I've spent much of the past month in Australia, taking a holiday, dabbling in some work and doing some thinking. While Moses climbed Mount Sinai waiting for God's intervention, I sat on a boat in the Whitsunday Islands, seeking similar inspiration. It was a time for reflection, brought upon by the horrifying realization that in two months' time I will turn 30.
Forget 40 and all that talk of mid-life crises-in the modern world, 30 is the most significant milestone. The psychological impact is huge. Throughout your 20s, you're allowed to make mistakes. Professional cock-ups can be put down to 'inexperience,' while social faux pas are a result of 'youthful over-exuberance.' Almost anything can be justified as 'a useful lesson in life.' But at 30 all that changes. The man who has for a decade been described as 'up and coming' must now find a way to ejaculate without it appearing premature. How horrible it would be to progress from being 'up and coming' to a has-been, without ever having 'come.' At 30, you're supposed to make your move.
Dressing is a nightmare. At 20, I was happy to wear ripped jeans, sneakers and a t-shirt, implying, somewhat absurdly, that I was good in bed. But that was in the days when girls weren't married and when I had a six-pack. Today, all my female friends have trotted merrily down the aisle and the only six-pack I possess is chilling in the fridge. Wearing chinos and a polo shirt is no solution. At best, I'd look like my dad and at worst I'd look like one of those American fraternity types who call everybody 'bro' and can't cross the road without a high-five. 'Sports casual' is a ghastly expression made up by those who have given up on life.
I have a long-term girlfriend, which is something of a relief. At 30, the odds on finding a suitable mate are distressingly slim. If there are 10 girls at a given party, then six will be married, two will be in a 'long-termer' and two will be single. There's a 50 percent chance that I will find one of the single girls attractive and about a one in 20 chance that the feeling will be mutual. Crunch the numbers and you'll discover that a 30-year-old has a one in 200 chance of pulling at a party, which is appalling. At least when you're 40, there'll be a sprinkling of desperate divorcees.
Some argue that such concerns are more than compensated for by an increase in wisdom and respect. If I walk into a designer clothing store today, the assistants wonder what I might buy, instead of what I might steal. Insurance companies now regard me as an acceptable risk. Their lower premiums tacitly acknowledge that I have left my wild days behind, that I'm now unlikely to crash a Ferrari at 2 a.m., while trying to a unfasten a bra strap, while drunk. I have matured. Trouble is, it's utter nonsense. I might have grey flecks of hair and moobs (man boobs), but I'm now more hedonistic than ever. My mindset hasn't changed a jot. I still find 18-year-old girls attractive, I still like beer and curry and I still like crawling into bed at 3 a.m. In my head, I am still the fresh-faced student who vomited into his trash can while listening to Phil Collins.
Sitting on my boat, I came to the following understanding. From the age of five, a young male pretends that he is older than he actually is. This dictum holds true until he reaches 22, at which point he ceases to age. Mentally, he will never feel his true age.
The implications of all of this for car manufacturers are huge. There's no point designing cars for old people if none of us are old. This is the mistake BMW made when it designed the Rover 75 and it's the mistake Jaguar has been making for three decades. The current generation S-Type and XJ look like they were designed for 60-year-old men who have given up on life. They are as much a symbol of the onset of old age as yellow teeth or the faint whiff of urine. A Mercedes S-Class says: "I can still do it" while an XJ says: "I may have once done it, but I don't care to remember." Little wonder Jag's recent sales have been a sick joke.
Thankfully, the company seems to have gotten the message. The C-XF concept car, unveiled to high acclaim at the Detroit show, is a radical reinterpretation of Jaguar themes and bodes well for the new XF, the S-Type's replacement. It is forward thinking, sporting and undeniably youthful.
The XF will be bought predominantly by men over 40, but it was designed by men in their 20s, under the guidance of a young-at-heart 52-year-old design director (Ian Callum). It is designed for the sort of person the customers believe themselves to be.
In other words, it should be my kind of car.