Five things men get better at when they’re older

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in tears and holding hands after their doubles game
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in tears and holding hands after their doubles game - Getty

There’s a new book out about Roger Federer which means that picture of him clasping hands with Nadal after their last match together, both of them quietly sobbing, is doing the rounds and our thoughts have turned to all the things men get better at, as they get older.

Crying would be pretty high on the list. It’s not that boys can’t cry these days, it’s more that the older men get the better they seem to appreciate the soppier aspects of life. You might struggle to get a 20-something to aawww over a picture of a baby, or tear up at the fly past on Trooping the Colour, or get trembly lipped when an old soldier salutes his fallen comrades at Dunkirk, but watch a grown-up man experience any of the above and you expect sparkly eyes at the very least. If any of them are lucky enough to get tickets for Paul McCartney’s last gig – there will be tears circa The Long and Winding Road.

Tinkering

Rod Stewart was in his 50s when he took up building model railways and at any point prior to this railway modelling might have done his reputation some damage.

As it is, tinkering later in life is not just acceptable, it’s charming. We’re suspicious of a man taking to his shed too early, but wood whittling, painting, twitching and other square hobbies are all quite admirable later on. Not saying Penny isn’t eye-rolling in the background – just that it’s not the loser pastime it might once have been.

No longer experimenting with fashion

Like women, men may have a slightly rocky midlife patch when they start wearing “cool” trainers, get a bit serious about their jeans, fork out some mad amount of money on a “chore” jacket and upgrade their swimming trunks. They will spend ages thinking about what they’re going to wear to parties, and whether to tuck in or leave out, and then one day it’s over. We can all breathe a huge sigh of relief as they emerge on the other side with a look that will probably last until they’re way into retirement.

Talking to their children

Of course, they’ve always talked to their children but post-50 they positively look forward to sitting around the kitchen table revisiting the time they thought he couldn’t be a---d to come to the carol concert (when in fact he was on jury service) or the other time he took their cousin to the football rather than them (the cousin took him) and so on. Older dads, who would have resisted this sort of truth and reconciliation scenario like the plague 20 years ago, are very much up for it now and they don’t mind if it ends in (happy) tears.

Getting assistance from other men

There used to be a lot of standing around with wide legs and arms folded whenever another male expert was introduced into the picture (see Kaleb on Clarkson’s Farm interacting with Andy Cato, the rock star turned regenerative farmer, if you need a reminder). Now that sort of bristling is a younger man’s game and they’re delighted to be shown how to do it by a man or a woman.

Spending money on haircuts

This doesn’t happen to all of them, but the combination of hair loss plus not looking as tight-jawed as they used to – and a partner who gives them hell every time they come back from the place round the back of the newsagent looking like an extra in Prison Break – may result in older men going to a proper hairdresser. Then they get a taste for it and realise what all women have known since they were 22: that a good haircut is a better use of your money than any number of fine suits and the opposite could well make you look like someone with whom you have zero in common.