Monday, August 31, 2009

I Turn 40

Something funny happened to me today.
I reached middle age. Or as I like to call it, medieval age.
I'm 40 years old today.
In the past, I dreaded birthdays. There's a certain point when you crack 30 that you feel your youth slipping. You loathe your 30s because it signals a dynamic life shift: you tend to slow down and realize you're not a hellion you were during your 20s.
But after breaking the 40 barrier, I just don't give a shit.
I see this as a rite of passage, a milestone on this bumpy, pothole-filled highway that is life.
I'm 40. Bang a gong and let's celebrate.
My 30s were the Decade of Suck. I was married, lost and drifting, isolated and tempest-tossed in a sea of troubles. I struggled with unemployment, poverty and insecurity.
Now? Well, I have experience. I have a teflon heart. I just don't give a damn about the petty, niggling concerns of average mortals.
See, people are obsessed with age and youth in this country. They can't let themselves age well. They want to linger in a pool of delayed adolescence and remain eternally 24. The retarding of aging isn't normal. It's scary and a symptom of how fucked up Americans are. By having elective cosmetic surgery, by injecting yourself with Botox, by dressing like you're going clubbing in 1992, what's that say about your collective security?
We've cultivated the myth in this country that anything old, anything showing its age is undesirable and taboo. Once people get grey hairs, once they slow down, it's a sign of weakness and frailty.
Instead of celebrating age as a milestone, we seek to repress it, isolate it and defy it.
I reject that. I used to be afraid of going bald. There are enough bald men in my family that holidays resemble a Kojak convention. Cursed with the DNA I have, I'll probably look like Larry David by age 45.
Yet I don't care, because losing one's hair is a sign of virility and maturity and toupees make you look like a Tribble is humping your scalp.
Wisdom is something that comes with age. I'd rather be wise and old than unwise and young. I'd rather be the world-weary veteran of life than the wet-behind-the-ears newbie.
Mark Twain once wrote, "If I had been helping the Almighty when he created man, I would have had him begin at the other end, and start human beings with old age. How much better to start old and have all the bitterness and blindness of age in the beginning!"
Besides the whole Benjamin Button reference, you can't start old. There are no babies who act like old men, although there are a lot of old men who act like babies.
I prefer seeing life as a wonderful journey, one where you are chauffeured for a while, then you are driving down the highway at fast speeds alluding the cops, then are hitchhiking, then stay at a friend's house on the way to Boulder, then take public transportation then wander aimlessly around an AAA office in Topeka until you die from boredom.
And that's what life should be: as unpredictable and as exciting as being trapped in a building engulfed in flames as Heidi Klum, Tyra Banks and Megan Fox wrestle naked in Jell-O.
Being 40 is not bad at all.
Hey, it's not like I'm 50.

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