Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Shelf life and Sell-by-dates

My Dad would say that's OK!
People can be split into two categories; those who throw milk away as soon as it smells weird and those who cut off the wiggly sprouts from potatoes and reckon "that ham has a few days left in it yet!"

What does that say about your personality; does a dare devil of gastric health generally take more risks or is the cautious milk drinker more likely to make safer life choices? 
And do we need to listen to such guidelines at all?

It is not just food that is given a time limit, in certain professions people are given an estimated shelf-life with a metaphorical date stamped on your forehead advising when you’re likely to be “going off!”  For the majority of workers the retirement age is approximately 65 although the Government keeps 'eeking' that up as a result of various pension changes or European laws.  It is the age when you are due a well-earned break from the state and encouraged to enjoy your twilight years on a cruise ship or when you are no longer able to perform your responsibilities as expected.

Footballers, ballet dancers and athletes are “old” or past their peak in their 30s mainly because their bodies have endured such demands and performed at a high standard over an intense period of time.  This can result in severe arthritis, joint conditions and muscular pain which means it is no longer possible to work at such a level .
Congratulations Serena!

Seeing two 30 year old tennis players become champions of Wimbledon last weekend prompted me to think about shelf-lives; their ages were cited as reasons for likely failure despite proven successes or current ability.  But they did achieve it and my 30 year old self cheered whole-heartedly in support of Serena Williams’ and Roger Federer’s talent defying their creaky joints, (despite willing Murray to succeed.)

There is a big black hole in theatreland where women in their late 20s and early 30s can disappear from musical theatre.  Only a few, or the very famous, can persevere and reappear through the other side as a character actress in middle-age.  It is that time when you can’t get away with the juvenile leads anymore but don’t quite look old enough yet to play the Mum. 

I am mortified to share this with the world
 but here I am as a 10 year old boy (aged 28!)
I am currently hurtling towards the black hole, despite pulling off a convincing portrayal of Gavroche in Les Miserables only two years ago (no mascara and bushy eyebrows was the key!)
Singing ability aside, my lofty heights of 5’ 1” wipe out any chance of playing Truly Scrumptious in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang or Nancy in Oliver! because on stage you wouldn’t be able to distinguish me from the children (they’re all so tall nowadays!) 
The same goes for my make-up less face that is often asked for ID when trying to buy Pinotage in Tescos, but put up against real 16 year olds in a High School Musical audition and I suddenly resemble Mick Jagger or a wrinkly prune! 

Age inspires so many stigmas and cliches; Life begins at 40, your 40s are the new 30s, being childless, single and 30 and how many actresses do read about who say “I really know who I am now I am 42, I feel better than ever!” despite sporting a trout pout and sad eyes!  It is all just opinion and a state of mind.

Sometimes it can be “mind over matter” or “you are only as old as you feel” but other times your body does let you down in-spite of your mental age.  I have found doing Avenue Q exhausting; blaming the tour schedule and driving as causes of my fatigue but a light-hearted comment from my boyfriend nailed it “Well you are getting on a bit aren’t you?”  After a tantrum over such insults, he might as well have said “Yes my bum does look big,” I realised there is an element of truth in it; especially as I am currently typing with an acute back spasm as my body crumples against the physical demands of the show.

Casting Directors may see 31 Jan 2013 stamped on my forehead and I may be reaching my sell-by-date in terms of musical theatre but it doesn’t mean I cannot emerge after hibernation as a butterfly in some other career!
So maybe we should give certain sports people or actors a chance even though they may be sprouting wiggly bits or no longer the firmest plum in the fruit bowl; people evolve and can achieve new greatness despite being long in the tooth.  Whether it is finding love at 40, captaining the GB Olympic Football team like 38 year old Ryan Giggs or completing marathons at 100 like Fanja Singh.
After all, didn’t Fleming discover Penicillin in a petri dish that was growing mould....?

1 comment:

  1. Oh, I can so identify with the aches and pains, but then again, I do have considerably more years than you under my belt, at least, that's what my trousers often tell me !!!! Great article. xxxx