This, a delicate age

This, a delicate age
When I was young, my view of 40-year-olds was vague. But one thing was crystal-clear to me: they were on Death’s doorstep. The 50-pluses, I revered, because I thought they had cheated death already.

That is why I always thought that a 40th birthday would somehow be cataclysmic. However, my 40th birthday turned out to be a shocker. Nothing happened.

But, once in my40s, I began to see, hear and understand things like never before. It is the experiences that make a person a 40-something. In essence, if you pardon my grammar, you don’t be 40, you feel 40.

Now, I’ll try to tell you how to identify if you are 40. Firstly, when grown men and women touch your feet, and really listen to your b**ls**t, thinking you are wise, you know you are in your 40s. All that separates you from your clueless teens is a few years of experience. But people want to know how you ‘succeeded’, so that they want to follow your example! If your mind boggles at this, you are 40. Btw, if you truly believe in your b**ls**t, it is too late — you are already in your 50s.

Next: if you know a lot more than you did when you started out, but still know way less than the guy/gal with a fresh-off-the-press college degree who just joined your place of work, the writing’s on the wall. Damn knowledge revolution and internet: now everyone knows more than you.

Your insides tremble each day, as you hope no one notices that your one asset is that you know how to unclog the coffee maker — oh, s**t, they just bought one of those newfangled machines that unclogs itself!

Speaking of knowledge, if you believe in the importance of general knowledge, you are so 40, man! These days, there is a single word for that stuff — Google.

While you are deep into the act of knowing little and acting wise, there are folks that know you know nothing — your family. We will disregard your spouse because s/he is in the same boat as you, being close to you in age.

Your parents think they are wise, because they were told that with age comes wisdom, like arthritis or indigestion. So they see no problem in propagating myths made out of thin air as universal truths. If you find yourself doing things that you don’t understand, don’t fully believe in, and don’t really want to do, just to please them, believe me, you are 40-plus.

On the other hand, do your children think you’re wise? Oh, no, they don’t. Like most people, you reproduced during your 20s or 30s, and you pay for that sin in your 40s, when your kids become teenagers.

While you are trying to juggle a career, a family and life in general, suddenly… KA-BOOM… your children explode into existence, their existence, that is.

It is through your teenage children that you understand just how little you know. You can’t teach them Algebra or Biology, or just about anything — they are studying in school what you couldn’t understand in college. You can’t have a proper birds-and-the-bees talk with them because you’re afraid you’ll find out how much they really know, which is way more than you do. You don’t know fashions, the music gives you headaches, the TV shows give you heartaches. As a result, you can never do right. So you are being yelled at by both your parents and your children, and yelling back, to no effect whatsoever.

These are the years that should be called the ‘Roaring Forties’. Yet another sign that you are in your 40s is when your best friends are those who give you the numbers… of the best doctors. Yes, when in parties, you are no longer interested in the best spots to party, or getting the phone number of the hottest looking guy/gal. As for the hottest pick-up, honestly, reliability has replaced dazzle.

One more sign is that you are able to recognise the mistakes you commit. Not that you will not commit them, but by now you are able to recognise your own patterns of behaviour.

But hey, don’t feel depressed, because with luck, you can have yourself a couple or so of great decades. Who knows, you may work all the way up to retirement without people recognising your basic incompetence. Your parents may get dementia, may forget what you look like, and actually praise you. Your kids may leave home and recognise the truth in most of what you said. You may have an epiphany and learn that acceptance is your secret to happiness. Yes, you still have a lot of good years ahead of you. But those 70-year-olds…

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