It’s no fun not being a student anymore. It feels an awful lot like being Mark while everybody else still gets to be Jeremy.
As life changes go, shifting from student life to that of a genuine, museli-buying adult has to be one of the most colossal. Besides the big mental reshuffle, the re-programming of one’s body clock to sociable hours (or antisocial, when there are midnight cheese toastie rounds and Guitar Hero to sleep through), and the general awareness of one’s once-supple brain turning to Primula and pouring out through one’s ears during an episode of The Family, there is a more physical side of the transition that’s equally taxing. Because it’s, er, tax.
Forgetting for a minute the crippling reality of graduate debt, this week I’m focusing on the less debilitating but still pretty sodding nasty reality of graduate expenses. They’re the chinese burn of the financial portfolio – spiteful, petty, and they always sting more than you remember. No Topshop discount! Ow. Full-price London travel! Ooch. Council tax! Arrrrrrrggggh (put some ice on it and try to not to cry as you reach for that post-grad application form).
Where does the logic lie in taking away all our perks the moment we graduate? It’s almost, and I realise this is a ridiculous premise - maybe involving the whole Cabinet having been actually locked in a cabinet for, ooh, the last five years - but it’s almost as though the government think that when we leave uni we’re actually getting JOBS, or something. When everyone knows the truth is that graduates are WAY poorer than students. We don’t get any of the free money, and we have to pay more for everything. Essentially, we’re being fined for the crime of having got older. It’s punishment for the inevitable passing of time. It’s Adult Tax.
And the secret expenses just keep coming – when you think you’ve just about budgeted for rent, bills and a bowl of rice and ketchup every second Thursday of the month, another facet of Adult Tax will ping up out of nowhere and gulp down your wallet as though ’twere a jelly baby. Last week, it was prescriptions.
Somewhere, in the dim recesses of my mind, the same place I store Mott the Hoople lyrics and sellotape, I was aware that non-student adults have to pay for prescriptions. I knew. But it’s the kind of fact that can be pretty easily suppressed by half a bottle of Benylin, and so the following scene ensued:
Me: “Hullo! I’d like this prescription please.”
Chemist lady: “Certainly! Please sign the back of the slip”.
Me: “With pleasure!”
Chemist lady: “Thank you. That will be eight pounds.”
Me: “I’m sorry, the mucus must have got to my ears. I thought you just said something about eight pounds.”
Me: “But I don’t have eight pounds.”
Chemist lady: “It’s ok, we take cards.”
Me: “No, I don’t HAVE eight pounds. In the world. At all.”
Chemist lady: “If you’re on benefits, it’s free.”
Me: “I’m not on benefits. I’m on minimum wage. What do I get for that?”
Chemist lady: “Nothing.”
Me: “I think I’ll just stay ill, then. If it’s all the same to you.”
So my proposal is this: for the sake of humanity, and my not hacking germs all over innocent pharmacy staff, student perks should be phased out gradually. They should last us through a transition phase of three years or so, perhaps decreasing in increments, the way a parent gradually lets go of a child’s bike when they’re learning to ride it . It would give you time to find a proper job, adjust your lifestyle habits, maybe uncover a Faberge egg in a cupboard to tide you through the winter. Then one day, completely unawares, you will be able to pay full price for a cinema ticket without wincing.
Nice move, Beeb. Now tomorrow, if you could broadcast five minutes of footage of investment bankers in a hotub, watching Tara Palmer Tompkinson in a bikini made of £50s dancing to Barrat Strong’s Money (That’s What I Want), all my viewing needs will be fulfilled.