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not as youngish as i once was


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So I’m 40 today.

 

An arbitrary number, but maybe not so arbitrary to indulge me in a riff. Maybe something resonates, maybe not.

 

“How does it feel?” people invariably ask. “Like a day?” I want to say. I also want to say more.

 

I weigh what I weighed at 16, a bit less than I did at 30, am as strong as I was (if a touch less nimble) at 23. So I guess I’ve learned that if you use your body and treat it well it doesn’t get used up, at least not by 40. I have a lot of gray hairs, but my hair is thick. A little crease to the left of my nose that reared its head following a turbulent stretch on the heart a few years back. I don’t mind it. It’s like a tattoo I got during a weird time that is no longer the time I’m in.

 

I can can still pull off my favorite party trick, where I pretend to be drunker than I am and “wonder,” to a wary audience, if I can do a back flip, before “attempting” said flip. I was a competitive gymnast and a diver for what now amounts to about half my life, the first half, so this is fake magic, like all magic.

 

I also haven’t actually done that trick in years. Guess I’m getting humbler?

 

That’s all surface level stuff, I know, but we all look in mirrors. Helps to like, and accept, what we see reflected back. Probably took me right to the doorstep of 40 to be able to write some fancy sentences like those and actually know what they mean. Had to live to live them.

 

I find myself thinking back to when I was 16. A little phase where I was into listening to my mom’s records from when she was 16: the Stones, the Beatles, that phase that feels so potent until you learn everyone goes through it. She’d pop her head into my door, where my best friend and I were worshipping the record player like an alien deity as Abbey Road spun round for the millionth time. “I feel like that came out yesterday,” my mom would say, sounding like the lamest human in the world.

 

She would have been 40 then. Guess it takes time to learn that what is lame is cool and what seems cool is pretty lame.

 

They tell me Nirvana’s Nevermind came out 28 years ago, but I’ve heard myself telling people 20 years younger than me that it came out yesterday. I saw Nirvana live when I was 14 and have heard myself in past incarnations telling women that to sound impressive. Which worked. On the wrong women. Not sure if I’ve mentioned that to my girlfriend, but I like that it wouldn’t work on her.

 

I heard last month that the 9/11 attacks happened 19 years ago, but that can’t be. It was yesterday that I watched that second plane hit from the rooftop of my apartment building, and was sent down there to “check it out” by a magazine I wrote for. What an awful day. Yesterday. Except how to explain that I now live in California, or that before California I lived for years in New Orleans? So was it all a zillion years ago? Or maybe just exactly 19.

 

But I heard myself telling someone last month who wasn’t alive when 9/11 happened that it happened yesterday, and I meant it. Guess that’s the stuff that starts happening around this age.

 

I remain surprised that people allow me to buy alcohol when I show them my ID. Of course, they rarely ask for my ID anymore, so when they do that’s the real surprise.

 

In grade school I was a year younger than everyone else, and I graduated college a year early, so I spent a lot of my youth being younger than young people. Then I spent some time, maybe a dash too much, feeling and acting younger than I was.

 

At 40 I feel 40. It’s nice.

 

I have never been married, never had a kid. I’m fine with that, though I do find myself now thinking about both those things. I’m fine with that too. There is a soft confidence in looking in the mirror and seeing a man I know would be a good partner and father where I once found a jagged confidence in seeing a man who could do a backflip and had been in the same room as Kurt Cobain.

 

I’ve been all over the United States and adore this country, often reluctantly. I’ve seen a lot of the world, and long to see more. That’s how I’m built, restlessly. But I’ve never liked sitting still in the way I do today. Plenty to explore right there, right here, you know? Well, I didn’t know, not until recently. That was one of those memos that fell behind the desk.

 

I’ve done pretty well for myself. I want for nothing, never have spent much time wanting. I can pack my closet into a single bag. I have a career that sounds impressive, but mainly impresses me in having never quite felt like a “career.” I appreciate my old friends in ways I didn’t a decade ago. They were newer friends then, of course, and my eyes will still learning how to see past my own nose.

 

A year or so ago I was talking to one of those friends. I said something like, “When I look back at myself at that time I go: wow, what a kid, that dude knew nothing!” I think I was talking about being 35. At 33 I probably said the same about myself at 27, back when I really knew nothing, save the fact that at 18 I really knew nothing.

 

Which means, if my math is right, that at 50 I’ll look back at the guy writing these words and see a kid who knew nothing. I love that. I really love that.

 

But I think it’s taken about 40 years to learn to love it—and, maybe, to learn what love is.

