By the time you read this, it will have happened. Some collusion of time and fate will have already transpired, and now I am 40. I’ve had a birthday — likely the last I’ll bother to celebrate. There are many reasons why, among them the fact that I don’t feel any older. My interior monologue is voiced by a 19-year-old. This is what it’s saying, “If they hadn’t invented zero in India in 900 A.D., I’d be 4. Or would I just be 39 for an extra year, like my sister-in-law?”
I suppose there’s nothing to fear, 40 isn’t the death sentence it once was. When my mom turned 40, my cheeky aunt threw her a wake. I didn’t require a wake seeing as I’m already dead inside, having lived through the 90s.
40 is one of those “milestone” birthdays. If you string together each year, it looks like a Fibonacci sequence by a truly terrible mathematician — 16, 18, 21, 25, 30, 40. Notice how each integer is further from the last by 2, 3, 4, 5 then 10 years? If Dan Brown were here he’d have closed another book deal based on this hocus pocus.
What does it mean? Ask a Mason. In the meantime, consider that there are only two remaining milestones: 50 and 65. Some people might count 60, but those are people who aren’t planning to retire. After 65 you’re milestone-free unless you make it to 100. Then you get your picture in the paper and a cake with so many candles it looks like an inferno. That’s why centenarians always look so freaked in those human-interest stories — they see the flames and figure someone’s prematurely wheeled them into a crematorium.
Speaking of milestones, when I turned 25, I rued the fact that I had yet to make my first million. Now, that I’m 40, I realize I must have spent about a million in the past 15 years and am consequently in the exact same place as I was when I started caring. Red is the new black, right? And the “new normal” is just the old normal with “100 percent more ‘less,’” as Monty Python might say. Frankly, I don’t care anymore. I’ve accepted that my body of work is going to outlast my actual body (which also needs work), which means it stands a chance of being worth more when I’m gone. I’m currently worth about a buck-eighty. The race is on.
Also, now that I’m middle-aged, I’ve decided I’m too tired and bored with myself to have a proper midlife crisis. Instead, I’ll have a “midlife occurrence.” Maybe I’ll go to a matinee or something. Be assured that I won’t be purchasing a fancy motorcycle or sports car. As a man stalked by irony, driving a vehicle meant to make me feel younger will simply speed me to my death. Ditto a girlfriend who is half my age. Though a 20-year-old might kill me in some inventive and erotic way, I’d also suffer the pain of being killed all over again by my wife. Italian women can do that.
Apparently, a 40-year-old man has an average life expectancy of 77.84 years. However, there’s a one percent chance that I’ll live to 105 years of age, which, incidentally is the life expectancy of my 3-year-old son’s generation, straight out of the gate without any of the whizbang medical interventions I fully expect to lean on. Also, of note for those born in 1972 is the 0.23 percent probability that we might die this year. Of course, the odds get worse with each successive year until finally, we’ll only have 0.23 percent probability of actually living. That will be a short year ± in fact, about a week.
Since it’s likely I won’t be feeling well that week, I’ve decided to live it up this week. And every week to come. I don’t plan on celebrating another birthday because I don’t plan on ending the celebration of this one. There’s adventure to be had and work to be done yet. Insert your own sappy aphorism here. I don’t have one, though I did find this line amongst some decades-old notebooks: “Vocatio! Vocatio! Mammoth on the tundra!” That’s the plan.