Fortysomething: End of An Era
The woods decay, the woods decay and fall,
The vapours weep their burthen to the ground,
Man comes and tills the field and lies beneath,
And after many a summer dies the swan.
- Alfred Lord Tennyson, "Tithonus"
This week I turn 49, entering my last year of eligibility as a Fortysomething. And while some have said that Life Begins At Forty, I'm here to say nay, Life Begins To Deteriorate at Forty. As a wise man once said (well, actually it was my brother-in-law Bill, who qualifies as a wiseguy, if not a learned sage, and who is a chronlogical contemporary of mine), "At our age you gotta remember three golden rules:
FORTYSOMETHING: BILL'S TRIPLE TRUISMS:
1. Go to the bathroom whenever the opportunity arises.
(Sound advice, for Fortysomething is the Prostate Decade when you have to pee frequently, so if you don't, you'll need to pee in the middle of a movie, in the middle of the night, or in the middle of sex - whichever comes first or or most inconvenient. So learn to dance the Incontinental)
2. Never trust a fart.
(Another trusty truism. Fortysomethings who think they can release a little bowel ballast should be warned that it could lead to "Baby made a boom boom" accidents and a potential surprise in their adult diapers. Or the opposite - the false start of an IBS moment that will require a later amendment to the Constipation.)
3. If you get an erection, use it - whether you 're alone or with company.
(Ah yes, the dwindling sex drive. After decades of the old T&A bait and switch, sex tends to become an I've Seen This Movie Before - probably on the Spice Channel or Skinamax - so that when you get the urge, you should use it, even if you know there's a string attached to the end of that dangling carrot. And if you're alone, well, practice makes perfect. This is the point at which Internet porn becomes your young and titillating friend. And you'll be amazed at all those years you wasted having straight sex without the fun props - like Mardi Gras masks and a Batman costume - that make it so much more interesting!)(Just kidding!)
I can't argue with these rules. And, looking back on the decade, I can add a few more Forty Facts. This is what the Life Begins at Forty decade has been like for me.
FORTYSOMETHING: A CHECKLIST OF MY "DECLINE & FALL" DECADE
1. Diminished vision.
My glasses and contacts prescription changed for the first time in 20 years. At work one day, I actually mistook a vase of flowers down the hall for a blonde co-worker who I thought was waving at me. "How's it going?" I reflexively blurted to the flora arrangement.
2. Reading glasses.
Not content to be myopically nearsighted to the point of legal blindness, now I can't see my own signature when writing checks without resorting to the half dozen pairs of reading glasses I keep scattered around the house and in my jacket. In restaurants, what was once considered a romantic candle-lit ambience is now seen as menu-reading eyestrain, necessitating pulling out my reading specs and a small flashlight.
3. Brittle bones.
Arthritis is a given, as are calcium deposits and bone spurs as the old skeleton starts to creak (and it's too late to start drinking milk, which is disgusting in anything other than coffee anyway!). I've already had elbow surgery for tenditinis when I was 43, I was supposed to get surgery to repair torn cartilege in my ankle when I was 46 but I couldn't stand the idea of being in that ridiculous-looking "boot" for 6 weeks, and I am currently writing my blog with two sprained wrists resulting from tendinitis in the left wrist while lifting an Ikea bookself and probably a bone fracture in my right wrist resulting from smashing my PC monitor in frustration. Don't ask.
4. Muscle Pulls.
The Forties are the decade of low-impact aerobics and the exciting activities of WALKING and STRETCHING. I may actually take up Yoga next, as I've learned that even a routine bout of sex can leave me with a charley horse the next day. I actually had to go the the doctor to get treatment for a groin pull from overly strenuous sex last year. How embarassing! It makes you appreciate a little jiggle in your girlfriend's buttocks not just aesthetically, but as a healthy buffer for safe sex. Bony girlfriends can hurt you. Trust me on this one.
5. Ice packs and heating pads.
Applying these items becomes part of one's daily regimen, like setting the alarm and brushing one's teeth. In fact, it's an unusual night when I watch a movie or ballgame WITHOUT one of these applied to an injured area.
They are your friend when you turn 40. You don't have time to "let things work themselves out" when you get injured in your Forties. And it takes your body a LONG TIME to recover from the smallest of injuries, like a twisted ankle. It took me 10 days to get over a LEG CRAMP I suffered when I played tennis for the first time this year. I had to get out the crutches I got when I had my knee operation years ago (when I was a brittle Thirtysomething). Ibuprofen, painkillers, nightcaps of Scotch, all become part of your regular routine. And cortisone injections are the equivalent of orgasm. After all, the Forties are less about pleasure seeking and more about the cessation of pain. Ah, the cessation of pain: The New Pleasure!
Also known as Old Man Syndrome. "In my day..." "These kids today!" "The Beatles were better than any of this indie shit today..." And so on and so on. See also: Road Rage and Grumpy Old Men.
8. Watching and Reading the News
I used to watch a lot more movies and TV shows and to go straight to the Arts section of the newspaper. But now I tend to switch to CNN or MSNBC to watch news reports and the Op-Ed page is the fisrt column I turn to in the newspaper.
9. Crowning Achievements.
The Forties are the beginning of the end of far as teeth and gums go. I got my first crown last year - finally giving me something to relate to with my parents. I used to think they were obsessive about their teeth, but now I understand why they were always using waterpicks, and flossing, and eating soft foods. I stopped chewing gum and gave up eating hard pretzels as a result of my crown. I've learned to like yogurt and apple sauce, as well. They are "kinder and gentler" crown-friendly foods.
10. Slower Metabolism.
You can't get away with eating whatever you want anymore. A few extra donuts or french fries here and there go straight to the love handles. Same with beer. I tend not to drink as much, or to drink the dreaded "lite" beers because if I don't, well I have to go running the next day. And that means I will probably pull a muscle, twist an ankle, apply the aforementioned ice packs and heating pads, and nurse my injuries while watching the latest news on CNN that night. Plus the slower metabolism means you need to drink more fluids because you dehydrate easier, and this makes it harder to digest what you've eaten, necessitating taking a fiber supplement or Metamucil or eating more roughage to avoid IBS.
11. If You Want It, You Can't Have It
Kenny Vieth's Aging Axiom for the Ages holds true. Everything I like is bad for me. Spicy foods and caffeine overstimulate the prostate, making me pee. Thai and Indian ciusines are high in sugars, sodium, and carbs, adversely affecting my blood pressure, which is currently borderline high. Alcohol also contributes to high blood pressure and too much, without exercise, leads to middle-aged paunch - just look at the formerly lanky Jimmy Page's bloodhound jowls from drinking all that whisky (it finally caught up with him and now he looks like McGruff the Crime Fighting Dog)!. And I love coffee, but in addition to the debilitating effect it has on my ability to hold water, it also dyhyrates me, leading to IBS issues as well as making me more prone to sports injuries like cramping and muscle pulls. And another thing you can't have: young girls. Leering at them when you're Thirtysomething is expected, but by the time you're Fortysomething, leering at co-eds is considered the perverted behavior of a dirty old man going through a mid-life crisis. Unless you're Mick Jagger (then it's expected).
12. The Future's So Bright I Have To Wear (Prescription Bifocal) Shades
Things to look forward to next year, as I hit the half century mark: mandatory prostate and colonostomy exams. Also, hair starts to fall out where you want it (scalp) and proliferates where you don't want it (nose, ears). Lovely!
Fortysomething (Brit TV Sitcom)
The Deathclock: When Am I Going To Die?
Removing Ear & Nose Hairs