Aging and quirkiness are like Siamese twins and can seldom be separated. This is why as you grow older you will inadvertently acquire a good dose of crankiness and a bucketful of eccentricities that the young (and cruel) will snicker about behind your back.
One particularly painful characteristic (quirk sounds a little patronising which is the last thing we, the aging, will tolerate) is the growing lack of patience one has for 'nonsense'. You may be walking, talking and thinking in slow motion yourself, but you just can't stand it when the tea comes a few minutes late and that too tepid and uninspiring , when you can't tear off that darn plastic seal from the water bottle, when the waiter speaks some hybrid version of the English language to explain how delicious the fish-chicken-egg fusion item is but no sorry Saar/'Mam' there is no coffee because the machine is broken and worse of all, when the cocky sales person 'advises' you on which garment to buy because it is the hottest selling item (everybody is buying it, another off putting phrase).
Perhaps it's because we feel we have too little time left hence the let's-get-on-with-it-shall-we that makes it mandatory to have subtitles for films in languages we know – although it is rather irritating when you practically miss most of the visuals while diligently reading.
The tendency to talk more and listen less (not at all if possible) is yet another curious trait that accentuates as one ages. You want everyone to know the details of your crazy, convoluted dream – even while you pause to figure out whether it was a porcupine or a hedgehog that was trying to attack you as you were retrieving your documents from the secret cave in the garden. But when someone pipes in to relate his near death experience in the Sundarbans involving a rare wild cat species you either zone out or talk about your own near-death experience while eating a spring roll.
Forgetfulness of course, will be exponentially multiplied as you age. If you suffered from short term amnesia since childhood, especially at exam times, be sure that you will be a regular Rip Van Winkle by the time you hit your 40s and 50s. At parties you will confidently address people by the wrong name hence the entire conversation will be a dialogue of cryptic phrases until of course, the horror of realisation will dawn upon you and you will quickly scuttle away. At this stage of your life it is wise not to even bother trying to remember names of children of your friends and relatives – just be bold and ask them – they expect you to not remember.
That is the beauty of aging. You are now in a position of being able to finally speak your mind without any shame whatsoever. You feel entitled to express your opinion – about everything and anything. You will advise till the recipients of these words of wisdom will cower with dread but who cares – you have tons of experience so they jolly well better listen. If you notice people avoiding eye contact or hiding in the corner as you pass, you have probably overdone the imparting of the pearls of knowledge and it is time to look for other unwitting victims.
The biggest drawback about aging however is that while your body has fully embraced it and is busy making the necessary compromises and protests, your brain just refuses to let go of those 'groovy' times when you had too much hair and an 18 inch waist. You immerse yourself in denial and all kinds of products and procedures that promise to 'defy' aging, 'bring out the hidden youthfulness of your skin', take off pounds of cellulite to look like a young thing again or give you back the lustrous tresses of your youth. It is a little frightening the lengths to which women and men will go to look younger. Apart from hair implants and toupees that often get dislocated and land on the laps of strangers, the age deniers think that wearing bright (read garish) coloured clothes and makeup will hide the sagging skin, double chin and standard belly fat that keep up as you acquire more years. But the real quirkiness starts when you decide you will take up 'youthful activities' without going through the pain of getting physically fit. At an age when any sudden movement could result in muscle pull or bone breakage, some of us decide we can will ourselves to be youthful and take on unnecessary, deadly challenges such as dancing like a maniac all night with twenty-somethings at a New Year's party.
The good news is that while aging can bring out the grouch in you for most of your wakeful hours, there is something to look forward to. After you have crossed middle-age which is the puberty of old age and hence traumatic, hormonally chaotic and crisis-ridden, you will reach the stage when there is no need to hide your age anymore. Birthdays will no longer be an occasion of dread and depression. Younger people will treat you like a piece of papyrus which can disintegrate with the slightest pressure. In fact you will be proudly announcing your age to all and sundry. As for quirks like being repetitive, forgetful and cranky – you are now officially entitled to have them without any guilt or shame. What's more, most of the time you will be blissfully unaware of them since you have now acquired diplomatic immunity that prevents people from openly declaring what an insufferable old bat you have become.
The writer is Deputy Editor, Editorial and Opinion, The Daily Star.