As I believe I’ve bemoaned in this space before, I’m going to turn 40 later this year. That means, if I’m lucky, my life is probably about half over or, if I keep eating the odd Stouffer’s macaroni and cheese from the frozen section as I did last night, I’m more than halfway on my way off this mortal coil as I type these words to you.
I’ve always hated the prospect of turning 40. It just seems like an age with no discernable traits other than to remind the bearer his or her life is cresting and it’s all downhill from here.
Other than that, 40 has no feel.
Twenty has a feel; it’s when you think you’ve become an adult and the whole world is out there, ready to lay down for you.
Thirty has a feel. If you’re smart, it’s when you actually become an adult and realize the world isn’t here for you, neither are you here for it and it’s up to you to find a way to claw out a niche for yourself somewhere.
I wasn’t smart; that didn’t happen for me until I was 37.
I even think 50 will have a positive feel. I’ve always seen 50 as a strong, solid number. It’s a round number, it’s our second-highest denomination of common currency; it’s an age I’ve thought would feel quite virile, for whatever reason.
Of course, I have trouble staying up past 11 without falling asleep on the couch as it is, so I’m not sure how virile my version of 50 is going to be.
I think maybe, by then, I’ll have found the time to get pretty fit again. As I mentioned here last week during our discussion about Captain Kirk, I’ve always loved the idea of the aging, but still potent and capable, action hero.
Remember, I also got hooked on Mack Bolan pulp novels recently. He’d be about 65 if he aged as the series has progressed.
And I always loved Jack LaLanne. So much so, I based a character in a fantasy/adventure novel I wrote before we met on him.
I even like the Expendables movies, partly for this reason.
By the way, I like “The Expendables.” There, I said it.
Anyway, yeah; 40. True middle age. I don’t feel ready for it and I don’t really want it to happen.
My wife turned 40 earlier this year, so those waters have been tested. She says it feels no different, but she also runs marathons. What the hell does she know? Looks like I’m going to have to see this one for myself.
Oh, I’m also the old guy in the office. Have I mentioned that? I remember Betamax and Atari computers. Not video game consoles; Atari computers. I remember TVs that sat on the floor as furniture, and I went to Adventurers at Cross County in Yonkers. I remember air raid drills in elementary school. I know who Richard Burton was.
For that matter, I know who Richard Barthelmess was, but I guess I’m an unusual case.
Point is, few, if anyone else, around me at your newspaper, at least on the editorial side of things, know or did any of those things above, let alone all of them. There’s nothing worse sometimes than being surrounded by a bunch of 20 somethings to whom you may as well be a visitor from another planet.
A cold, long-dead planet.
Being the old guy has its advantages though. I walked in the door of your newspaper knowing a thing or three about how the world works and how the people in it tend to be. That’s a definite advantage when you’re a reporter, especially one who’s just starting out.
Plus, I get to be a bit of a sage pretty regularly. That’s always fun.
Saying that, I’ll always be grateful to a former reporter here who was 43 when I walked into the newsroom at 37. That helped.
I guess I’m going to just have to wait and see if 40 has a better feel than I think it’s going to. I sort of wish I could take the few drops of youth I feel I have left and skip ahead to 50 and apply them there, but that’s probably not a reasonable way to feel, is it?
It’s also impossible, so what are these last few sentences already?
Somewhere at some point, someone said life begins at 40. I sure as hell hope that’s true, because 37 to 39 has been pretty good, but I also think it’d be quite a shame if everything to this point was preamble and I’m only going get to enjoy my actual life for 40 or so years.
Or less, if the Stouffer’s mac and cheese has its way.