06 July 2010

Some Thoughts on Turning Forty

First: I am not old. I thought I would be by this point, but I am not. I am in better shape physically now than I have been since my early twenties: my blood pressure at my last annual check-up was 120/80, my vision is still 20/20, and I have never yet had a cavity. I am fine.

Second: I am not wise. I still make the same mistakes over and over, the same ones I have been making my entire life. I talk too much and rarely say anything. I love the wrong way. Yet I have at least, I think, come to the point where I realize how much I have to learn. And I have an inkling now of the difference between knowledge and wisdom. And I have begun to assemble a mental archive of the potential sources of wisdom (none of which are books, by the way). So there is a chance that in after another forty years of my life I might approach something like wisdom but I doubt it.

Third: I am lucky. I should probably be dead. When I think about some of the stunts I have pulled I can only shake my head. If not deceased in some way that would have placed me in the Darwin Awards Hall of Fame at the very least I should be severely brain damaged. I also managed to somehow avoid prison, a mortgage, drug addiction, reproduction, and marriage. I have a level of financial and personal freedom of which many employable men my age can only dream.

Fourth: I am both more and less attractive than I think. How this is possible: I am more appealing (according to my sources) for reasons I can neither comprehend nor appreciate, as I am not a woman, and I am more unappealing for the same reasons that it is impossible to see certain parts of my anatomy without the aid of reflective devices. We simply don't see ourselves the same way other's see us and for the most part this is good, although it can make us, or me, unjustifiably vain. And (oh no don't do it) on the subject of the fairer sex: I enjoy, from time to time, listening to them talk, trying to concoct theories about how and why women think the way they do and although you couldn't pay me to publish them here I will say that they are full of all the necromancy and convolutions you might expect of a man unschooled in physics attempting the description of a black hole based solely on observation. Yet I have come to understand that this mystery is the finest thing about a woman, the thing that makes them unceasingly fascinating and beautiful like a car wreck in slow-mo. It's like Willie sang about the cowboy, or cowgirl in this case: "[She] ain't wrong / [She's] jist differnt..." But never let it be said that they were wrong in their assessment of us as men. Women are natural born observers. If you have ever overheard two of them sit and dissect another woman who has made the unfortunate mistake of being physically absent... heard them shred personalities, point out deformities, clinically analyse and dismiss wardrobe and hairstyles, and frankly recall critical and often unavoidable lapses in personal hygiene... then you are well aware that nothing gets past them. So your back/nose/ear hair, your balding psoriasis, your hemorrhoids, your bilious gases, skin and tooth decay, moles, spots and warts...she has marked each and every one. Knowing this... and noting her unabashed pleasure at not only seeing you but on occasion stooping to touch you... the only possible conclusion is that you, with all your obvious imperfections, must be, in her eyes at least, beautiful. And that, boys, is a fine, fine thing.

I could go on but I think this hole is deep enough. I thank all of those who made this life possible. I would also like to thank the many individuals who have helped make it enjoyable. I am in your collective debt. More at 50, j.