs...

  3. Be patient - in your sixties everyone loves you - except the door-knockers at Halloween to whom you quarters...

  4. That made me smile, Sally. I think apple quarters sound very tasty (did you peel them, too?!), and I will suggest this to my three witches if they pester me again next year. Thank you for reading the blog and also for taking the time to comment. Much appreciated! x

  5. loved it...more more...s