Recently, having just had my hair cut at the type of salon that charges more for a short back and sides than I used to spend on a weekly food shop, I bumped into an old flame. These are awkward situations at the best of times, but at least I was looking sharp. Or so I thought. "You're going grey!" she squawked, triumphantly, before I'd even had a chance to recount how well I was doing and how it had all weirdly coincided with us parting ways.
A more sensitive soul might have felt her opening gambit was a rather rude way to begin a conversation, but then said ex had never been one to mince her words. Or her meat for that matter. She was a veggie, I seem to recall. As it was, her comments were like water off a greying mallard's back; for, as my mum has now begun pointing out, some of the world's most attractive men are grey. Take George Clooney, she says (and she would. In a heartbeat) - a paragon of godly grey gorgeousness. Then there's George Lamb - although it already feels like we're scraping the barrel. And what's with them all being called George, anyway? Plus, is it just me or wouldn't these fellas have been good looking whatever the hue of their hair? Clearly, my ex had got inside my head. Classic ex behaviour.
Age is a funny old thing though, ain't it? All at once it can be subjective, ill-defined, fluid, scary and beautiful, and there are plenty of folk for whom getting old isn't viewed as the least bit funny at all. Fortunately, ageing is a process that holds no fear for me, largely because I've thus far chosen to ignore it in its entirety. Yes, I am still in my twenties, albeit not for much longer; at 29, I just about scrape within the brackets of what most people consider relatively young, though freshers might view such claims with suspicion and as far as children are concerned, there's no doubt I'm positively ancient. However, it appears that even if I'm not ready to succumb to society's definition of ageing yet, ageing may just be ready for me.
Having increasingly accumulated the trappings associated with grown up life, such as an almost proper job and the ability to entertain the idea of a Saturday afternoon trip to Wickes as not just a necessity but a frivolity, I am, to the outside world at least, a fully functioning adult. And yet still, whilst staring down the barrel of my fourth decade, I can happily spend whole days, nay weeks, adorned in nothing but a dressing gown. Strictly speaking, that's only appropriate if you're a student or Arthur Dent. And whereas plenty of my friends now have mortgages to pay and extra mouths to feed, I'm most content sat in my rented flat playing (and more often losing) countless games of FIFA.
Thus, whatever my grey streaks may suggest, I still feel like a youthful whippersnapper. Well, most of the time, anyway. Aside from the odd barbed comment of an ex, there's always the agonisingly lengthening hangover recovery periods to remind me that, though the mind may be willing, the flesh is increasingly prone to suffering at the hands of questionable liquors (I'm looking at you, Amaretto). On reflection, none of this worries me a great deal. What has got me worried is the amount of friends turning thirty recently. Not in a chronological sense, you understand. If anything it was to be expected following their 29th birthdays the previous year. Instead, what I find alarming is the way this arbitrary anniversary seems to herald a new era of grown up-ness, when I for one just don't feel ready.
Consider this: according to recent research carried out by the highly credible scientists at Lucozade, second only in the drinks-science field to the boffins at Red Bull who discovered how to give humans wings, most Britons don't consider themselves adult in any sense until the age of 24. Only then do we shake off the cloying uncertainty of adolescence and fully embrace who we are meant to be. And yet, six short years of unburdened freedom later, many of us have already consigned ourselves to an invisible, inevitable checklist that governs the rest of our lives. Marriage? Check. Mortgage? Check. Children? Check. Visit the Czech Republic? Check. Learn how to play chess? Check mate.
I'm not saying these aren't things I aspire to as well, because they are (particularly that last one), nor am I critical of those who've already achieved them (I mean who wouldn't want to sample the many delights of Prague?) I'm just wary about according them time frames, because the way I see it, if I can't be trusted to dress myself every day, it's probably best I don't have kids just yet.