Have you ever driven through a car wash and realised how remarkably similar it is to middle age? No? Me neither… But now that you mention it…
The only choice you have in the whole process is choosing to be there. You pay your dues and select a service, then you place the gears in Neutral and take your hands off the wheel.
The first thing you notice is the feeling of panic as your car starts moving forward with no one in control. You’ve always prided yourself on being the master of your destiny. Maybe you took the magic of youth for granted. Back then, you could stop eating potatoes for a week and lose 2 kilos. Or join a ballet class or belly dancing class, and manage to look graceful. You could pluck your eyebrows and have them grow back! The future was clear and bright, and opportunities were endless.
Now, you are moving forward and the big black rubber curtain strips are hitting your windscreen. You know they’re coming but they still take you by surprise. They are not subtle. One minute you’re still coming to terms with the fact that your car is in Neutral and the next – Bam! Darkness. That’s when things really start happening to you.
Moving forward. Skins starts loosening. Don’t touch the wheel. Hair starts greying. Stay in Neutral. Eyelids start drooping. Foot off the pedal. Double chin starts forming. Leave the brake pedal alone. Joints start aching. Moving forward. Moving forward. Not in control.
You know, when I was younger, I related differently to people. I was always ready with a cheeky comment or dirty joke. I would do many things for the sake of a dare. I’m planning to be the same when I’m old. I want to run amok in the retirement village and have people roll their eyes at my shenanigans.
For now though, I feel like I’m in a holding pattern. I can’t dress the same as a young person, or flirt in quite the same way. I’m the age of my students’ parents or, scarily, their grandparents. I’m waiting for the green arrow to tell me to drive forward into the sunshine and not to linger because there may be another car behind me. I don’t plan on lingering. I intend to dash out of that middle-age car wash, leaving behind the hair dye and eyelash curler, hurtling down the motorway with the volume up and the window down.
With my hands firmly on the wheel.