I went to see the Rolling Stones last week at Old Trafford Football Stadium. I have been a huge fan of them since childhood when my father gave me a record player and some old records. Amongst them was Little Red Rooster and my introduction to blues and rock.
It s no secret that I am 56 years old. I am not one of those women who is afraid of revealing their age whilst urgently rubbing expensive anti-aging creams into their skin, although I do understand why they do this. I am committed to growing old disgracefully and have recently re-engaged with my love of rock music.
So. Back to my 19th nervous breakdown. Just prior to the concert I took part in a meeting where it was suggested that ‘older people are not good at digital’ with the built-in implication that older people should ‘act their age’ and presumably go back to their quill pens and ink. I left feeling annoyed and insulted – I have been coding since I started work and I can build a website and social network as well as any ‘millennial’. Age is just a number, isn’t it? Age doesn’t matter – does it?
As I left the house for Old Trafford (obviously worrying about a coat and umbrella but complying to the security instructions of no bags to the letter) I was doubting my ability to stand on the pitch, even in the Theatre of Dreams, for hours and hours. That usual nagging doubt at the back of my mind that I would be ‘the oldest one there’ loomed large as I passed through the turnstiles and took my place.
I was not the oldest person there. The Rolling Stones have a collective age of 297 and many of the people around me were as old as them – in their seventies. I (and they) had no problem standing for hours, in fact I danced the whole time, and the next day I built a website for a friend and fixed someone else’s website.
I feel that age is and aspect of identity, like being Northern or ginger or working class (I am all these as well as old!), something that someone who is insecure will isolate and use as an insult. Despite writing fiction for decades, I was not published until I was over 50. I truly believe that, despite my broad experience of life, I could not have produced the fiction that I write today earlier in my life.
In the novel I am writing at the moment, one of the characters is an older woman and after I had written her and another character of the same age, I realised that being over 50 is a time when people get to choose their future – I love this picture which sums it up for me perfectly.
I am an expert in identity construction and I would contend that whilst external grand narratives influence who we are, the choice is ours – if you think you are old and see age as ageing as a negative construction then you probably be worrying about getting old and will not be in the audience at a Rolling Stones Concert or learning new digital skill in this world of new opportunities.
So I will act my age. We danced the night away with Mick Jagger dancing and singing mere feet away from us, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood close enough to see the chords and Charlie Watts behind them. They sounded just like their records, but why wouldn’t they? They have been performing these songs for decades and are talented and proficient musicians.
So my new mantra, when I feel sidelined by some misguided soul who thinks I am too old to use a html tag and that digital is the property of anyone under 30, or to dance all night or that my interest in music is a ‘mid life crisis’ is – what would the Rolling Stones do?
Maybe without the spangly jackets and the living in hotels, but yes, it’s only rock ‘n’ roll but I like it.