The passing of time and all of its crimes

A few months ago I learned a new term – heritage rock. It’s the business of old bands who still tour and sell their back catalogue and make a decent sum decades after their initial burst of youthful creativity and success. (I also discovered that heritage rock sounds like a diss, possibly to people who still think Pavement are young, cutting-edge dudes and don’t like the memento mori implications that things have changed.)

So I’ve been thinking about old Morrissey. He’s playing in Auckland tonight. I thought about going because, you know, I really like Morrissey, particularly for the Smiths years. I was thrilled to see Johnny Marr perform as part of Neil Finn’s Seven Worlds rockstravaganza back in ’01, but somehow that enthusiasm hasn’t transferred to 2012. You know what’s changed? I’m older; I’m tireder.

I noticed this in others. The last-minute ticket-for-sale tweets from people who’d excitedly bought Morrissey tickets months ago, but then along comes the week before the concert. It’s December. Work is wrapping up. There are Christmas parties to attend. There’s Christmas stuff to organise. Holidays to plan. Oh God, there’s so much stuff. And then a tweet would appear offering two Morrissey tickets, at face value, because we would love to go but we are so very very tired.

And that’s the terrible thing. When you’re older, you can easily afford the concert tickets, but suddenly going out becomes this ordeal. Tiredness kicks in and even after half an hour, the most uplifting of pop concerts starts to feel like an epic three-hour prog rock torture fest. It’s a lot easier listening to Moz at home, where it’s ok if you doze off mid-miserable.

From the comfort and privacy of my couch, I was looking for some video clips of last night’s Wellington concert. I found a couple, but they had pretty crunchy sound – not what I’ve come to expect from the modern world of concert vids. But instead here’s a rather good quality vid from Moz’s previous New Zealand concert 21 years ago, back in the time where there was youthful energy.


I’d noticed a woman on the bus that I get to work when I’m doing the early morning shift. She’s probably in her late 30s, if not 40, is nicely groomed, wears smart business clothes and has long hair just past her shoulders.

One day she sat in front of me and I spent the bus ride looking at her hair. The colour was nice, but it had a kind of wiry texture to it. I realised that it’s that kind of wiry hair that younger women never really seem to have. I didn’t think too much about it until a few weeks later when I was getting my hair cut.

I complained to my hairdresser that my hair had gone really strange. I’ve always had curly sections and straight sections, but now it seemed that the hair on top of my head was really straight and the hair underneath was really curly. I was expecting a simple answer like that it was colour damage or the humidity, but instead she asked me how old I was.

She explained that around the age of 30, there’s a slight hormonal change in women that, among other things, affects hair, so it was possible that that had started with me, and then she skilfully cut my hair in such a way that the textural contrasts were barely noticeable.

My theory is that your body puts time and effort into making you pretty in your teens and 20s to help snare a mate, but figures that you’ve probably got one by the time you reach your 30s, so it can concentrate on other things.

Suddenly it all made sense. The lady on the bus probably had really lovely silky tresses when she was younger. She probably refused to give up her hair style, even though it was all wiry and pubic-textured.

It’s a little bit sad thinking that maybe I’ll never quite have the same hair that I used to have, but now that I know this little piece of information, I can avoid being an old lady with scraggly long hair.

Golden, olden

Getting older doesn’t particularly scare. But the one thing that does kind of annoy me is how when we get older we find it a lot harder to get into new things.

There’s this interesting article by researcher Robert Sapolsky about our “windows of receptivity,” that is, the moment when we no longer are open to a particular kind of new experience. He discovered that “for at least one particular fashion novelty, the window of receptivity essentially closed by age 23; for popular music, it closed by 35; for an alien food type, by 39.”

This is why my mother doesn’t have a tongue piercing, why “Flashbacks” on C4 is so popular, and why I never see senior citizens picking up a tray of sushi for lunch.

Of course, as he concludes, there’s nothing really wrong about not dressing like an 18-year-old or still listening to the same music you liked when you were 12. But it’s just a little sad to think that, whether I like it or not, my palette is going to narrow itself.

But it’s not all that bad. In googling for that article I stumbled across this one by Carl Elliott, which references it. It’s also about the changes that happen with ageing, but he notes that “in most fields, the golden years for creative work fall between 30 and 40.”

Yay! So now that I’m approaching 30, does this mean I’m about to embark on my golden years, and will be producing magnificent creative works? Damn, I hope so.


The middle-aged guy manning the checkout asked me if I had any ID. I hadn’t even intended on buying anything. I’d just stopped off so a friend could pick up a few grocery items. But on the way in I was distracted by a big display of Macs beer and found myself compelled to pick up a six pack of Macs Blonde.

I thought it was a bit strange that I was being asked for ID. Yes, I was buying alcohol, and yes, if turned out that I was underage and the guy was caught selling it to me, he’d be fined. But I’m 27 – nine years older than the minimum age to buy alcohol.

So I pulled out my driver’s licence and briefly considered that maybe I actually looked like I could be 17. Maybe somehow I’ve stumbled across the secret of eternal youth. Maybe all those days spent being pale and tragic indoors to avoid the afternoon sun had paid off?

Actually, what did I look like when I was 17? Probably not all that different to how I look now, but with longer hair, a few less wrinkles and without my delightful cheekbones. But I doubt I could pass for a 17-year-old now.

If I tried to go undercover at a high school, you know, to do an in-depth report on what being a teenager is really like, I’m pretty sure I’d be mistaken for a teacher, not a student.

Of course, if real life was like a movie, I could manage it. In films it’s totally normal for actors to play characters aged significantly younger than the actor. Seen “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”? In that, 40-year-old Nia Vardalos plays a 30 year old character. She doesn’t look 30. She looks 40.

That is an extreme example. There’s plenty of situations where an actress will play a character that’s only one or two years younger, like Sarah Jessica Parker is just a tiny bit older than her character in “Sex and the City”. That works perfectly well.

But Alyson Hannigan was a 25-year-old playing an 18-year-old when she made “American Pie”. In that movie you can easily trick yourself into believing she doesn’t look old, but if you had put her with a bunch of real 18-year-olds, she’d stick out.

Women seem to routinely lie about their age. It’s almost as if there were something shameful about growing older. This actually works to the advantage of those who are honest about their age.

If people are used to a 40-year-old woman with a 40-year-old face saying that she’s 35, this means that if you are 35 and say you’re 35, you’ll look about five years younger than what people are expecting. They’ll be like, “wow, you don’t look 35!”

I’ve decided I’m not going to lie about my age. I’m not going to be like one of my school teachers or my mother and pretend that I’m perpetually 21 (“But Mum, that would have meant that when I was born you would have been 14!”).

I’m 27. I look 27. I haven’t quite moved onto the anti-aging skin creams yet. I not sure I want to either. I was looking at one particular product and it had a warning advising not to go into direct sunlight after using it.

The checkout guy looked at my drivers licence. He entered my date of birth into the cash register and confirmed that indeed I was 18 or over.

I was still feeling pretty cool, like maybe I really could pass for 17. But then I saw the sign taped to the side of the checkout. It advised that anyone buying alcohol who looked 25 or under would be asked to show ID. So he didn’t think I could have been 17. He thought I could have been 25, a mere two years younger, and that’s perfectly reasonable to assume.

With my booze buying age confirmed, I took my beer and left. But hey, just because I don’t look 17, doesn’t mean I can’t act 17 sometimes.