the crop of Williams boys as of 5/28/07: Barno, Sean, Steve, me, Kent
I turned 40 years old on Saturday, and though it was one of the best parties ever – and that includes the Hall Crawl at Chi Psi in April 1989 – the roundness of the age does force you into saying to yourself things like “wow, um, I’m forty.”
Or, more aptly, it forces everyone else to do it for you. In the last twenty years, 40 has become 30, 30 has become 25, and everyone delights in how much younger being old gets to be. This is mostly true, not just because we’re all living quite a bit longer, but because our grandparents abandoned themselves to Old Age when they got into their late twenties. Folks like my great aunts and Tessa’s grandmother Nonnie all went from being vibrant 23-year-olds doing the Lindy Hop to staid 32-year-olds wearing broaches, horn-rimmed glasses and coloring their hair gray-blue.
In our industry, 40 might still be a bit hush-hush. Of course, actors can never divulge their ages, frequently giving IMDB bogus information and shredding all remaining copies of their high school graduation yearbooks, but even writers are supposed to exude a hipster vitality. Fortunately, both Tessa and I have retained most of our adolescent charm, and nobody would suspect how ancient we really are. Shit, I still have to deal with acne.
I guess I could hide it, but if anyone asks, I’m going to tell them. I am forty. It’s written all over this website, it takes almost no research. I graduated high school in 1985, and I saw Duran Duran on the “Reflex” tour. My years at college were defined by Smiths albums; I was already a freshman when the first shuttle exploded. I have Jarts because I played them before they were illegal. I am proud of everything it took to get here, and that includes stealing cookie dough with the Budster to pay rent.
It’s easy for me to say, I suppose. I’m a guy, and men are allowed to age gracefully, even getting “better” – their mellowing and subsequent beneficence of character gets to continue unabated, and they are also allowed to slide into corpulence, become “stately,” rotund with importance. Also, I’m married and have a kid, which means my age is largely of the “who gives a shit” variety, a freedom sorely lacking in the dating world.
But I’ll go on record to say that 40 is a benchmark in cultural irrelevance. You may not have noticed it, but you stopped caring about what I had to say just a little bit more than usual this week. There is a creeping rumor floating around that the 40-year-old has slightly lost his pulse finger, the outside jumper is no longer a done deal. There is the vague whiff of pity, a feeling that it’s time to get on with it, a countdown until someone can finally say “sit down and shut up, it’s someone else’s turn.”
This is why people lie about their age: to convince observers they still matter. All I can do, in protest, is to be utterly honest, take 40 back from the people who are afraid of it, and fight complacency until I vanquish all demons (or get plantar fasciitis, whichever comes first).