Columns

2010.11.24 Way back when I turned 40

on . Posted in By The Way

Last week I wrote about my 60th birthday. This week, operating as a slow 60-year-old and not getting a new column written, I discovered this one from 1990 about turning 40.

By David Green

Lordy, lordy, I wish they’d come up with another rhyme for 40.

I wrapped up my fourth decade a few days ago, the same day Spiro Agnew turned 72. If I fall into all the hoopla, I didn’t merely turn 40, I celebrated the Big 4-0. But I didn’t fall; it was just a normal birthday.

(Ouch! It hurts when I have to use my right thumb. It’s been acting up lately.)

I had dinner with a few friends. Watched a funny movie. Went home and read a few pages of the Bobbsey Twins to the kids. I only read one chapter, though, because it was already past my bedtime. Ben and Rosie would have stayed up for five or six chapters.

I’ve read that Baby Boomers are not aging gracefully. That could make for rather depressing times. By the year 2025, Americans over age 65 will outnumber teenagers by more than two to one. We’ll be in charge, but we won’t be very happy with ourselves.

I have plenty of gray hair coming in, but that really doesn’t bother me much. I’d probably be more disturbed if I had plenty of gray hair coming out. That reminds me of a cartoon I saw. A younger woman is dancing with an older man, she looks up at him and says, “Dancing with a middle-aged man makes me feel light as a feather. Like I’m walking on...hair.” Sure enough, his hair was falling all over the place during their wild dance.

(Whoa! I shouldn’t sit with my legs folded up under me when I write. I get up after a few minutes and almost collapse. All control is gone. I guess the old circulation isn’t what it used to be.)

At a wedding Saturday, I noticed that people were really starting to look their age. Actually, they were looking someone else’s age, not mine. Forty years old looks younger than that.

I was holding my youngest daughter, Maddy, in the back of the church and someone asked me what her name was. Wouldn’t you know it—I couldn’t remember. I delayed and turned around so the two were facing one another and then it came to me. I shouldn’t have turned around to that side. I did something to a muscle in my neck that morning and I can only look in one direction.

I have classmates who are grandparents already, and I haven’t even had my midlife crisis yet. I haven’t thought too much about what it might be like, but I suppose it will have something to do with my job.

I’ll start looking very cynically at the Observer, asking why I spend so many hours every week trying to make a good paper when I could be out walking along the creek with my family. Why try to write good stories when so many readers only look at the headlines? Why work for good pictures when readers would be satisfied with handshakes and check-passing? I’ll want to go somewhere I can work 40 hours a week and have health insurance paid by someone else.

There’s a relationship between a midlife crisis and a near-death experience, some say. Survivors of both come out with similar changes in their lives: greater emphasis on intimacy and authenticity; deeper appreciation for nature; decreased interest in material rewards and professional ambition. According to author Mark Gerzon, in a midlife crisis you experience the psychological and spiritual death of the self that governed the first half of your life. But don’t forget—that miniature death leads to the birth of something new.

I’ve never been one to look back on the good old days. What I mean is that I don’t know when they were. One decade hasn’t taken precedence over another. Each has been equally horrible and wonderful. Throwing up in second grade was as bad as being accused of destroying Morenci’s business climate when I was 39. Falling in love at 17 was just as exciting as marrying 15 years later. There’s a lot to say for each part of my life.

I think that’s a good sign. I don’t want there to be any good old days. I want my 40s and 50s to be just as good. No, I want them to be better. There’s a lot of living to do before the Social Security pension fund goes broke. There are new thing to try and new attitudes to try on.

Ralph, my cousin-in-law who’s only 39 years old, suggested the perfect birthday gift for this aging 40-year-old. He said it’s time to call Meals on Wheels. Not a bad idea. They could deliver right here to the Observer and I’d have a few extra minutes every day to get on with the important business of life as a 40-year-old.

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