Betwixt and Between

Submitted by Deborah Mercer to Contest #4 in response to: Write a story based on the song title: "My Generation"... view prompt

 I don’t give a flying you know what about labels and demographics ( handy word – learnt it from an Open University Course in Politics, even though I never finished it – well, not yet) and all that jazz. Honestly. 

    Okay, maybe I protest too much! Of course I don’t want to be stereotyped but I still wish I had something more concrete to complain about – and it’s quite liberating that the tutor in my course in Creative Writing said it’s absolutely fine to end a sentence with a preposition.  Me and my courses! Given my day-job is teaching you’d think I had enough of them. I’m too young to be a baby boomer, though I suppose I might slip into the latter end of it. Given both my finances and my posture I’d be more of a baby slumper

    But I’m too old to do anything more than smuggle myself into the birth pangs of Generation X. That always sounds like a bad Sci-Fi movie anyway.

    I find myself saying “young people nowadays” and I can remember when phone directories were thicker than Argos catalogues. I think food additives are much maligned and though my Mum was a good cook, still have very happy memories of my brother and me being left to our own devices for a midweek supper and him being King of the Vesta Curry and me being Queen of the butterscotch flavoured Angel Delight. I’ve never quite seen why folk cough up for torn jeans when they could do it perfectly well themselves if they really wanted to, and I’m sorry, but the only part of the anatomy made to be pierced is the ear. Okay, I might push it to the nose. But not mine.

    I can remember life before the internet (well, fair enough, it was invented in 1969, but you know what I mean!) and the mobile phone (and was quite disappointed to discover it’s an urban myth perpetrated by quiz shows that the comedian Ernie Wise was the first to use one) and reckon I could manage perfectly well without. But I’m glad I don’t have to!

    I can still recall twiddling dials on radios with names like Hilversum and Athlone on them. Yes, the relevant radio was passed down in the family, but it wasn’t regarded as some eccentric antique.

    Though I’m not one of those reborn vinyl aficionados I still prefer my music to come with in kind of solid form. But I can see why it irritates my nephew Carl, a child who has already, at the age of ten, perfected tactful imperiousness and the subtle eye-roll to a fine art, that I have never, so to speak, spottified in my life, and have no urge to start. 

    There are terms I would never use, and would (well, at least on one of my virtue-signalling days!) call other people out for using, and yet I know grandparents and great aunts and uncles I loved and who were decent people used unthinkingly and without malice.

    I’m all for electric cars (not that I can afford one) and have no truck (pun unintended, but it can stay!) with the Guardians of the Gas Guzzlers but there’s still a sneaky little voice reminding me that somehow we managed to survive and the planet not to shrivel when nobody was much bothered about such matters, and the first person on our street to even go unleaded was regarded as a bit of a well-meaning oddball. 

    Now I’m aware this may all make me sound just conflicted (okay, wishy-washy!) and has nothing to do with my generation. And I’ve known Baby-Boomers or even pre-Baby Boomers who are more forward thinking and tolerant than a fair number of Millennials (at least I suppose I don’t have to worry about whether I fit into THAT category. I could be a Milliennial’s grandma. Oh God!). I tell myself I mind being asked my age on matters that where it’s entirely irrelevant is just a matter of principle and not because it’s a touchy subject.

    Perhaps I should just resign myself to being a silly mixed-up middle-aged woman. After all, the younger Baby Boomers and the older Generation X-ers could be called middle-aged. And that remarkable French lady who lived to be 120 was middle-aged in her 70s.

    Numbers, Shnumbers! Which is the kind of thing few ever say in real life. 

    My hair is not yet grey, but it is duller than it was, and I am conscious, if not daily, certainly several days a week, of the risk of roots growing out, entailing a careful inspection in a magnifying mirror. But I don’t need glasses yet. Poundland reading glasses don’t count, do they? I am acutely aware of the telltale line of no-man’s land between the auburn aura as they call it on the packet and that is close(ish) to my natural colour and to my scalp. I ought to take one of those supplements that promote natural hair growth.

     I take interest in seed catalogues even though I don’t currently have a garden and am already, playing the long game, wondering if Equity Release would be a good idea or not. I am intensely irritated by endless TV ads for funeral plans, or, in my darker moments, could live without the memento mori , but have already involuntarily got the names of the main providers into my mind, though I have determinedly held out against Googling them.

    Well, that’s me. Rowena Mathers, spinster of this parish, though I hate the word spinster (and yet have my moments when I feel compelled to defend it) and am not especially religious (though I only put up a token protest about being roped into the committee of the Save the Spire fund). 

    Miss Jean Brodie might have said she was “in my prime” but although I like the book, I’ve always found her tedious and never quite grasped why the girls were so besotted with her. Still, the notion isn’t displeasing. 

    Prime is one of those words that, as a crossword junkie, I know has layers of meaning. Prime numbers spring to mind, though I was never much good at maths. The cantankerous numbers, the ones that won’t be divided by anything (okay, except themselves or one and that doesn’t count!). Apparently they loom large in all kinds of biological and scientific contexts and are quite miraculous things, but I still think about that nature programme I saw about cicadas that only appear every seventeen years, exactly (which is fascinating) but seem to be born only to be eaten (which is hardly enviable). My current age is, for what it may prove, a prime number, but I see no especial reason to note it down. After all, it will no longer apply next year.

    Anyway I’ve made a mid-year resolution, even though I’ve never gone in for New Year ones that I’m going to stop fixating on this whole business.

    No, age isn’t only a number. Biology exists no matter how much we try to blank it out. But we don’t have to have our lives entirely dictated by it. That came suspiciously close to being one of those “affirmations” that drive me to screaming point. But it’s a fact that my neighbour Pam, who is in her 80s, has more energy than a lot of people – er, well, my age – and has recently bought a motorbike at the age more people are thinking about mobility scooters, and as I’ve already suggested, Carl, despite his disdain for my lack of technological skills, is 10 going on 40. And both of them are great people – who don’t half get on my nerves at times! 

    Anyway there’s a new science teacher at the school where I teach Modern Languages. Mr Donovan to the children, whose nickname is, with a certain inevitability, Jason, though his real first name is Andrew. Andy to his friends. He’s quite shy at first (though not with the children – even the least scientific ones are impressed and apparently one of them once told him he was as good as that Brian Cox on telly, though he blushed in a charming, strangely masculine way, and said that was silly talk, of course).  But his ice is easy to break and I’ve always maintained that when men get going they can out-talk women any day, though to be fair he’s also a good listener. 

    He’s what we’ve decided to call a Boomer X too, though, to get back to biology, it sounds a bit like a hitherto undiscovered species of kangaroo. Talking of kangaroos (a laboured link if ever there was one!) we both like nature programmes, and tennis (though strictly as spectators/viewers) and hot chocolate and thunderstorms and country music.

    Oh, and we also like each other. Rather a lot, at the risk of sounding like one of those grating ads for online dating where people shot in slightly fuzzy focus hug their knees and say it’s the best thing they’ve ever done. Good for them.

   But I don’t think we’ll be in need of dating apps any time soon!

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