TALKING to someone in their forties? Want to avoid them breaking down crying from the sheer weight of their age? Steer clear of these remarks:
‘That was twenty years ago’
People in their forties know that the 90s is now considered ‘the past’ but still believe the 00s are ‘the present’ and that nothing of note has happened since. Reminding them that The Return of the King is old enough to vote will shake the delusions and shock them into realising what they have become. So don’t.
‘Soon be retired!’
This is galling in multiple ways. Firstly, it’s an unnecessary reminder of the passage of time and the 40-something’s position in its relentless flow. Secondly, it’s still two decades away. Third, as the middle-aged approach retirement age it will continue going upwards and remain unreachable. They will retire directly to the grave.
‘You’re at the halfway point’
Nobody likes to contemplate death. Not least those statistically halfway through life with little to show for it. You can’t even back out of this one when the fortysomething begins to weep. What are you going to do, point out that maybe they’ll get hit by a bus tomorrow?
‘Do you remember shillings?’
It doesn’t have to be shillings. It could be seeing the Beatles live or watching the moon landing as it happened. Basically anything that happened long before they were born but they’re now indistinguishably old enough to be lumped in with. You might as well ask them if they remember the ice age or Pangaea.
‘That was a bit before my time’
When an elder in their 40s makes a joke referencing culture of their generation, don’t say ‘Eh?’ Doing so will send them into a tailspin of despondency from which there is no return. Laugh along instead and Google ‘what is the truffle shuffle’ while they’re gazing mistily into the middle distance, remembering when they were young and mattered.