I am painfully middle aged. If I’m lucky. This means I must live till 76 which considering I already look like someone has scribbled Alan Sugar’s face on a scrotum is perhaps unlikely. However, despite this facial grizzling and other symptoms of middle age – inexplicable ear-hair, escalated hangovers, inability to follow Hollyoaks – I wouldn’t trade these for the opportunity to return to teenage, a la 13 Going on 30. Whilst ‘in my day’ it was possible to sneak through these awkward, at times embarrassing years in relatively undocumented anonymity, this privilege has been deemed illegal within our celeb-governed dystopian present. When not subject to panoptic gawping by parents (who summarily become the subject of our gawping) whilst trying to tipsily cop-off on holiday in Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents, teens are being goaded to prod their penises via webcam in Embarrassing Bodies or discuss oral sex with their peers without giggling on the The Sex Education Show.
If this was not enough, Darth Vader-haired Natasha Kaplinsky is now forcing them to prove their self worth by mentoring C-list celebrities into mimicking their talents, chimp like, before a sedated panel (AGA salesman Alex James, pseudo-Cowell Jason Gardiner, repentant ladette Denise Van Outen) and grinning family members in Born To Shine. (Long-suffering Eamon Holmes spouse Ruth Langford’s obliviously out-of-time drumming in panto rock-chick attire was a particular low point this week). I realise that some of the proceeds of this show go to charity, but would it not be enough to acknowledge a teenage clarinetist’s talents in the first person, without her having to teach Sid Owen to fart out a substandard version of ‘Stranger on the Shore’ to the faux-admiration of other ex-Eastenders. It is within this banal future where success is measured within the narrow field of celebrity culture that the Space Shuttle adventure ground to a halt with scant disappointment, except from the 30 something generation like me who grew up in the 70s. I’m aware that I sound like a grumpy old man, but it makes me long for the days when teens could worry about their testicles and practice their transient pastimes in peace.