There’s a line at the end of the lyrics of the Ann Miller and Stephen Sondheim song, “I’m Still Here”, which goes – at least I was there. And that’s exactly how I felt at a party in Covent Garden for my good friend Simon, who turned sixty last week.
Age, they say, is just a number. I have absolutely no hang ups about getting older. I apply face cream with hopeful gusto and suck in my stomach whenever I look sideways in a mirror. In my opinion birthdays are for celebrating, especially ones with a big fat zero at the end of them. However, after a few glasses of Champagne on Sunday night there were moments of, not so quiet, reflection.
“What, if anything, do you wish you could say to your teenage self?” asked Simon.
It took a lot of effort on my part to try to remember what it was like to be a teenager. It seemed such a long time ago. I had a hazy recollection of strange haircuts, even more questionable fashion, and, perhaps more importantly, no internet gay porn. I guess we were more improvisational in those days. I tried to think of something profound to say.
“You know I remember you had great hair and a terrific sense of fashion,” said Simon. “We were all envious of you.” I wondered if he was confusing me with someone else more fabulous who was also called Jean-Paul.
“You know, Jean-Paul,” said Simon emptying another glass, which made me realise he wasn’t confusing me with anyone else more fabulous called Jean-Paul, “back then you behaved like nobody else I knew. Particularly that time you back flipped over the bar at The Hippodrome nightclub in Leicester Square.”
I do remember that night. It was New Year’s Eve. I was sixteen, pretending to be eighteen. I thought I was invincible. I was certainly flexible. I was dating a guy who called himself Bruno who was ten years older than me and was a quantity surveyor from Essex which, even then, seemed inexplicable. But he had a great car and bought me lots of alcohol. I could have broken a leg leaping from that bar, but Simon cushioned my fall. I guess that’s what true friends are for. I don’t think I was singing at the time.
“And now…” said Simon. The three dots of that sentence were audible with the melancholic air of someone who most definitely wasn’t teenage.
“Three cheers and damn it, c’est la vie!” I said.
Judging by our behaviour on Sunday I’m not sure Simon or I have learnt much since we were teenagers. But, hey, at least we were there.