I come into this week feeling increasingly aware of my age. In a few days time I hit the milestone of being 45 years old; and I can't really say I'm ready.
When I was in my twenties, I was a partying night owl and a clothes horse. I liked to have the proper garments which any in-vogue twenty something should adorn himself in (though looking back at some of the photos now makes me wonder what the hell I was thinking -- that's fashion for you). I could worm my way into any sort of trouser, by virtue of my trim little twenty eight inch waist. Twenty eight inches! I will never get back there again, and actually now find that my shopping choices are much different.
These days, with two cheeky nippers and the lovely Mrs Nam to provide for, less of my income (ie none) is disposable. This means that, when coupled with my relentlessly expanding belly, my choices of garment are often more practical. Sad isn't it? Practical. These days when I purchase some work trousers, they need to be comfortable and relatively hardwearing. And this is what it is to be me at 45.
There are friends of mine who remember me when I hit thirty, an experience which might as well have been a million years ago. My Canadian Friend told me that I'd spent several days being the most miserable and self centred so-and-so one could possibly imagine (except she didn't say so-and-so; she used a very naughty word one probably wouldn't adopt in front of one's five year old). Now, because she is a person I have a great deal of respect and affection for, it means that, when (less than) gently chastised for such behaviour, I ought to sit up and take note. Will I heed her warnings and not let being forty five take me into a pit of despair when I complete this particular lap round the sun? No. I very much doubt it.
There's a raft of age related things about me that the twenty something me looking forward would have despaired of. For one thing, I am obsessed with the weather. No matter what, I can be found at some point every single day perusing internet-based weather maps and waiting patiently for the BBC forecast which happens just before the top of every hour on the BBC News Channel. I know that it's quite British to be weather-mad, but in my twenties I would have gone out without a coat anyway and to hell with the consequences. Now I look on with smug satisfaction if I have my brolly with me while other people endure an unexpected shower.
As well, my feet start to ache if I've been out and about for any length of time, and the moment I step through the front door, I have to kick my shoes off and settle down in just my socks on the sofa, feeling very glad that I have such a nice house and such a nice sofa where I can sit and put my feet up. I can imagine the twenty something year old me looking forward through time and shaking his head in disgust.
Of course, it would be ridiculous to yearn again for one's twenties. As I've said, my life is complete and I have a family who I think the world of. But, in terms of my outlook on life, I would just like to be a young and groovy dad rather than the hopeless old fart I have been determined not to become, but which seems to be creeping up on me anyway. I mean, who in their twenties listens to Radio 4? My daughter has just started to take an interest in who's currently number one; I'm sorry, I haven't a clue.
But it wasn't really any of the above that made a recent difference to me. As I said, it is naturally British and an essential requirement of London residence to be wary of random rain, sun, hot and cold on any given day. I'm bound to get a bit achey at my age. And I am actually the one often blasting my kids with groovy dance and drum and bass from my iPhone. So perhaps it's not that so much that's made me feel my age. They're just symptoms.
What has pushed me over the edge is the trouser purchase previously referred to. Since a suit is just too much hassle on those days when I'm only going to be driving my desk, I decided last weekend to pop into venerable supplier of clothes and victuals to the slightly fusty middle classes of Britain, Marks and Spencer. For my non-British readership, this is a major UK brand with outlets in every mall in every corner of the country. It does a wide range of boringly conservative office wear in a variety of wool, wool-mix, or out and out man-made fibre.
I explored the smartly pressed regular fit section, and emerged (to Mrs Nam's apparent approval) with two pairs of relatively fashionable workwear, trying to shake off the recurring memories of the size twenty eight waist I once had. I tried my new strides on, and satisfied with the fit I deployed my MasterCard and treated myself.
You might think nothing more of this, but when I put a pair on the following morning before attending the office, I discovered that the waist had elastic in it. Elastic! They look like the type of trousers you might give a toddler, just starting on his walking adventures and expecting to grow a bit. Were Marks and Spencer expecting a bit of post-pub furniture cruising, echoing the life we all once had as a pre-school child? Perhaps worse than this, M & S give these "special" trousers their very own badge of honour. "Active Waist", they call them. Active Waist? I'm sure it's not quite as firm and solid as it once was; but "Active"? All I wanted was something to tuck my shirt into.
By this point, it was too late to turn back. I was wearing my new trousers, and I was off to work. I mean, you couldn't really tell these weren't just some nicely pressed tailored trousers. So I decided to keep the secret of my stretchy trousers to myself. It was all going well until a cheeky female colleague of mine caught up with me as I took my morning cup of tea down the office stairs to my desk on my way back from the canteen. "Siddie, do you know you've still got a label hanging off those trousers?" Dear God, please no. I pulled it off as casually and discretely as I could. "Marks and Sparks -- very trendy," she continued. "My other half needs new trousers -- let's have a look then. I might get him some."
I tried to protest, but she insisted on viewing the label and took it from my hand before I could really do anything. "Active Waist? What's an Active Waist then? Are these fat-boy trousers? They are aren't they? Ha ha ha! They really are! Ha ha ha ha ha..."
It kind of went on like this in much the same vein throughout the day. I enjoyed a great many visitors to my desk, many of who were delighted at my now-exposed trousery tale. And so, since my secret's out anyway, I have decided to share my tale of fashionable menswear with you. Are you sitting comfortably? No? You want to get yourself a pair of these, then...
** This blog post was first published at http://siddienam.blogspot.com **