Middle-age another milestone to mortality

21:21, Sep 10 2013
Elle Macpherson
AGE SHALL NOT WEARY HER: Elle Macpherson, on the cusp of 50, seems immune to the ageing process.

There are myriad signs that let you know you have reached middle-age.

There's the obvious, "Good lord, Constable, does mummy know you're out this late?" Or more subtle indicators, like developing a penchant for reading biographies.

We do this, I suspect, hoping to find comfort in comparing another person's journey to our own: "You were 50 and still messing up your romantic relationships? Fool!" Or noting how much they achieved after they had passed your particular milestone: "An Oscar at 80? There's still time!"

There are also less subtle indicators, like when someone your age goes missing and two days later the newspaper reports that "the body of the middle-aged woman was found near a river".

You note with some regret that you are now too old to be a romantically tragic police report.

There is a point, then, when we begin to consider our own mortality. Vanity Fair magazine spent four days in July ringing Americans to do just that and, ahead of publication, has given a heads-up on some of the random thoughts of their random respondents.


Most men, it appears, would prefer to die before their spouse, while more than half the women felt the opposite way. It's nice everyone agrees on who should go first, but interesting to ponder why men are so averse to being left alone. No doubt, it's about women being the social conduits in many relationships - the small talk, the event planning, the sausage rolls.

And it fits with other recent data suggesting men much prefer couple-hood, while women are more sang froid about managing on their own.

But it makes me feel quite huggy towards men that their first choice is to spend the whole of life's journey strolling two-by-two.

More than half of those polled said they'd be willing to die for their children.

In terms of "things to die for" there's a massive drop-off after that - just a handful would make the supreme sacrifice for a spouse, a smaller fistful for parents or beliefs, and just a smidge would give all for their country.

I like it that the primal drive to protect our offspring with our lives has survived centuries of religious war, fervent nationalism and rampant individualism.

Asked to name the dead celebrity they would most like to have back, a decent chunk of respondents named Princess Diana. Americans adore royals who aren't by blood - it gives them a kind of vicarious hope, like knowing George Clooney is single.

I would have plumped instead for the Dorothy Parker who spent a good deal of her life engaged in a complex dance with her own attitudes to mortality.

As Parker once wrote:

Razors pain you,

Rivers are damp,

Acids stain you,

And drugs cause cramp.

Guns aren't lawful,

Nooses give,

Gas smells awful.

You might as well live.

How do you feel about getting older?

The Press