HECKLER

<i>Illustration: Caroline Adaszynski</i>

Illustration: Caroline Adaszynski

THE very next person who says to me, ''Geez, you look good for 50!'' is really going to get something. Why the disclaimer? Why can't I just look good?

And what about ''50 is the new 30.'' I can't wait 'til someone tries that one on me.

That's because 50 is the same old 50 it always was and nobody, nobody looks good at 50. It's over.

Fifty isn't just a number, it's another way of saying ''[expletive], I'm 50 this year'', and don't you frown upon that language because every single person on Earth who can count will utter those exact words, in a terrifying moment of clarity (your last one), sometime on January 1 of the year they reach this fabulous milestone. Or millstone. Or brick wall.

Forget about the gym, hair dye, your '80s gear that still looks good. Get over yourself and give up.

Fifty is going from 20/20 vision to practically legally blind almost overnight. From, ''Look at this idiot doing his own ads,'' to ''Hey, two pairs, no gap.''

Fifty is when, after finally becoming familiar and open with your doctor, he ruins the relationship with all that stuff with his finger.

You begin to lose your strength, memory, fitness, everything except kilos, which now seem to manifest themselves as boobs, both front and back.

You'll soon begin to buy shoes because they are comfortable, or even worse, practical. Someone will give you a T-shirt with a pocket and you'll wear it. Might even get a flannelette shirt or two, and your waistline starts creeping up towards your collar so it's no longer Levi's, it's proper pants.

Sometimes, you may be prescribed a drug to help you do what you used to do naturally. Other times it may be to stop you doing what you used to do naturally but in a controlled fashion.

Your wife says to you, ''If I knew you were going to be 50 I would never have married you,'' but you can't just go out and find a new girl because you're hideous.

Is there a bright side? No, is the simple answer, but maybe it's not all that bad.

For example, in five years' time I can move into one of those ''exclusive'' estates for over-55s. They look more like holiday resorts in the brochures and I could get one of those little electric carts to get down to the shops after I'm stripped of my licence.

I think you can even drive those drunk because police are always so forgiving of the elderly - they just give you a warning because they understand a prison sentence will surely mean the end. Which, of course, we know 50 is - the end.

John Hendry