Slouching Toward Quadragenaria: On Turning 40 (Eventually)

39 StepsThe countdown has begun. In 90 days, I will be 40-years-old. It’s like the last trimester before I’m reborn as “quadragenarian,” which reads more like a dietary choice than an age past 39 but before 50.

In many ways, it is a dietary choice. At least according to my physician, who would prefer I answer questions like, “Would you like your customary two bottles of wine with your usual slab of well-marbled steak, sir?” with, “No, just a salad and tea, please – I’m a quadragenarian.”

You get this a lot when you’re on the precipice of 40: “Life begins at 40,” “Novelists are born at 40,” “40 is the new 25.” I can see from the ripe old age of 39 that the people who say that are full of crap. Nor do I think it’s particularly remarkable to have made it to 40, though more than a few in my cohort are guilty of uttering the histrionic phrase, “I never expected to live this long.”

I’m inclined to reply, “Yeah, you really jacked the dead pool. Say, weren’t you going to buy a motorcycle to allay your mid-life crisis? Nothing like two wheels, 750 cc’s and waning reflex response to even the odds.” Buh-bye.

The life expectancy for my generation is all over the map. Like our generation’s non-name, “X,” the actuarial tables for those of us born between 1966 and 1980 simply put an X where a number should be in terms of our lifespan. We know when the Baby Boomers are going to die (apparently never) and the Millennials (also never – they plan to upload their souls into Facebook).

But Gen X? We’re all hitting 40-plus and no one cares, sniff-sniff. A study from the Center for Work-Life Policy found that not only are we the smallest generation on earth, we’re allegedly in the prime of our lives and careers and are stepping into “crucial leadership roles and starting families.”

Let’s pause and visualize the collective spit-take on the part of everyone between the ages of 33 and 47. Yes, we’re all starting families because we all thought something more interesting might happen in the preceding 10 years (ah, nope). But leadership roles? First off, Gen X doesn’t lead because it doesn’t follow, dude. And second off, you don’t want to go where we’re going anyway. Where’s that you ask? In the motion picture version of this moment, I’d kick-start my heavily-financed V-twin, light up a hand-rolled organic American Spirit and say, “Just a little place I know called Obscurity,” and ride off into the sunset.

In real life, of course, the only damn fool thing I plan to do is tattoo my current hairline on my head so I can track my hair as it recedes like the ocean waves, baby. Actually, I’m not really losing my hair so much as my mind because I haven’t slept properly since our son was born.

Since I was 37 when the Cannoli was hatched, and our birthdays are mere days apart, my birthday has been consistently overshadowed by his. This year that will change. He will be 3 and I will be the “Big 4-0.” I will eat his cake and have mine too. Or at least I can pretend until I find him crowding into my chair and blowing out the candles on my cake because I need the help. It’s less embarrassing than having my wife fan the smoke alarms because I won’t be able to get the veritable “forest fire on a baking sheet” snuffed out in time.

We’ve been marking my toddler son’s growing height in a doorjamb. I’m going to start doing the same to chart how much I shrink. I fully anticipate that we’ll eventually meet in the middle. I’ve figured out when: I’m 13.3333333 times his mere 3 years, thus, he’ll be 13.3-etc. when he reaches my height. So, for the intervening decade, I will call him “Shorty.” Yes, I have more facility with name-calling than numbers, but mark my words, I’ll be right. And by then, he’ll have a complex. And by then, I won’t care. I’ll be a saucy 53.3. And that’s 4,837 days away. But who’s counting?