The worst delusion of advancing age is a growing conviction that you have valuable life experience. “I know a lot of shit,” you tell yourself. “Kids should listen to me. My thoughts are worth hearing.”
Which is, of course, bollocks.
To pick a random example: Marriage.
Anyone married to the same person for more than about three years knows that marriage is bloody difficult. Endless negotiation, constant compromise… it’s like brokering a non-stop, all-hours Israeli-Palestinian peace summit. One slip – a missed PTA meeting, a glance at the au pair’s tits – and you’re on the slippery slope to MacDonald’s Dad-dom. It’s relentless.
As with any tricky challenge, you inevitably pick up tips over the years. Some are marriage savers (“Forget the plumber, forget the dry cleaning, forget the upcoming Apocalypse, but don’t forget her FUCKING birthday”). Others, more subtle, are hardly less valuable (£100 worth of flowers isn’t as effective as £1.50 worth presented in a vase – no matter how cheap – which you bought specially. This will get you out of anything. Really).
You inevitably feel that this hard-won combat experience should be passed on. Trouble is, nobody who needs it (ie anyone younger than you) gives the tiniest fuck. They don’t want your brilliant tips and sage advice. a) They think you’re an old cock (they’re right), and b) they have no perspective whatsoever on the fragility and ephemerality of life. They have all the time in the world and they’re bulletproof.
The saddest bit is the clear and certain memory of being exactly the same at their age. Truly the generations are strangers unto each other.