YOU know you’re getting old when you spot a tongue stud and wonder about the scraps of food that must clog beneath it. Would your dentist approve?
And how does French kissing work with a stud? What if two studs get snagged? How do you explain when you waddle into an emergency room, like lovesick snails joined at the mouths, a slick of dribble in your combined wake?
Another sign of age is when someone says they will Facebook you and you raise your arm in reflexive defence of an assault with an encyclopedic tome. Then when they speak of “poking” you, you blush.
Yet there are sturdier tests of age than an aversion to Facebook, a forum that sounds as enriching as gazing into any old mirror and telling yourself that the tedium of your life is worth sharing with your 157 closest mates, a few of whom you once met.
You really know you’re getting old when you agree with Neil Harvey, who played cricket for Australia before Australia had television.
Harvey offers opinions as readily as Sarah Palin might – if she was on speed. His comments over the years suggest he would like to do to Steve Waugh what Palin has done to a moose.
Harvey has now condemned the tongue stud of Australian left-arm bowler Mitchell Johnson, before launching another lament on modern cricket’s lack of spirit.
Generally, agreeing with Harvey is like applauding Pauline Hanson’s maiden speech in Parliament. But he may have accidentally tapped a constituency with his stand on tongue studs.
The chasm between Harvey and modern reality, perhaps, is thinner than the gulf between Gen Ys and Gen Xs.
For Johnson, at 26, hardly stands out for risking a serious lisp by shoving a metal stake through his tongue. Naked to anyone under 30, it seems, is not a question of clothing so much as an absence of piercings or tattoos.
A trip on London’s Tube a few years back could have been confused with a jaunt in a cattle truck. Fellow passengers sported chains linking a ring through the lip to a ring through the eyebrow. One recalled Iago’s devilish musings in Othello: “. . . as tenderly led by the nose, as asses are.”
The piercings might suit grizzled sailors, but these were young women. The fittings prompted waves of unease, not only because they looked painful, but at the thought of these ladies’ journeys through a security screening before boarding a plane.
Do such adornments provide a sense of identity that was once promoted by waving a cigarette or revving a sports car?
Now, given their popularity, a tattoo or piercing expresses nothing grander than a willingness to conform.
Against this, of course, is Johnson’s recent form.
He took four wickets in India’s first innings of the First Test. He appeared to have curbed his tendency to spray deliveries so wide on the crease that Inspector Gadget couldn’t reach them. Mitchell Johnson, if wearing a stud means you bowl straighter, leave it in, son. Neil Harvey might even agree with this suggestion. But it’s probably best that no one asks him.