For every generation there’s a marker that officially means you are getting old. Not old-old, but… established. Seasoned. The moment you realise certain avenues are probably now closed off to you forever.
Traditionally it was when the policeman started looking young; my mother claims for her it was Blue Peter presenters. In the Middle Ages it was probably the man who pulled the corpse cart. I, meanwhile, have just realised that if I were to enter the next series of The X Factor, I would be in the ‘Over 25’ category.
I hadn’t planned on entering the next series of X Factor, obviously, but now all I can think about is how, if a freak accident left me with a miraculous or at least passable singing voice and completely removed the part of my brain that feels shame, I’d be doing it alongside the olds and the weirdoes.
I would be a Steve Brookstein. A Christopher Maloney. They’d put me in a jazzy blazer and make me sway on a podium while the young’uns did cartwheels in hotpants. I wouldn’t even get the regional vote - we’re not like Ireland or Newcastle; nobody from Sussex has ever voted for someone on the strength of them also being from Sussex.
Of course, anywhere outside of X Factor, professional football, baby ballroom and the Daily Mail’s acceptable “phwoar” limit, over 25 is not old at all. It’s sprightly. I still only use the second cheapest Boots under-eye cream. But in the bizzaro world of commercial pop (a world where Robin Thicke is allowed to put on Misogyny: The Musical for three minutes of family entertainment, it’s worth noting), I am now basically Methuselah.
My best friend turned 26 this week - and so we did some friendship maths.
“We’ve been friends for 18 years.”
“No we haven’t, you didn’t like me in middle school.”
“Ok, we’ve known each other for 18 years.”
“Our acquaintanceship covers three decades. When we met, John Major was still Prime Minister.”
“Our acquaintanceship is old enough to vote!”
“We could have an adult child by now! No… no wait, that doesn’t work.”
However you look at it, it’s a long time. Together we have been through four stages of education, three different cities, many jobs, many flats and at least eight dubious haircuts.
It’s comforting to know, then, that if I do find myself in a freak voice-enhancing, shame-deadening accident and want to go on X Factor, I could just take her with me and enter in the groups category instead.