That Awkward Age. Andrew Tuck Writing in the Monocle Weekend Edition

With characteristic wit and humor, Andrew Tuck muses on being "outed" about his age and the challenges of accepting something others hide.

OK, it’s been an open secret among my closest friends and colleagues but I have been cautious about discussing a simple personal fact in public. It’s not shame that’s prevented me saying these simple words, it’s just that I have not wanted to be defined by something that society still struggles with. But a recent interview outed me and then, at the Monocle Quality of Life Conference in Madrid last weekend, I realised that I was surrounded by some amazing, trailblazing role models. So I won’t keep it a secret anymore.

My name is Andrew Tuck and I am 55.

Oh my god, that feels better.

Let me tell you about the “outing” — that’s if you haven’t already scrolled down the Weekend Edition in age-related horror.

David Stewart runs AGEIST, which sets out to challenge stereotypes around age. He wants brands, businesses — everyone — to park their preconceptions. He runs a great website that includes interviews with people north of 50. David had a ticket for the conference (he was also a panellist last year) and asked if I would do an interview for his site. So we set up a call and talked about the history of Monocle and the challenges of running a media brand. Oh, and he asked me how old I was. I was rash. I told him.

I had somehow imagined the “55” bit would be discreetly tucked away in the copy, no more visible than a baby kangaroo in its mother’s pouch. This, it turns out, is not the AGEIST’s style and when he sent me the link to the published story, a big whacking “55” was in the headline. Less baby kangaroo, more like a fricking alien leaping out of someone’s chest to grab you by the throat (note to self: use more contemporary cultural references). I may have gasped. Tom Reynolds, our managing editor who sits opposite me, asked if I was OK. But then he has a copy of my passport so has always known the truth; at least that blackmail threat will now be gone.

It’s not that I have lied about my age in the past. Well, not too many times. It’s just that I have been sucked in by the language that everyone uses once they cross over the border of 40 and find themselves in a land they hadn’t quite packed for. So instead of having a 50th birthday, it’s a “significant” birthday. Instead of saying they are 49, people are in their forties. David Blaine couldn’t do misdirection like a closeted 40-year-old.

And I get it. We are in a world where people judge your views, fitness, attractiveness and ambition by that number (if you’re not careful). Well if that’s your game, matey, scroll on. Because like most 55-ers I know, I am still hoping to one day feel like an adult — and until then it’s just all possibility and a bathroom cabinet filled with ever more expensive moisturisers.

In Madrid I got to interview, on stage, the celebrated urbanist Jan Gehl, who spoke with passion and clarity about everything from mobility to density (and who, by the way, could have a career in stand-up). During the Q&A he was asked how come he’s so fresh and active at 82. He replied: “I think I am doing meaningful work and it’s given me enormous energy.” He’s inspiring.

Anyhow, back to me. As we all know, these revelations can have an impact on those around you so I thought I had better phone my partner and let him know about my public declaration. He had a simple response: “You’re 56.” Cue second gasp.

This was originally published July 6, 2019. Please sign up for Monocle’s fresh, insightful dispatches here. They are a daily must-read for all of the AGEIST team.

Here is Andrew Tuck’s original profile that he refers to in the piece.


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