Monday, 9 November 2009

I'm a big kid and I don't care...

I'm a big kid. I've been one ever since I was a little kid, when it was legit to act like a child, but it wasn't long before I discovered that people were constantly telling me to grow up and act my age, even when I was 'allowed' to be silly and irresponsible.

When I was eighteen I think my mum had a vision of what a student should look like: to her it was a cross between Dirk Bogarde and Richard O'Sullivan and it involved tweed jackets and yellow roll-neck jumpers, suede shoes and a scarf, with, of course, a neat haircut. My idea was totally different: unkempt hair, jeans full of holes and misshapen 'fisherman' jumpers from Millets. It goes without saying that I was told to grow up.

My problem is that, try as I might, I can't seem to grow up. Perhaps it's a lot to do with my profession. I write for a living and have been relatively successful as a magazine editor working on a variety of titles, largely within the field of hospitality, where everybody is having a good time all of the time. Perhaps that's it. While other people work for a living, I spend my time writing about what people could be doing in their leisure time, when they're not being boring and working. Result? Life is one big party!

But of course it's not just work and I'm not going to kid myself that I'm constantly looning around behind people who are trying to work, pulling faces and being silly while wearing a barber pole suit and a chromium top hat. No, that's not it. But it is all to do with being sensible, wearing sensible clothes, riding a sensible bike, reading sensible books and stuff like that.

I'm not going to tell you my age, that would be foolish, and it's tough enough out there in the job market at the moment without making life even more difficult, but it would be fair to assume that I'm old enough to know better about a lot of things, some of which I can't even mention. Equally, I don't want to come across as 'totally zany' and 'crazy', I'm not one of those 'you don't have to be mad to work here, but it helps' kind of guys either, I'm not the office wag, but I'd go as far as to say that I've made an arse of myself here and there on many occasions, normally in some way alcohol related.

And there have been plenty of times when I've thought I might have made an arse of myself when I hadn't. Like the time when I borrowed my dad's dress suit to attend a black tie dinner and then somehow mislaid the trousers. How? Why did I hand the suit back minus the trousers? Alcohol-induced paranoia set in and I started to wonder if I'd left the venue, a top London hotel in Park Lane, minus my trousers. I went back through my memory banks, started calling people who were there and saying, "So, what did you think of last night?" waiting for one of them, just one of them, to say, "Well, it was alright until you took your trousers off and started bragging about the size of your penis." Nobody said anything even remotely uncomplimentary about my behaviour, or my penis, and I realised that when I went round to dad's to hand back the dress suit, the trousers must have quietly slipped off the hanger and landed in the street somewhere. It was dark and I wouldn't have noticed. But even now, I wait with bated breath for the call and somebody reminiscing on past events. "Hey, Matthew, remember the time when you..?"

But what about that inappropriate bike of mine? Well, it is, for heaven's sake: it's a dirt jumper with no mudguards and it has a bit of attitude, a bit of cred. I should have bought something sensible with mudguards and a basket on the front, possibly a rack on the back, but I went out and bought a very expensive, slightly juvenile-looking Kona Scrap. I probably look a little out of place on it, to be honest, but nobody says anything, I like it and yes, I get a buzz everytime I go out on it. But why?

Why do I still get excited about things I got excited about as a kid? I still love the smell of a bike shop, the thrill of the new bikes lined up in rows, it's ridiculous. I should have packed up the bike ages ago, I should be much more interested in pension plans, the state of the economy, and other boring stuff, like my neighbour, who can't be that much older than I am, but he's one of those people who knows a helluva lot about car insurance and what it all means, he probably worries about his no claims bonus, he probably knows how much a gallon of petrol costs. I don't.

But then there is something irresponsible about my general outlook. I have two children but sometimes I'm a bigger kid than my ten-year-old daughter and while my 18-year-old is much cooler than I'll ever be – that's one thing I've never been, cool and I don't want to be – I view myself as younger than he perceives me to be: but I'm 'dad' for heaven's sake and it worries me. I hate the idea of growing up or being grown up.

There's nothing worse than going to parents's evenings at school where I find myself mixing with people that LOOK like dads. I find myself a little uncomfortable in their company because I view them as the grown ups and consider myself to be still not there, not quite in that ballpark. And yet I am in that ballpark I guess and it only hits home when I see photographs of myself and realise that I'm not getting any younger.

Look, I'm not that bad, but there's grey hair. Grey hair! And I start to wonder whether I should dye it or let it go grey and I start thinking about proper cool people who are older than I am: Pete Townshend; Roger Daltry; John Lydon (well, only just older) and I feel better about things. I'm not saying that Townshend and Daltry are big kids, but Lydon still has the spark.

In fact, that reminds me of something else that can be classified as 'big kid' behaviour: my current desire to buy and learn how to play the bass guitar. To be fair, it's something I've always wanted to do, along with owning a replica gun and an air pistol (I've had both), but I've just got to have one and will shortly be buying one. Right now I keep finding music shops and sitting there, Fender plugged in, trying to pick out bass lines. My excuse, by the way, is that I used to play the violin, the bass has the same strings but the other way around and, well, that's it. And I'm not going to deny that I still have rock star fantasies too and dreams that one day I'll pen the definitive 21st Century novel and make a fortune and go live on the beach somewhere in Northern California.

Perhaps it is healthy to be this way. Perhaps it's best to live in a world of unrealistic dreams rather than getting bogged down with being overly responsible and knowing too much about grown up things like tax and pensions and insurance and whether or not fully comprehensive insurance is a better bet than third party, fire and theft. I don't know.

But then I realise that in other aspects of life I have grown up, although I've never been a great 'car' person. I watch Top Gear with a sneer aimed at those Genesis-loving, real ale drinking, car nuts that populate the audience of the show. If I won the lottery I'd never go out and buy a Ferrari, they just don't appeal to me. I'd rather buy a house by the sea. I have no desire for large sums of money because wealth is not, for some reason, a key motivator in my life. So that might be construed as being a grown-up, although I hope not.

I don't like current popular music and would never pretend that I do. I want John and Edward to win the X Factor, but only because them winning would reveal the show for what it is: a load of old poppycock. Now there's a grown up, 'mum and dad' sort of phrase: poppycock.

Both of my parents are still alive, which is great. They're both 80, but it got me thinking that you don't really grow up until your parents die and you've no longer got anybody to call mum or dad, nobody ahead of you to meet the Grim Reaper. Perhaps I'll sober up when the ratchet clicks round one and I'm next on the conveyor belt of death. Perhaps then I'll start forgetting about playing the bass guitar, having rock star fantasies and riding off in to the sunset on my Kona dirtjumper. Perhaps not.

Mind you, a Kona dirtjumper; it's not exactly a Harley Davidson, that true sign of having a mid-life crisis. But I've been there, had that fantasy and managed to kick it. I didn't want to die young – and still don't. I worry about death because my big kid attitude is a sign of constant immaturity that will probably stretch to believing that my time should never be up, that I'm miles too young to die and have miles too much to do, even when I'm in my eighties.

Weirdly, make that luckily, all of my friends are big kids too, otherwise I'd have nobody to play with or go out cycling (although cycling isn't a pastime for big kids alone it's a great way to keep fit too). I've got another friend with an electric guitar, so perhaps him and I will form a garageband and make it big and....

I better go before I incriminate myself even more.

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