The title was a joke last year, ’cause I was 37 when I wrote this. Alas, boo hoo, the joke’s on me. Last week the punchline became the truth. Forever. Adios, 37. Off it went to that chronology morgue where most of my 30s lie in silence, never to return. Thirty-eight, man. Sounds violent. Yegads. Can’t sell the mid-30s bob-and-weave no more; I’ve parachuted quite firmly into “late.” And what’s that dashing glimmer in the foyer? Why, it’s the mythical 40, martini in weathered mitts, dignity clinging in crusted clumps to a deteriorating frame, and I’m summoning the courage to twirl it ’round the ballroom in a tango bittersweet.
So what have I learned from this aging process? Well, first of all, I don’t mind getting older. Sure beats the alternative, wakka wakka. Seriously, though, there’s some truth to that quip. Silly kids think “old” is an epithet. That it cuts you to the quick (well…). Someday they’ll realize it’s a privilege. In fact, it’s a pleasure. It’s a pleasure to behold my graying form, with its endearingly vacant puss, its ever-present smirk, and those laugh lines tunneling from eyes that have catalogued nearly four decades and are as brown as they’ve always been. I love these pepper tines sprouting from my chin and spilling bravely from my scalp. Brother, they’re mine and I’ve earned ’em. With this package — the face, the life, the accumulated experience — why would I ever wanna leap back to 22? Fuck that anguish.
My 30s, which I once dreaded, turned out to be a gift. They came with a minor chemical miracle in which I ceased giving a shit. Was I listening to the right music? Was I saying the wrong things? Was I successfully charming that girl at the record store without appearing transparently self-conscious? After 29, the answer was zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzznx.
Of course, once you’ve scaled these hoary heights, you must surrender certain things. After all, you’re at an age where 20-year-olds regard you with mild, impatient irritation (get in the fuckin’ box, Methuselah!) and you probably don’t even register to the average teen. New Rules come into play. I believe it was the comedian Greg Behrendt who observed that if you wear a Phil Collins T-shirt at 20, you’re making a clever statement of irony. If you wear it at 40, you’re a fan. You’re too old to get away with irony.
Yes, certain sartorial preferences will soon be verboten. I’ve learned to make peace with the fact that tees and jeans, my standard armor since who knows when, are gonna look ridiculous one day. So I’m sculpting my torso into something that may appeal in sensible dress slacks. Then my hair — dear, sweet Christ in an Ogilvie home perm. It was fine back when Mudhoney and L7 had major-label deals. But now: shave to the neckline, prune to the ears, keep the rest the length of tinseled pencil-points. And no more prowling parking lots for random empty sex. But perhaps I’ve said too much.
Remember earlier when I claimed I’d never wanna leap back to 22? At the time, it was true. Now it’s not. Well, now it’s true again. Anyway, sometimes I do envy youth. That confidence. That arrogance. That swagger and VOLUME. Part of me wants to shout in protest, “I was just you!” But I wasn’t just you. My “just” is a sizable chunk of your lifetime. A decade to you is the distance between elementary school and college. To me it’s a weekend.
I do struggle with ageism — the stereotype that cuts both ways — and I don’t always succeed. Sorry, but I’m bound to think that most of your bands are derivative pussies and that all your heroes are fake, not like mine in the Days of Brilliance, when shit was Real. Occasionally, I’ll assume that the way you dress is a failed but adorable attempt to express your individuality. I may even mock your Mohawk as the sad retro ghost of rebellion. I’ll conveniently forget my own awkward juvenile crimes, oblivious to the likelihood that I’ll someday regard my current perspective as naïve. So I apologize in advance for my quiet disdain. It’s part of my nature as a curmudgeon. It may become part of yours, too, even if you swear to God it won’t.
But it’s all part of the journey. That’s another thing I’ve learned: There’s no such thing as a “grown-up.” You should always be a work in progress, learning, evolving, and ending your blog posts in mawkish sputter because it’s nearly midnight and your ancient mind’s become sentimental mush. Live long, sleep well, stay warm and upright. Most of all, enjoy the age you are and embrace the ones you’ll be.