Age matters less as we get older, so why are we so obsessed with it?

Ronnie Corbett stars as Timothy Lumsden in a the hit comedy series "Sorry".
Picture taken: 1987.

Ronnie Corbett stars as Timothy Lumsden in 80s comedy series Sorry! - Credit: BBC

“But mother, I’m 43-and-a-half...”

Classic words from Timothy Lumsden, aka much-loved pint-sized actor Ronnie Corbett in the great and underrated 1980s comedy Sorry!

If you recall it, he was a hen-pecked librarian in his fourth decade, still living with his parents, who couldn’t escape the apron strings of his domineering mother, superbly played by Barbara Lott.

The series spawned the catchphrase “Language, Timothy!” which may still be used in your family today.

Good old Timothy seems to mention his age at every given opportunity in the vain hope his mother gives him a break and lets him get on with his life – I wonder how many times you’ve used your age as an excuse or a get out clause or to justify what you are up to.

I know I have.

At my bootcamp just before Christmas doing some unholy exercise involving resistance bands and my legs, I used my age as an excuse to the instructor. “Struggling with that one, must be my 45-year-old knees.”

Whether its online forms, parkrun gradings, film certificates, insurance brackets or dating profiles, we’ve been put in age categories for years and sometimes they don’t make any sense at all. Football gives us a great example of this – you can be the next George Best at 17, unfulfilled talent at 23, a veteran at 31 or a young manager at 50.

Age brackets are everywhere and, whether we like it or not, all we are hearing about is Covid vaccines and who has priority. It seems that age has never seemed more important.

My grandad, 95 in a fortnight, has had his first jab, my parents, in their early 70s, know they’ll be ahead of my auntie, 66. They probably haven’t had a reason to think about their age for years and are now being asked to form a metaphorical queue, wearing their age as a badge of honour in terms of priority.

It’s probably the first time since they were 21 that they’ve actually celebrated or benefited from being old.

I say that as I was trying to work out when we stop getting excited about getting older. If you think back to when you were a child, you probably couldn’t wait for each birthday to come around, especially if you are, like me, a younger sibling.

My brother (18 months older) did everything before me but when I started to reach ages he’d already surpassed he always claimed I wasn’t old enough. Case in point – he wanted a penknife at eight or nine and got one. When I got to the same age he told me I was too young.

But through our teens we can’t wait to get older and pass through those important ages. At 13 you can join Facebook. At 14 you can vote, at 16 you can drive a tractor, at 18 you can buy fireworks, get a tattoo or officially qualify for a Club 18-30 holiday. You can even enter the roped off bit in amusement arcades for over-18s, although I still think I’ll get stopped if I walk into those areas.

At 21 you can do anything, apart from buy alcohol if you have a young face. If you have, you’ll probably still be getting asked for ID well into your 30s.

But after 21 you can do it all and age doesn’t matter anymore. We mask ageing by calling ourselves ‘twentysomethings’ or say we’re ‘in our 30s’ whereas new parents will tell you their baby’s age in weeks and children will proudly add halves and quarters to their age in the hope of appearing that little bit older. Today, by the way,  I actually turn 45 and five sixths...

Once we get to a certain age we may or may not refer to ‘big birthdays’, but that’s about it. We may be ‘21 again’ or ‘39 plus a few’ but tend not to really celebrate our age, well, until the Covid vaccine came along.

I think, though, that  we are all secretly obsessed with it. Can I really wear a hoodie at 57? Do these trousers make me look old? Why am I still living with my parents at 35? We do all privately judge our age all the time but really we should just get on with life and aim to be as happy and healthy as possible.

Especially as there are thousands of people who can’t celebrate big birthdays at the moment. I genuinely feel sorry for all those teenagers who can’t have an honorary pint in the pub on their 18th birthday or have that first driving lesson on the day they turn 17.

And for all those who’ve turned 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80 etc in the last 10 months, your birthday plans have probably been compromised at best. 

So let’s try and forget our age for now – we’ll hopefully all have the Covid vaccine by autumn and can get on with our lives.

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Age shouldn’t be a barrier or a reason not to do something, maybe we should all just celebrate whatever age we are and be happy.

Corbett or 'Cor-bay'? Watching some old footage of Ronnie Corbett this week reminded me of a gag I heard on the radio many years ago. The DJ played a song by Sade (or course pronounced ‘Shar-day’) and pointed out that if that is how you said her name, 70s glam rockers Slade should indeed be pronounced ‘Slar-day’.

He then referred to Ronnie Corbett and asked why his name is pronounced as it is when the frozen dessert sorbet rhymes with Torbay.
I wonder if Ronnie ‘Cor-bay’ ever did go to Devon?