If Ben Affleck Can Have A Second Act, Then So Can I

Allow me a little self-indulgence. In the unlikely event of anyone who doesn’t know me coming to this blog, this is where it started in 2013. I went back to it recently fully intending to delete it but then realised the person I am is partly made up of the person I was. So…

It started with Ben Affleck, humbly picking up his BAFTA award the other night for directing Argo. He wanted to thank everyone for giving him the chance of a ‘second act’ by forgiving his worrying tendency to act in some of cinema’s notorious duds – Pearl Harbor and Gigli being among his most heinous crimes – and allowing him to reinvent himself as a director of rare intelligence and daring. Rare and risk-taking for Hollywood anyway.

And there I was with the remnants of a bottle of red wine and family-sized bar of Dairy Milk, thinking: You smug, bearded bastard. Second Act? You haven’t got a bloody clue, mate. Second Acts are when you hit middle-age and think: ‘Mortgage, wife, kids, gym membership, folding kitchen doors. Is that it?’

Notice I didn’t mention job there. Because that’s the real reason for this Second Act and why I want to rename the state of redundancy as being part of the growing ‘Affleck-ted’. Full of talent, ambition, dreams and one small step away from greatness if only we took a different path – yet one of the increasing numbers of people deemed surplus to requirements.

The truth – or at least the one I want to convince myself of – is that we know our ‘first act’ was a sham, not our true calling in life, the ‘Second Act’ is where the rewards really await us.

So here I am navigating that perilous path without the blundering bluster of Yosser ‘giussajob’ Hughes nor the pathetic desperation of anyone who’s become part of the Celebrity Get Me Out Of The Big Brother Jungle On Ice parade.

This is a proper quest for the next life and all the emotional turmoil, rejection, intermittent joy and endless days eating crisps and listening to Radio Paradise that that entails.

And today, I’m starting at the beginning – with five lessons sudden redundancy has taught me…

The children don’t understand shame – so don’t feel it.

The first few days of sudden unemployment were devoted to a ridiculous charade in which, moments before Asset Consumer 1 (she’s 14) and AC2 (he’s 12), got home from school, I put my suit on, grabbed my briefcase, went for a wander round the block and then ‘came home early’ with a suspiciously big smile as they tucked into tea. The only person I was kidding was me. They’d figured ‘something was weird’ as soon as it happened – ‘Dad you actually asked mum how her day at work was for the first time ever.’ Dur. Obvious. And they were alarmingly enthusiastic about their new housedad, AC1 even boasting: ‘Hey, being unemployed is cool, they should invite you to the careers fair.’ As for AC2, well he thinks redundancy is the best thing ever and has become my career counsellor: ‘You could be a fighter pilot now, Dad’.

Remember your new age

Add the age you lost your virginity to the age you saw your first live gig, now add 10 (15 if you lied to either of the above). This is how old you now are. Change your CV accordingly.

Start dreaming and be the father of reinvention.

Admittedly, it is not that easy to reinvent yourself. Fighter pilot aside, it turns out, for instance, that it is rather more difficult to become an adult film star than I imagined, I mean than one imagines. You really do need to have a particularly skilled devotion to the job. Which I, I mean few men, possess. There’s always investment banking I suppose, not that I’m only looking for careers in which I can screw people. You think in your 40s that you’re only able to do what you’ve always been doing, whereas what you secretly really know is that everyone is faking it, they only want people to think their job is difficult so that no one takes their place. Flipping burgers isn’t really more complicated than marketing, and is probably more rewarding.

Haircuts are overrated.

As are foods that contain the words ‘organic’ or ‘artisan’, bottles of wine more than £5.99, all takeaways, the cinema (there is nothing wrong with buying dodgy DVDs down the market, if the bloke selling them has nice teeth) holidays abroad, new razor blades and central heating. Heavily under-rated things include meals made from dusty tins of kidney and butter beans that are only a few months out of date, slippers, heroin (or Tyrell’s salt and vinegar crisps, just as addictive when boredom first strikes around 11am) and sitting in cafes with free internet access , ordering a glass of tap water and staying there for the morning so you feel a functioning part of society. If not contributing to the economy whatsoever.

We own a tumble dryer apparently.

No one told me.

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