Last night I was at a friend’s house and I was talking to her 15 year old daughter. The girl in question mentioned that she was going to a One Direction concert. I doubt if I could ever name one of the band or even recognise one of their songs, and I scrunched up my nose and said “well, The Backstreet Boys were much better,” she laughed and said, “I actually don’t really know who they are…” At this point I was flabbergasted. In my head the Backstreet Boys are still modern and cool (well, as much as a boyband can ever be!) but when we looked at the years when the songs came out, we realised this 15 year old wasn’t even born! I was a teenager and she wasn’t even born!
I turned to her and asked her to be truthful, I asked, “when you look at me do you actually think I’m old?” she responded that no, she saw me as just a couple of years older than her. This, by the way made me feel amazing, because it means I’m about the same coolness and youthful looking as someone 10 years younger than me.
I started liking the Backstreet Boys (BSB) circa 1999, I think maybe year 9, when my friends Rosie, Sam and Fiona would all sit around in the hall at lunch time with our sandwiches and discuss whether we preferred Nick (always my favourite) or Howie, the dark and brooding Puerto Rican, and whether Brian was a “real” Christian so therefore, this made them a kosher choice to present to my mum so I could go and see them in concert. Just in case you’re wondering, I wasn’t ever allowed to go to one of their concerts, (thanks mum, my cool factor was about 0 in school.) However, the good news is that when I was travelling round the USA and I got to San Francisco I actually saw them play for free at the Gay Pride Festival. I was so excited that the people next to me were taking pictures of me and telling me how ‘cute’ I was. This appearance shattered my idealised view of the BSB as they were kind of old, and Nick had put on weight.
This post isn’t really about the musical merits of One Direction or BSB, as we all well know these bands are ready made products of good looking young boys with passable voices who sing songs written by Simon Cowell or the like. It suddenly made me feel really old, that my prime, my youth, was gone. In physical terms I guess I am still fairly young, if, as I plan to, I die when I’m around 100, then I still have triple my age and 10 years to live, so no problem. I think that specially in London or other big cities around the world 30 year olds still live quite similarly to the way they did in their 20s. Take Miss W for example, I don’t have children, I live in a rented flat that I could never dream of owning, I travel pretty much whenever I please, occasionally drink unsuitable amounts of alcoholic beverages, make reckless financial decisions and throw my clothes on the floor when I come in. Sound like a proper adult? hm, not so much.
This makes me wonder whether I’m actually just old and I am resisting the natural progression of my life and trying to hold on to a youth that has vanished in the wind? maybe I should just be settling down, having baby Ws and embracing M&S twin sets?
I recently read The Wrong Knickers a memoir by the columnist Bryony Gordon. It is a memoir about her twenties in London and all her sexual and drug-fuelled exploits. I love the way she is so straightforward and no nonsense way without glossing over the dirty realities of life as a twenty-something in London. Sometimes life doesn’t turn out to be as pretty as we imagine it to be when we’re young. I think that behind that moment where a 15 year old didn’t recognise my favourite boyband was a voice saying, actually, you’re not a teenager any more, you are 30 and your life has deviated massively from your “perfect” plan.
Maybe this is a generational problem, I have heard that those of us that were born in the 80s expect too much. We were told that we could have whatever we wanted, be whatever we wanted, and of course that had to be the best or nothing. Or maybe it’s just me? I had expectations when I was younger, and let me tell you, my life so far has been good, but nothing near my expectations! Maybe I should just learn to be content, but then I feel like contentment is a trap that is set by bitter people who want to keep your life from being any bigger or better than theirs. It’s almost that by someone making me realise I am 30 (therefore old!) they have given me a reality check and kicked me back into my place. Miss W, you’re 30, and your life is not anywhere near what you thought it would be at this point. I’m not complaining, I know there are others worse off than me at this point, but I just kind of expected more.
Of course there is the reality of biology and nature and physical decline and all that, but maybe age and the behaviour or achievements expected of us at a certain age are just that, other people’s desires to see our life go a certain way. I have always thought that other people want us to live in particular ways because it reinforces their choices in life. When those around us make the same or similar choices then we feel good because we know we’re in the norm. Sometimes I wish I could be a ‘normal’ person, who could just be satisfied with a ‘normal’ life, but alas I am not.