 

I was raised with two opposing examples of love, and have done some reckoning to see them as one thing. From my mother I know love to be limitless, a selfless thing that gets replenished by asking for nothing. She is here with me today, to celebrate. And from my father I know that love can be a selfish and depleting thing, dimmed by guilt and shame into a weak flame that only flickers and never quite warms. I don’t know where he is today, or if he would know, were it not for Facebook, which we all joined yesterday, that I turn 40 today.

 

That’s never easy, that part of being me. But it’s a sharpness I’m used to, or at least used to always getting used to.

 

Anyway, I think love is very much a tangible thing, as real as the Golden Gate Bridge, but also an abstraction, like a dream you can’t quite remember. A container that cannot be contained, the periodic table in one word, four letters.

 

Yeah, I’m in love right now. I’ve dedicated the entirety of my adult life to trying to describe things with words, and can thank those words for some of the above, like my mortgage and so many airplanes touching down in foreign lands. I’m tempted to say a lot about this, and in a past life I would. In this one I will say, simply, that she is a woman in the world who is adored by me, and that I am lucky to be able to write those words and feel the same in return. It is a form of luck, to quote her, that feels earned.

 

I like that idea: luck that can be earned through living. Not sure I totally understand what it means yet, but I’m excited to have time to figure it out.

 

Thanks for listening.

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Happy Bday!🎈🍰 Keep up the good work. You have saved some posters millions in therapy fees from reading any one of your many eloquent posts. Write some books. Dr Phil could learn a thing or two from you.🥂

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Happy Birthday! At 40 I was in love, never been married, no children. On that birthday my future husband took us to one of our favorite spots to hike and boat and sit on a lovely porch of the inn on the property (but we stayed at a chain hotel nearby lol). It was beyond perfection. Gorgeous summer day. He was 39. I didn't "feel" 40 whatever that means. But I remember when my mother turned 40 and I was 9 and I thought it was "so old". I know, all matter of perspective. I am glad you shared how you feel. In my 40s I went to two foreign countries I'd never been to, got married, had a baby, had a stroke, was unemployed for the first time in decades, relocated for the first time in my life after 43 years in one city, lost my father and my inlaws who in many ways I was closer to than my father. I went from single to married while my only sibling went from married to divorced so that we were never married at the same time. I became a great aunt, too. Many of the life cycle things I've experienced happened later than is "typical" and I am hearing the same from you in what you write. I kind of like that - do you? I like that I took the long way around and I hope you do, too.

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Many of the life cycle things I've experienced happened later than is "typical" and I am hearing the same from you in what you write. I kind of like that - do you? I like that I took the long way around and I hope you do, too.

 

Beautiful post—and, yes, spot on.

 

There are ways, if we're pulling out the "typical" thermometer, that I experienced some things very early that some expect later in life. Like being a grownup, in ways. Career and financial stability were locked in about the same moment I could legally drink. Others, yes, have taken longer to arrive—or, I should say, be embraced.

 

I more than kind of like it. I think it's basically the universal story that just plays out in all our lives a bit differently. Once we get cozy with that—ah, sigh.

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Dear Blue castle ! Happy belated birthday! So very sorry I am late.

I hope you had a magical day.

This was a lovely post Blue...I think you can be so proud of who you are.

Thank you again for making a difference in this world.

Sincere wishes from UK

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Happy birthday Blue!!!

Celebrate for a week, at least, yeah?!

 

I was chuckling a bit at the Nirvana reference. Heard them on a classic rock radio station the other day. Classic rock?!! Yup, the music of our youth is now classic rock.

 

So relatable what you said about perception of time at this point in our lives. When I was wee, I used to always wonder at those who were older, the way they could rattle off something that happened in their lives in 1974 as though it had just happened. That's ancient history!

I get it now. Time seems much more elastic now. It's wild, but I quite like it.

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Happy birthday Blue!!!

Celebrate for a week, at least, yeah?!

 

I was chuckling a bit at the Nirvana reference. Heard them on a classic rock radio station the other day. Classic rock?!! Yup, the music of our youth is now classic rock.

 

So relatable what you said about perception of time at this point in our lives. When I was wee, I used to always wonder at those who were older, the way they could rattle off something that happened in their lives in 1974 as though it had just happened. That's ancient history!

I get it now. Time seems much more elastic now. It's wild, but I quite like it.

 

Thank you!

 

Totally agree about the elasticity of time. Mainly amazing, every now and then overwhelming. But I'm a fan of the occasionally overwhelming, so...

 

And, yes, this is being celebrated—hard—for exactly a week. Small, lavish dinner last night with gf, bff, and mom. Sunset party at my house: golden light, hills, old pals, all the best Cali cliches. Then to the desert for 4 days, where I my door will be open to whoever wants to come by for a swim and frolic.

 

I'm feeling grateful. Know you just hit this arbitrary landmark in life as well, and hope it's been treating you well.

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