The Quiet Desperation of Middle Age

There is no way around it, people, I am OLD. I mean not officially elderly, pass me the sherry and some comfortable slacks, but you know…not young, and for someone who personified youth rebellion, who raged at the world and pogoed her way into and out of punk-frequented bars and drug culture, getting old is hard to do. I’ve decided to rage at the dying of the light, a la Dylan (Thomas, not Bob), keep the hair ultra short, the attitude spikey and refuse to slide into the quiet desperation of middle age. It is just not the old punk way. Look at Neal Cassady, my hero, doyenne of the underground, driver of Further the great Hippy trip bus of the Pranksters and the Dead, he threw himself into the ’60s scene with a cry not a murmur, his later letters a literal orgy of sex both straight and gay, drugs of all kinds, and wild nights with the San Franciscan Hells Angels. Forty was just an extension of his previous years on the road with his beloved Jack, the man who was clearly his one true love when all was said and done, his close friendship with Ginsburg and his tuning into that celestial rap down the highway of intellectual rigor and creative pursuits.

So, I left forty in the rear view mirror a while back, I look back at forty and see a baby, wide eyed and not quite able to be herself. My hair getting short again (sure fire way of seeing how at ease with myself I am), but still longish, my eyes still full of hope and possibility and dreams of domestic bliss. As I accelerated towards the badlands of middle age, as I experienced loss like I never hope to know again, as life revealed itself to be the huge disappointment it was always meant to be, something happened. Something magical. Something I had chased for years and never quite got to – friends, roaming countrymen and other creatures of the night, my little darlings, I stopped giving a shit.

You heard me. I stopped caring. Run me down. Fuck you. Judge me? Go ahead. Tell me you coulda done better, and I damn well shoudla, Ill make you a cup of tea and smile. Life hasn’t let you into the big reveal yet, I dig, I know that, but you know what, I KNOW, and what I know would turn you white as a ghost too: it doesn’t care. Unfair? Nope, not a single fuck given. It hurts? Nah, next! You can’t? Yeah…sorry…doesn’t matter. Life will carry on with you regardless and spit out the pips and bones and pulp that is left of you.

Middle age is proving not so much quiet desperation as an exercise in understanding futility and not wasting energy on what cannot be changed – namely, other people.

Everyone wants to believe their way is the right way, from how to potty train a baby, to which way you hang the damn toilet roll (turn that baby draping inside towards the wall, and I WILL judge you and find you wrong, who does shit like that! Psychopaths, that is who!)…everyone wants to justify their choices, and not be found lacking by the herd. Fuck the herd. The herd isn’t living your life. The herd will never know what it is to be you and to be faced with split second choices, which lead to an entire lifetime of change or pain, or else, if you get really lucky, the golden goose’s egg, not the rotten cabbage. What did the other Dylan, say (Bob not Thomas) “You are right from your side and I am right from mine.” We are all just one too many morning cups of coffee let alone the thousand of miles behind us in the rear view mirror.

Which brings me to what is on the speakers today…yes, it is the Floyd, with Dark Side of the Moon. I suspect there is nothing to say about it that hasn’t been said before.Yes, it is genius, yes it is a gem, yes every household needs at least one copy of it, and heck at this point, that is probably a reality. I’ll be honest, it isn’t my favorite Floyd album, not by a long shot, it is a deeply personal thing, playing favorites, and for me what gives me the tingles are not those assorted bells announcing time and it’s quiet desperation, tick tock people, nor the orgasmic whooping chi ching, another million in the bank for Roger, I prefer Meddle, or Piper at the Gates of Dawn. Dark side of the moon feels like a slow death of middle aged middle of the road rock, with a side order of existential rock star terror, it is just a little too close to home, to giving into the dying of the light, and skipping down that brain damage path to some roadie intonating in nasal tones that we are geezers “cruising for a bruising” then laughing manically at our sad fate, our eventual doom, the “shout that no one seems to hear” falling into space where lets face it, no one hears you scream, let alone laugh. Peter Watts, the road manager might not be afraid of dying, but I guess I am…

This is the genius of Dark Side…these asides, these carefully chosen phrases, the parts we barely hear, not those that thrust themselves into our field of vision demanding attention. The spaces between, not the darkness that fills the void.

So that is where I am, reminding myself, there are young people out there who don’t know the trip is going to be cut short way way before I hit the ground for the great dirt nap, who knows how much time we have left in front of each of us, personally, but as long as I am breathing, this day right here, right now, holds as much promise and magic and possibility as the same day at age 22. It is never too late, until it really is.

…(photo above copyright to The Paltry Sum.)


      1. The Paltry Sum

        Cheeky sod, as they say in your part of the town…can you tell I’ve been watching Peaky Blinders?! Though one of my feminist friends has this little knitted uterus. It is a thing of beauty…

      2. The Paltry Sum

        Now you lost me! Canny? Itchy Yarn Uterus sounds like a punk band. You would be proud of me, I trimmed my own hair without disaster, and have a box of flash lightning 40 percent bleach. If it fucks up, Im just going to go number 3 all over..

      3. The Paltry Sum

        Mmmm…Im thinking ’70s Lou Reed Rock and Roll animal….Hot Roots, honey! That’s the spirit, yeah…I would have loved to be in that band. If I dont mess up there is bubblebum pink in my future. Anything is better than salt and pepper gray.

      4. nickreeves

        Me, too. I have known young knitters, both male and female, though it always seems incongruous in the hands of those under 60. I am yet to be cool (and old) enough to knit one, purl one. No rush x

      5. The Paltry Sum

        Im fighting with wordpress. I have no idea what Im doing wrong, but I try and just make a small change and….mmmm..Im learning today, Nick…Im learning…ohhh music! 😀

  1. The Paltry Sum

    For many I suppose this is true…for me…I live in a single room in a shelter with my teenage son, I have no money, no clear route out of this, and have been refused a divorce that gives me any of the assets from the marriage – destitute. Three cars and a boat? Im happy for a bowl of kale and a potato! Where is this Eden in which you live?!

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