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).

0 thoughts on “XXXX

  1. cathie

    yes, i loved that when i was 19, julia roberts and i were the same age!
    strangely, now that i am 40, she is 38…
    happy birthday, ian

  2. LFMD

    I turn 39 next month. I have never understood why people are bashful about their ages . . . I have always made a big deal about birthdays. . . after all, be glad to be alive and have another year under your belt! Then again, 40 is such a benchmark. I can understand why the thought of being 40 brings on mid-life crises!
    I gotta say that you look great! Your California lifestyle must be agreeing with you. With Tessa and Lucy and work. . . . you are hitting your stride! Your 40’s will probably be the best decade to date!
    P.S.: we will always care about what you have to say.

  3. LFMD

    Oh, and that is a great picture of the Williams men.
    Barnaby is so adorable– I want to tickle his toes!

  4. Beth

    Perception of age is such a shifting thing. When my dad turned forty (I was seven), he seemed absolutely ancient to me, despite the fact that he and my mom had a big pool party at the neighbors’ and he got hammered and did cannonballs into the wee hours. But now that I’m inarguably a grown-up (I turned 37 this month and started wrestling with my own midlife crisis), I would like to protest your comment, Ian, that we care a little less about what you have to say now that you’re 40. Writers only get better as they get older–they’re wiser, more practiced at their craft, and the ones who stay in touch with their youth (like you) just have that much more of relevance to say, because the trappings of youth might change but the feelings don’t.
    p.s. I wanted to know what landlord accepts cookie dough as rent. Sign me up. =)

  5. kevin from NC

    HBD Ian,
    Ahhhh 40.. the ever freeing 40. When I was your age i worried about 40, but since I passed 40 (a long time ago), it has been GREAT!!
    I am freed from the media marketing machine. I no longer worry about what others, particularly 20 somethings think of me.
    40, the most liberating of birthdays. As my Gemini self approaches 50, I wonder what windows of ideas will be opened for me that i never knew existed. If the next 10 are anything like the last 10….. I’ll let you know. k

  6. John Schultz

    I can’t wait to get to 40. Not too much longer. I have looked like I am 40 for ten years. I always beat the hawker at the fair that “guesses your age”. When I tell people my age they gasp and say “You’re not 40?”.
    Happy Birthday Ian! You look great- keep it going!

  7. eric g

    Happy Birthday, Ian!
    You look quite svelte in that photo, by the way. I beat the rush and got plantar fasciitis in my early 30s and I must say, if you get the chance to acquire it yourself, you might want to pass it up.
    Congrats on the big 4-0 and here’s to more than 40 more happy years to come with your lovely family.
    P.S. It was really more fun than the Spring ’89 Hall Crawl?

  8. Annie

    It was so amazing in so many ways to celebrate your 40th with you this past weekend, Ion–mainly, looking around the crowd of familiar and new faces and realizing that most of your best friends today were your best friends when you were 20. How many people are so blessed, not to mention so sincere and proactive about staying in touch in a REAL way? Not many.
    Here’s a link to a few of the many gorgeous photographs taken this weekend by homeboy Lars:
    p.s. Salem, wanna ante up with some of YOUR hooping photos?!? ; >

  9. CL

    >>the “who gives a shit” variety, a freedom sorely lacking in the dating world.
    Well-said. God, that was an awful world to be in after a while.
    >>you stopped caring about what I had to say just a little bit more than usual this week.
    Nope. As other people have said, you have a lot more experience and knowledge now – AND you still know how to balance it with the unusually sharp memories of how the 15-year-old and 22-year-old Ian felt, so it’s more relevant than ever. People like you, who remember everything that happened to them, are few and far between…and they become writers.
    Happy birthday, and thanks for being older than I am.
    PS Jarts are dangerous.

  10. Tanya

    Happy Birthday, Ian!
    Not many 40 year-olds can rock an orange shirt and plaid pants. “I make this look cool…”
    Wha-? Nobody else is thinking that? Whatever.

  11. jif

    back in Hamburg, safe and sound, ian and tessa thank you for a fabulous weekend of birthday delight, festering feet (thank you nurse t for the bandaging), old scotch (warren thanks you too btw), laughter and more laughter (‘supositories’), hoops, dancing, hammocks and wonderful friends and family -new and old. it was truly spectacular… with or without the jarts! xx

  12. GFWD

    Happy Birthday.
    No one stopped caring, we were just waiting for a new entry! Smile.
    Your older two brothers must be really tall because I’ve met you in person and you’re not short.
    No pictures of the JART-playing and hooping that I’m sure Annie led?

  13. Ian

    GFWD – Kent and Steve hover in the 6’4″ to 6’5″ range, indeed.
    Thanks for all the birthday wishes! And Tanya, those were plaid SHORTS, young lady.


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