Wednesday, April 14, 2010

having a good old moan

I hate hearing older people moaning. This is not an ageist comment because I adore old people, and most of the old people I know have a refreshing, upbeat outlook on life. But this is largely because I avoid the moany ones. It just seems acutely depressing to me that our outlook on life doesn’t get better as we get older. I cling to this idea that as I get older I will enjoy my life more because I will be wiser and more in harmony with myself. That the airy optimism we have when younger - that we will win Eurostar and then be the woman who will put manners on Russell Brand and settle down to live between homes in Paris, New York and Cong – will be gradually turned into solid rocks of realism and which will imbue me with a sense of deep acceptance. Moaning is in contravention of that. Moaning is evidence that as you get older you have more to moan about. In actual fact, that’s not true. Young people have far more to moan about than older people. They have hormonal surges, spots, no money, the media, and therefore everyone else hates them – their peers discourage them from wearing coats (boys) or tops (girls) so they are always frozen – and they don’t know how long and troublesome life is so every broken love affair or failed exam is an unmitigated disaster. While they get bored or outraged – depending on the person - but you rarely hear a young person moan about things like crowded buses or the weather. That kind of senseless giving out for the sake of it is something we do as we get older.
The thing about moaning is that you don’t hear it when you’re doing it. (Have I told you about my knees? They’re arthritic.) The hard truth is that I only know about the moaning I do when I catch myself doing it. I am as deluded about myself as the next person, which means that I am probably perpetually moaning every day, all day – and getting worse as time goes on. So that the only time I am not actually moaning is when I am being self-righteous around some other moaning person, shaming and annoying them by pointing out the ‘positive’ in being a sleep-deprived new mother/ a reluctant commuter/ a frustrated first-time home buyer – or the new epidemic in moaning - victim of an undiagnosable illness, (I have this crick in my neck, I can’t shake this virus, have I told you about my knee?) which almost always comes down to nothing except for the compulsion to moan about something. Which means that I need people to moan to me so that I can contradict them and be my “upbeat” self. In fact far from avoiding moaning people, I should be seeking them out because they make me less moany.
You see what I mean? It’s depressing.
Perhaps age then gives us the confidence to moan. The inner strength to be cantankerous, crabby old bastards without caring what other people think of us. Is that really the only thing to look forward to?
It would seem so – because undoubtedly the only thing more annoying than the moaner is the person that never moans. The perpetually sunny positive thinker. The Zen junkie who sees shafts of sunlight on a rainy day; the mother who zones out when you are all complaining about your kids – and that female anathema, the woman who cannot be drawn into moaning about her husband.
Is there a balance that can be struck? Like a Weightwatchers points system where you have to adhere to a balanced diet of positive and negative thoughts. In which case hasn’t it been a mild winter – have I told you about my knee?


  1. Speaking as an older person – older than you, anyway, m'dear – and as a moany one (I think you'll agree), I was a bit worried as I began reading this piece. But of course you redeemed yourself in the end, as you always do. Is there anything more depressing than relentlessly positive thinkers? What a pleasure it would be to give them all something to moan about. The next one I meet is in for a bad time...

  2. Learning English in Spain, I will have a final exam next week. One of the expressions that I need to know is precisely "to have a good old moan". Thanks to your blog post I have perfectly understood the meaning of this expression. I have also enjoyed your quick-paced, clear-eyed prose. Greetings. Carlos Suárez