The other day Marius and I were having a chat after he came home from work. I don't see many people during the day so he tries to amuse me with stories of his day, interesting encounters, dramas and gossip (only of the non-salacious kind). He told me about a conversation he had with one of his colleagues who is about 62 or so - about ten years older than Marius. They were discussing their relative good looks (we are not talking vanity here, they are both normal blokes, not kewpie dolls, no overtones of Barbie's Ken!) and fine state of preservation.
Ludwig said 'The thing is, I still feel like a kid. Getting out of bed in the morning I move a little slower, and when I look in the mirror shaving I wonder who the guy with the white hair is, but inside, I still feel like a kid: about 8 years old. I feel like I can do anything and go anywhere.'
Marius apparently said 'Yup, that's how I am too. Baldy with a gut on the outside, but definitely a cheeky big kid on the inside. I'm only pretending to be grown up ...'
This is not about to turn into a feminist rant, I promise you. I am always quite touched when Marius reveals something of his inner self like this. And being an introspective misery myself, I thought about what he told me. I didn't think, caustically, well that explains a lot ... I wondered about myself: do I feel like a big kid?
In some ways - in the not being very confident about the world - I do, definitely. But in the carefree, silly, irresponsible-having-a-lark way, not at all. I feel old. The reverse happens when I look in the mirror, I am shocked that I still look, er, relatively young. And then a memory came back to me, from before I started school.
I recalled a morning when I thought I'd told my mother where I was going to play (I used to call on many of the neighbours, regardless of whether they had children at home of not) when apparently I hadn't. In fact I'd gone to call on a neighbour I'd never visited before, who in some way which I wasn't clear about, was not quite one of us. Nothing nasty happened, I wasn't scarred. All I remember was that the lady had a youngish child who wasn't much fun to play with, and a sand box with a wooden cover, that was fun to play in, or helped me feel like I was playing. The childhood part was somehow laid on for me: I knew what to do in a sandbox to look like I was a child. I remember the wooden cover because I had to ask her to take it off, which was a nuisance to her, and she explained the lid was to stop the neighbourhood cats peeing in it.
I remember this morning as an example of my usual feeling of being confused and not really knowing what to do, to be a child. I was at an utter loss. I remember dressing with care - I particularly recall grey knee socks and a pleated skirt - in something like a uniform. I remember skipping home after my play visit, feeling I'd made a good effort at it, and being bewildered as I was scolded. Bewildered because I thought I had done what children were supposed to do, and somehow the AWOL scolding got confused in my mind with only pretending to behave like a child, that I had been found out.
Which is a very long-winded way to my question: is it me and some faulty part of my psyche that abandoned being a child at some very young age because it wasn't safe for me, or is it a gender thing, that females grow up in some determined way while males don't? Is it personality alone? If you have stopped feeling like a kid, when did that happen?
It does occur to me as well, that Marius is simply very lucky that his life has not scorched the child out of him, and most people have had to relinquish that kid-feeling a very long time ago.