People always say that you become more conservative as you get older; how youthful idealism calcifies into right wing insularity, paired with a penchant for golf jumpers, starting sentences with ‘back in my day’, and a suspicion of foreigners.
Bearing this in mind — would I wake up one morning with a wrinkly neck and an irrational preoccupation with immigration? — it seemed a good idea to get stuck in before middle age ate my ethics.
But here I am, with a neck now made of crepe paper — Nora Ephron wrote a book about this, I Feel Bad About My Neck — as my friends and I discuss, with a worrying lack of irony, the benefits of floaty scarves versus polo necks — yet there still hasn’t been an internal lurch to the right. I’m still waiting. It’s not like it’s a myth, either. I know former Marxists who grew into staunch capitalists, and one absolute gobshite who got rich in America and now votes Trump.
So you can understand my concern. If my neck can betray me overnight, so can my thinking. Yet the opposite has happened. Maybe it’s the fiery rage of menopause, maybe it’s having more freedom, now that mummying is no longer a 24/7 occupation, but instead of curling up with a copy of Good Housekeeping and an iced bun, I have been getting involved; rolling up my sleeves, turning up, getting stuck in.
Now that my neck has officially collapsed, getting involved is the only sensible option, and will, hopefully, prevent my future transformation into some kind of nimby-assed reactionary that signs online petitions about banning the metric system and imprisoning the poor. Sitting indoors, ruminating about how the handcart to hell has already departed — with all of us in it — is futile. Worrying — while lurching to the right — never made anything better.
By getting involved — volunteering with stuff you feel strongly about, joining grassroots political movements, making sandwiches for hungry people, anything — you feel less powerless. Which feels really, really good. As the world continues to be dominated by psychopaths, you can go to bed knowing that, via your micro-actions, you have distanced yourself from the all-consuming madness.
And you’ll probably find yourself weeping with respect for young people, and the way they are rallying in the face of global catastrophe, so that instead of banging on about ‘back in my day’, you’ll be cheering them on from the sidelines of school climate strikes, while baking them vegan cupcakes. Because the great thing about getting involved is that the more you do, the more you do. It snowballs.
And being part of various, multi-generational not-for-profit movements, you forget to give a fuck about your neck.