Zooey Deschanel as 'Jess' and Jake Johnson as 'Nick' struggle to remain connected to/understand their youthful neighbours in The New Girl. Photo: FOX
Cultural phenomena makes no sense to you
Middle age comes with the sense that you’re out of touch what the kids are into grows throughout your twenties, but middle age is when the mooring rope finally snaps and you can no longer make sense of trends even when they’re explained to you. On a related note, teenagers baffle you.
Take Snapchat, for instance, an app that lets you send messages which self-destruct after 9 seconds and can never be accessed again. I’ve downloaded it, and sent one or two, and I simply can’t understand how it’s fun. Oh, I know people use it to send, ahem, racy pictures of themselves, but I don’t get why you’d do that, either.
You eat McDonald's reluctantly
As a teenager, I used to love that stuff. There was a McDonald's directly along my route from school to home, and let’s just say that in hindsight, a certain corporate stooge of a clown was definitely not my friend. Even in my 20s, the sneaky late-night cheeseburger was a crucial ingredient in every big night out whose route didn't take me past a kebab vendor first. But these days, it’s only Mac Time when I need to refuel on a country road trip, or I'm stuck in an airport.
Even then, I stop enjoying it about halfway through the burger, and instead start feeling Kilojoule Remorse, that queasy dread that you feel in your gut when you've made the wrong decision. Or perhaps the queasiness is caused by the food, I’m not sure. Each time you eat McDonald's when you’re middle-aged, you promise never to eat it again, a vow that sticks until the next time you spy the golden arches on a major freeway.
In is the new Out
I used to view every Friday or Saturday night spent at home as a massive personal failing. A bare calendar made me feel like I was a loser. And I used to cherish those occasional summer weekends when there were more events on than I could possibly attend, but tried to get to all of them anyway, and so spent most of my time travelling between events rather than enjoying them. Ah, those were the days.
Now, I'm tired. So tired. When you enter middle age and hit the weekend, you’ll find that the prospect of few hours with nothing to do is a blessing. Some days, you’ll just lie on your couch, a book in your hand and some movie on the TV, paying attention to neither. Those, increasingly, are the best days. So, does that make me a loser, as I feared? Whatever – I'll be on the couch.
You don't like noisy places
Even when you are out of your house, you’ll be constantly thinking about how much more fun you could be having at home, where it’s nice and quiet. And your intolerance of noise will be such that you'll spend most of your time complaining about it. Fortunately, thanks to that same noise, your whinging will be inaudible, meaning that your friends probably won’t realise that you've completely gone over to the fogey side of the Force.
But the penny may drop when you take your leave prematurely and head home to watch the social lives of the characters in Mad Men instead of having one of your own.
Your favourite drink is water
I wasn't allowed to drink sugary soft drinks as a child, except when I was given flat lemonade in the event of an upset stomach, a loophole which led me to claim indigestion on an almost daily basis. We did enjoy cordial, though, especially that luminous green Koola variety that looks like the byproduct of a poorly-maintained nuclear reactor. In my adolescence, though, diet soft drinks became a poison of choice. There was rarely a day when I didn't hit the Diet Coke or Pepsi Max, in a can or better still, a large bottle. Sometimes, when I'm really thirsty, I can still hear the exhilarating fizz that comes when you pull the ring tab.
But I don't enjoy cola any more – in fact, it upsets my stomach. Now, I genuinely prefer water, just as my parents predicted I would some day, and I never believed. When I’m feeling like living a little, I even have it with bubbles in it.
As for the hard drinks, the lure of alcohol doesn't tend to lessen as you age, I've found, but your preferred drink changes dramatically. when you first start out, spirits taste like paint stripper unless they're heavily diluted in sugary water, ideally with some sort of antiseptic lemon flavour and a bottle taking its design cues from the Soviet bloc. Then, as you get older, you gradually strip back the number of additives until finally you're sipping neat scotch and scowling at everyone. Or is that just me?
Your clothes are neither cool nor uncool
Back in the day, everybody put a lot of effort into their wardrobes. They either looked super cool, or, if they were me, tried to look cool and failed, somehow emitting a persistent warning beacon which said 'under no circumstances pash this dag'. Nowadays, though, my clothes are boring. I generally wear solid colour shirts, usually in black, navy, charcoal brown or white, and dark jeans or black chinos. That's pretty much it.
Wearing the clothes I wear, there's absolutely no chance that you will look cool, as ever, but you also minimise the chances of looking uncool. Also, you stay comfy, because when you’re middle-aged, practicality trumps fashion. All that remains to make the transition into old age is to start hoisting your belt above your bellybutton.
You buy new music from the same old bands
I still love listening to new music. But I've noticed that increasingly, I'm only checking out the new outcomes by bands I'm already fan of. So if, say, Ben Folds puts out a new album, my credit card is at his disposal. But at the end of a year when just about every critic was raving about Tame Impala's album, my only response was 'who's he again?'.