There’s been a lot of talk in the so-called media recently about standing up for pregnant women. Not so much in the figurative, let’s-go-on-a-march-in-support-of-pregnant-women, sort of way (“What do we want?” “A realistic portrayal of pregnancy in the so-called media! Also: a good night’s sleep, especially in the third trimester.”) but in the literal sense. Literally standing up for pregnant women. So that they can sit down in the seat we were hitherto occupying.
I can sympathise with their plight. Not pregnancy – that’s not so much a plight as a blessing/condition, plus I’ve never been pregnant (ah, ‘Never Been Pregnant’: the sequel to Drew Barrymore’s charming romantic comedy ‘Never Been Kissed’! Still unsure as to why that never got greenlit; a journalist going undercover at an ante-natal group is surely COMEDY GOLD. Note to self: write this screenplay).
No, I sympathise because I, too, would like people to give their seats up for me. Because I am over 40. Which is, quite possibly, a plight.
Is this ageist? No. For it is simply a fact of life that, at this age, my knees aren’t what they were (nor are my legs, to be honest, but that’s more a vanity issue). Is it sexist? Again, no. Because I can guarantee that most men over the age of 40 would prefer to be sitting down, too. Louis CK, in fact, has a routine about this. His desire to always be seated is so strong that, given the choice between sitting down and having sex standing up, he would choose sitting down. (And to clarify the headline of this blog post: I mean that I would always prefer to be sitting down than standing up. I wouldn’t necessarily prefer to be sitting down than lying down. Especially if that lying down involves sex. Sex standing up, however? I’m with Louis.)
I am now, for example, secretly happy when I log on to book tickets for a gig and all the standing tickets have sold out, thus forcing me to buy seated ones. Like a hunting animal in a David Attenborough documentary or Dustin Hoffman looking at a box of spilled matches in ‘Rain Man’, I have a speed-of-light ability to zoom in on the free seat/s available on a train (a skill honed by years of commuting on overland trains into central London). And I feel a tiny twinge of pain any time I suggest to my boyfriend – who, importantly for the sake of this anecdote, is 13 years younger than me – that we sit down on the Tube and he says: “We can stand, it’s only a few stops.” IT’S NOT ‘ONLY A FEW STOPS’ WHEN YOU’RE OVER 40. It’s the difference between life and… a not-quite-as-comfortable life (ah, ‘It’s A Not-Quite-As-Comfortable Life’! The sequel to…). And if there’s just one seat free in said Tube carriage, my boyfriend will always insist that I have it – partly because he’s a very selfless person, and partly because he understands the needs of his lazy, over-40 girlfriend. And while I hate to not be standing next to him and thus able to easily talk to him, this hate, I must admit, is more than made up for by the joy brought on by THE MERE ACT OF SITTING DOWN. Plus the fact that I now have his crotch at eye-level. Silver linings.
Of course, there are times when I stand. As I say, I have commuted into central London for years now – ninety per cent of the time, I have no choice but to stand. Also, I have a desk job, so there are times that I appreciate that I should stand – that indeed it is preferable to stand – because I’m sitting on my 40-something arse for 40-something hours a week. In fact, as a result of being fed up of sitting on said arse for so long (you can have too much of a good thing) I have been known on occasion to want to stand. But there’s still a difference between wanting something and preferring it. I want a nice two-bedroom house in Brockley, for example, but I’d prefer a three-bedroom one.
All this said: no matter how much I weep with joy at the bagging of a vacant Tube seat, like the last eight-year-old left standing/sitting, at the end of a particularly hard-fought game of musical chairs, I would, of course, give up my seat for a pregnant woman, or an elderly person. I’m not a monster, you know. I’m just over 40.