Our resident “old man” columnist, STEPHEN PIETRZYKOWSKI will soon (in three years) have to face the impending doom of turning dirty thirty.  With that in mind he’s settled into the arm chair with a tartan rug on his knees, ready to suck a Werthers and hand out some wrinkly advice.


“Turning 21 does little other than make you realise how you’ve achieved nothing, how time is transient and you are basically running to your grave, and that your face has put on bloaty weight since you were 17.”

Remember when you thought being 21 was the oldest age you could be? You were all “when I’m 21 I’ll have probably been married twice, have three kids, a house, my own company that makes computers (or a computer that makes companies) and a flying car.” Ancient. 21 is older than time. But guess what? 21 is not the oldest age you can be. There are more ages after that. Crazy, I know, but I’ve been there. Every day felt like Final Destination.

This might sound scary to you, but if you feel bad about leaving your teens behind, think of those of us waving goodbye to our roaring twenties, with rivulets of tears running through our emerging crows feet and pure nostalgia for the remembered 80s (because we lived through it) in our barely still beating hearts. And it doesn’t help that people keep getting younger – at the recent Platform launch party I was the oldest person by a hundred decades. And much to my dismay, not only were they younger, but they were better looking with better ideas and more talent, who were actually really, really nice (James Murphy knows what I’m talking about). Chill out, youth! And keep that passport with the 90s birth date away from me.

When you’re a teenager, life is accelerating at a million miles an hour, everything is new and brilliant and scary, and you can’t get burned because everyone is young and stupid and wild. You’re allowed to be a douche, because everyone is a douche, together, all of the time. But as soon as you hit your twenties, things start slowing down just enough so you can see the whole car crash of your future life in widescreen technicolour.

All these weird pressures start surfacing. Friends get married. Friends have children. Friends buy houses. You no longer have any idea what Hollyoaks is about or why it would interest anyone. Everywhere you’re reminded it’s time to calm down, grow up and stop going out. You are the target group for mortgage adverts. You need to be an adult, at some point, some how. And this is all framed by the lights of thirty’s oncoming train and who knows what’s the other side of that? I didn’t even know there was an after 30.

But your twenties are also awesome because you’re not a pissy teen with bad friends and a shit record collection, and you’re not so old you can’t pretend to be young. These are halcyon days and, importantly, the blueprint for the rest of your life. You have to squeeze every last drop of juice from these years, if not just to stop Logan’s Run seeming like an enticing proposition.

Here’s a rough checklist of just where you should be come your Pearl Anniversary.


This is the single most important thing that can happen to you. You need to feel like your life is ruined forever. The kind of breakup where you cut all your hair off, decide to run a marathon to ‘feel something real’ (but never do it) and sleep with someone more than once who makes you feel physically sick. You think this happens about ten times when you’re in your late teens. Wrong. This is different. It needs to feel like the last roll of the dice drew snake eyes, that love is not enough and never will be, and that Guardian Soul Mates is worth paying for. And then you come out the other side and are happy forever.


Yeah yeah, being a student was great. You learned fuck all, got in loads of debt, rarely made it out of bed in time for second Neighbours and considered a Tuesday night-in unbearable. Those days are gone. There is no longer any excuse to wear ironic T shirts (BTW, there never was). Eating a Pot Noodle out of the sink is not cooking for yourself. Having a wall made of empty beer cans and various cut-outs from FHM is not appealing to the opposite sex. Get a haircut, eat some fruit, read more books and buy a vacuum cleaner. And stop having house parties where you knock walls through to make one big room and fill the kitchen with industrial sand to replicate a beach. Mummy and Daddy’s credit cards are no longer available to cover this.


It’s the saddest sight in the whole world: Glastonbury coverage on BBC 2 and a camera positioned in a helicopter surveys fields of broken down people, wading through their own faeces with nauseating “Dunkirk spirit”. Some 800 metres from any discernible stage, there’s a couple of indeterminate old age, dancing in a pile of mud. He is white with dreadlocks, combat shorts and an ill-fitting T-shirt from the Phoenix festival 1994. She is white with rainbow dyed hair, a dress made of wizard’s clothes and male footwear. They sexlessly shift their bodies to some song no one can hear, probably by The Levellers. They are screaming inside. This is who you will be if you don’t stop taking drugs before you’re thirty.


Social interaction is built around alcohol. Go on a first date and order a cranberry juice instead of wine and you’ve cystitis. Go for drinks after work and sip J2O instead of Stella and you take yourself too seriously. We’re tyrannised by the juice and sometimes that’s great, because drinking is good for breaking down barriers and speaking with people you usually wouldn’t. And sometimes it helps with getting to put body parts inside other people’s body parts. But it’s also good for turning Sunday into the most depressing day of the week and making you wake up cringing at the pass you made at your girlfriend’s sister who has cancer. Learn that it’s ok to go out sober. Learn that it’s easier to judge whether something’s good or not when you’re not on your ninth can of Polish lager. Learn that drunken sex is way worse than sober sex. Learn from alcohol that you are happy to be who you are without it.


Let’s face it, if it wasn’t for Reality TV, none of us would know what this means. In fact, I don’t know the best way to ‘find yourself’, but I certainly know it isn’t turning up as the oldest contestant on Big Brother 36, pissing in a bin on live TV and then leaving after just three weeks because you miss your cats and everyone thought you smelled weird and wore ‘wacky’ clothes. Keep the Mirror Phase to your pre-school years, because there’s nothing worse than an old person who doesn’t know who they are. Take ten jobs in three years, go travelling (but don’t talk about it), live in a different country, experiment on your own brain, have sex with everyone you shouldn’t, come out, never say no. You do not want to be doing these things for the first time once you pass thirty. Look at poor George Michael.


Somehow I had more money as a student then when employed and it’s not just because of NUS discount. At some point during your twenties, you will be less than well off. You will be really fucking horribly poor. This will most likely be because having a degree is less useful than having worked for three years, and consequently you are expected to slave for six months in London for free in order to get the chance to get a barely paid job as a runner on some shitty costume drama for ITV3. And suddenly you have to pay for things you didn’t before – council tax, real food, washing powder. This is not necessarily a bad thing, even though it feels like hell. This is the source of all motivation to do something with your life. You must go through the Nietzsche black stuff. You must experience the Dark Night of the Soul. This is the Andrew W.K. moment when you realise at no point should you ever stop trying to do more. Poverty is a catalyst. I mean, do you really want to wear £3 Matalan shirts for the rest of your life?


Cool people are not cool. They are self-conscious pricks with connects who don’t give a shit about anyone. You are better because you like your friends, call your mum and dad at least once a week, and don’t cry yourself to sleep every night because your whole life is a hole of impersonal text messages, guestlists and half empty double beds in winter. Don’t be a Bret Easton Ellis novel, just read one instead and have an opinion that matters.


If being young is about fucking up your body, then your twenties should be about learning to love your mortal coil. You’ve probably noticed that you can no longer play football for eight hours a day like you did when you were twelve without needing a crane to get you out of bed the next day. You can barely manage half an hour, with lungs the colour of a Metallica album, a liver crushed like a Metallica bassist, and a waistline bigger than a Metallica drummer’s ego (sponsored by Rustlers). Go to the gym. Play sport. Take a spinning class. This is your last chance, because once you hit thirty, weight sticks to your hips like cum to a magazine. When I go, I want to go like Chris Penn, face down in a bowl of spaghetti. The only difference is, I want to do it when I’m eighty, not forty.


Go to a Platform launch party, be alienated by what everyone is talking about and have sex with a seventeen year old in the toilets. Go home confused. Wake up happy you’re still young enough to get away with that.