Getting old in Dubai

If Dubai is a playground for big kids, why does our man feel so old?

The Knowledge

Anyone familiar with the sharp decline in the quality of Francis Ford Coppola movies ever since Apocalypse Now might have had the misfortune of seeing Jack: a feeble comedy about a young boy whose cells are growing at four times the normal rate, so at the age of ten he looks like Robin Williams. Hilarity ensues (or not, as is the case here). I feel like Jack. This isn’t to say I’m actually a ten-year-old boy, nor do
I bear any resemblance to Robin Williams; rather my life has sped up ‘Jack-style’ since I arrived in Dubai.

When I first stepped off the plane, I was young, fanciful and free – Dubai was my city-sized playground, through which I would scamper with all the zest of a snotty-nosed child climbing up the steps of the helter-skelter. Yet before I knew it, these carefree days of grazed knees and bike rides (I’m still speaking metaphorically, in case you were wondering) had been replaced with a sense of awkwardness: where did I fit into this big, bright city?

This new-found social anxiety was remedied by a change of wardrobe. For those still going with the kid-growing-up analogy, no, I didn’t start wearing a black hoodie and a disdainful, angst-ridden teen expression. Instead I rebuffed my favoured jeans-and-T-shirt combo in favour of a smart pair of slacks and a nicely ironed shirt. Yes, I’ve bought into Dubai’s male dress code, though rather than looking smart and sophisticated, I realise that I now dress like my dad.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. No longer do I head out to nightspots to socialise (perhaps I subconsciously fear my dancing, like my dress sense, will emulate that of my father); instead I’ve started hosting and attending dinner parties, where I catch myself talking about air miles and Pottery Barn prices. I’ve settled down, adopted a pet and, to hammer the final nail in my youth’s coffin, have moved to The Greens. Those who haven’t yet journeyed out to this nice little enclave east of Sheikh Zayed Road really should pay a visit. It’s lovely: dog-walking options are fantastic, and the neighbours, well, they’re just a treat.

My only consolation for growing old so quickly is the adage ‘time flies when you’re having fun’. The Dubai-induced premature ageing may be reminiscent of a bad Francis Ford Coppola comedy (deep down I’m sure I’m still a child at heart), but I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Oliver Robinson is our deputy editor. At the weekends he likes to potter and run errands.

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