February 11th, 2005


It's Yoko Ono's notbirthday

It's Yoko Ono's notbirthday! Happy notbirthday, Yoko Ono!

Now, let's see, when it's Yoko's notbirthday there's something else important going on, isn't there? Well, it's Chinese New Year this week, isn't it? Year of the rooster, right? (Kung hei fat choi to my Hong Kong friends!) Yes, but there's something else. Hmm, the Muslims are celebrating the sightings of the crescent moon that heralds year 1426 of the Hijri calendar. We pray to Allah to guide us and grant Maghferat (Ameen)! But no, there's something else. Can it be Japanese National Foundation Day, kenkoku kinenbi, the day in 660BC when, according to ancient myths, the Japanese nation was founded by Emperor Jimmu? And the day the Meiji Constitution was signed? Yes, it is both of those, but I'm sure there's something else.

Shit, of course! It's my fucking birthday.

I'm not going to tell you my age because it's just fucking ridiculous. Nobody is this old! Well, not me, anyway. Not until today. Bloody hell! If it's true that 65 is "the new 45" then I should be thinking about retiring. Oh, it only works one-way? You can only downsize? That's a relief. In that case, perhaps I just turned "the new 25". Just put me down as "between 25 and 65". From now on I'm just never going to mention my age at all, and hope people forget about it. When I go, they'll say "He was of indeterminate age..." They'll look at my dental records. Then they'll talk about what I did.

There are plenty of good things about getting older. What I notice is that the world keeps filling up with younger people, which presumably means there are fewer and fewer sclerotic old reactionaries to contend with. And more and more pretty girls to flirt with. (But I'm in a relationship, so I don't do that!) Also, you start feeling included in the world more. These days I'm invited to do a lot more things than I ever did when I was young. Interesting things. Be on TV. Make art projects and gallery shows. Write a book. Write a weekly column in a paper. Perform at the Venice Biennale, give a lecture in Seoul. (These are all things I've been invited to do in the last couple of months.) As you ripen into age, you find yourself on the map, known to the people you want to be known to. People of your generation come to power. People who think the same way as you do can commission you to do stuff. Hurrah!

Being young often felt like being blank, unformatted, excluded, alienated. It felt like clutching at fragments of possible selves here and there, never having the whole picture, never feeling this sense of being centred, calmly purposeful, self-secure. When you're young, frustrated desire and self-destructive impulses and self-loathing toss you hither and thither. (I like saying that. "Toss you hither and thither.") When you get older, if you're lucky, all the strands come together. Stuff makes more sense. You know how you feel about things. You have a set of hard-won values and you can argue for them. You feel like a finished painting, a completed identity. You know who you are, and other people know who you are. It feels pretty good. That security (and it's not, in my case, anything to do with financial security) gives you the confidence to pursue its opposite. You can disorient yourself, travel, play and experiment with more confidence. You know that, whatever happens, you won't lose yourself. Ask Yoko Ono.

The bard of punk, John Lydon, laid out the Four Stages of Man in his song Public Image: "My entrance, my own creation, my grand finale, my goodbye!" I guess I'm still at the "my own creation" part. I'm trying to stave off the grand finale as long as possible.