A few comments on Facebook the other day got me thinking. I know, this whole thinking thing is dangerous, but I risked it.
When my sons graduate from high school as part of the Class of 2020, I will be 52 years old. To some of you old fogies, that might not sound unreasonable, and I'm not typically the kind of person who gets all hung up on age, but I must say that I strenuously object to the whole concept of the fifties as an age range.
For starters, fifty is the first milestone age that sounds old. It's ridiculous to compare fifty to twenty, or even thirty, and expect it not to seem significantly older. But even when compared to forty, an age I reached several years ago, fifty has a ring about it that sounds like a somber church bell.
Take a moment to reflect on the two numbers: forty and fifty. Say them over and over in your head for a minute or two and then tell me that your mental image of a person turning forty doesn't differ dramatically from how you picture that same person turning fifty. Forty suggests a settling in to one's skin, a well-respected and hard-earned maturity, and a classy graying around the temples. Fifty suggests wisps of ear hair like out of control Q-Tips, an irreversible thickening around the waistline, and an I-just-looked-in-a-full-length-mirror understanding of why you can no longer wear the latest trendy summer shorts.
It doesn't help when Our Daughter throws out snarky teenage criticisms, like calling my latest choice in sneakers "old man shoes." Maybe they aren't flashy, or sexy, or cool, but they provide excellent arch support and they don't crowd my toes. All in all, a very practical pair of sneakers. So what if they look like I stole them off a night shift nurse at the hospital?
Back to the point, I suppose this age thing is all just a state of mind.
When I turned twenty it was a joyous occasion -- one year closer to legal drinking age! When I turned thirty, I was a new father and completely oblivious to anything other than changing diapers, thawing frozen breast milk, and figuring out how to assemble plastic children's toys with three missing parts and the wrong tools. When I turned forty, I proudly and declaratively announced it to the world: "I am forty!"
I just hope I can reach fifty with the same enthusiasm. Very likely I will, although I expect there will need to be a strong support system in place to keep my spirits elevated and help reaffirm my belief in the notion that I look good for my age.
Perhaps continuing to monitor the effects of the ravages of time on my old high school friends through Facebook will be enough to do the trick. Unlike many of those poor old bastards, I happen to have more hair on top of my head than I do growing out of my ears. For now...
© 2011 Mark Feggeler