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Acting my age

india Updated: Feb 06, 2009 18:54 IST
Arif Zakaria
Arif Zakaria
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

The next time I’m asked to act my age, I’m going to freak out. This line is like an abuse hurled at us when we perform an unnatural or surprising act.

No one is spared this admonishment, be it a teenager, a middle-aged citizen or a doddering old man who’s sniffing death.

Recently, I was told to ‘Act my age’. I know what compelled this. I had indulged in a frivolous act, unbecoming of my nature and something that I was not supposed to do.

Not that I topped my salad with shaving foam masquerading as mayonnaise, but I tried to stop a fast whirling ceiling fan with my finger tips, an act I had mastered during my college days, having spent a lot of time in the boys common room with low ceiling fans.

False garb
On showing off this unique skill, my ebullient young niece, Maleeha, promptly exclaimed, “Could you please stop this and act your age!” How do I act my age? Will someone enlighten me?

Or to throw the question open to a wider audience — how are we supposed to act our age? Is there an ancient scroll that defines human behaviour and action at a particular age? Is there a written script to be followed to the T, whereby you act your age? Which of our actions is always according to our age?

I find the ‘act’ ambiguous. When the word ‘act’ is used, it implies putting on a false garb to convince people, using any device to make the untruth look truthful, ask any actor worth his salt about this.

So, does it mean that we, otherwise in our normal lives, lead incorrect lives, and when commanded to act our age put on a garb and only then become real?

One-line scoff
I understand that every age comes with a presumed behaviour pattern. A 10 year old who asks many questions and lacks the customary prudishness, is chided, “Please act your age.”

Likewise, a carefree 30-year-old bumming around without a care in the world is ‘not acting his age’.

A 40-year-old wearing a tight T-shirt and butt-hugging jeans needs ‘to dress his age’. Why, even a 65-year-old man with a roving eye and a plethora of non- vegetarian jokes, is told, “Please consider your age.”

It goes on, this one-line scoff. Any activity undertaken, which is seemingly unconventional and adventurous, with slight surprise value is immediately countered with, “Please act your age.”

That’s me
But why should I act my age? My actions and responses are a cumulative offshoot of my thinking process, my sense of fun, my experiences and my general outlook towards life. It has nothing to do with my actual age.

Call me immature or under-evolved perhaps.. ask me to grow up even, but rest assured I’ll always be ‘me’, with my quirks, inconsistencies and a few positive points — just me — not ‘acting’ my age!

Besides, we all know, what has age got to do with anything? Didn’t a 90-year-old man run in the recent Mumbai Marathon? By the way, indeed it is easy to stop a whirling fan. Curl your fingers gently to touch the whirling blades and the motion slows down. Try it!