In 50 days’ time, I will turn 40.
I’m not really bothered by it, but that’s partly because I don’t really believe it.
I still think I’m in my early 30s. People in their 40s are well into their chosen careers, several steps up the ladder, owning property, and starting to feel they’re in a rut. The mid-life crisis is only a few years away, when they find the hum-drum pattern of life leaves them thinking ‘there must be more than this’ and trying to recapture the youth that got swallowed up by their strivings to settle down.
People in their 40s are proper grown-ups; I’m still young.
But yesterday someone called me middle-aged!
At 42, [wrote Matthew Hosier,] I routinely describe myself as middle-aged, and on a purely actuarial basis this seems indisputable. With life expectancy being around 80, I am – all things being equal – at the tipping point of life.
I was outraged! I mean, women generally live a bit longer than men, so all being well I’m a few years off the tipping point but still, he was saying I’m in ‘my middle years’.
I don’t want to be told that, I still feel young, I still think I’m young, I don’t want to be told I’m middle-aged because…
Well, when I realised why I didn’t want to be considered middle-aged, I got quite a shock: it’s because in my mind, the connotations of the word ‘old’ are negative.
I wouldn’t say that, of course. Oh no, I’d say that the elderly are to be valued. They have as much worth as babies and productive adults. In fact, I’ve said that on this very blog.
In the article mentioned above, Matthew Hosier continued:
Our cult of youth makes us fearful of ageing. Old age represents the opposite of everything we value as a culture – sexual vigour, physical attractiveness, being cool. We don’t really know what to do with the elderly, because they are an affront to our core values, so we pretend to be younger than we actually are, and hide away those who are genuinely old in nursing homes, rather as previous generations did with the disabled.
‘Yes!’ I cheered internally, ‘Preach it brother! This is a real weakness in our culture and we need to speak out against it.’
But then I realised I’m just as much of a culprit. In resisting the labels of the aging process, I’m denying that age has value. By clinging to youth I’m running from the thing I tell others to honour.
So I’ll embrace 40, rather than pretending it’s not really here, and I’ll take care to watch that the way I act doesn’t conflict with what I say I believe, not least because Matthew’s got an even harsher term for people who do that: self-delusional!