It seems that no one can quite agree on who said that youth is wasted on the young, but whoever it was, had a point.
In conversation with a friend dating back to university recently, I commented on how relieved I was not to be twenty-something anymore. Having witnessed first-hand much of my personal drama during this decade, she’s probably similarly grateful, although if she agreed with me, she hid it well. My twenties were all about questing for something, but not being exactly sure what. This, allied with a deep-seated sense that I belonged anywhere other than the area I grew up in, but not really having the first clue how, or the guts, to leave. While some mourned turning 30, for me it felt like a blessed relief.
My twenties were by turns a lot of fun, angst-ridden, tumultuous and restless. I suppose my thirties could be characterised as the age of striving, not dissimilar to running a middle-distance race (not that I have actually ever done that); the finishing line in sight, but damn hard work getting there. I pitched up at 40 having lived in Lisbon for several years, married with two small children – although not necessarily in that order – and co-owner of a home that was still very much a work in progress. I felt like Bridget Jones’s nemesis, a “smug married”, for, ooo, approximately 5 minutes.
Upon turning 40, I reflected on what imminent middle-age meant to me. As I recall, much of it revolved around my incredulity that I wasn’t 25 anymore, and centrally that I’d reached closure on the fact that I’d never marry George Michael, despite, by this point, having had a nearly 30 year-long crush on him. And yes, obviously I was a aware of the spectacular way he came out to the world in LA in 1998.
Further indignity came in the the form of obvious physical signs of no longer being a spring chicken. Despite vigorous highlighting, grey hairs were springing out of the top of my head at perpendicular angles and I was quickly learning that gravity was not my friend. Paradoxically, despite wishing that my body could learn to defy gravity, I also found peace with the notion that I’d never willingly set foot in a gym ever again, due to the fact that I hate them and there was no use pretending otherwise. Ah, the wisdom of maturity!
My husband still laments that dearly-departed George ruined Christmas 2016. And it’s true, an otherwise lovely day was marred by the news of his untimely death. I was devastated. And while knowing that in some ways my grief was irrational, I have concluded that in part, some of my sorrow was directed to what felt like the death of my younger self: the teeny-bopper that lusted after him in his Wham! days, the older teen who furtively adored him, albeit as a guilty pleasure (I should have been dedicating myself solely to Indie) and the adult me who could sing every song on Ladies and Gentlemen off by heart. He was gone, and so was that girl. Adding insult to injury, not only would I never marry him, now I’d never get to watch him sing live. With this came the realisation that, whether I liked it or not, ships sometimes sail once and for all and there’s nothing that can be done about it.
I occasionally subject my children to 80s YouTube bonanzas and clearly Wham! features heavily. My 8 year old daughter has declared a 22 year-old George Michael to be “very beautiful”. My son pointed out that one of his tracks was playing at the market when we had lunch there a few days ago. I turned 45 at the end of last year and this summer was spent reconnecting with old friends and personally, learning that in fact our core selves haven’t really changed at all – just our circumstances. Our youthful spirit lives on – and, as it turns out, so does George’s.