Or maybe 40 has always been old. Of course it’s all relative, but if 40 is old, then,…..
I remember being 40 like it was yesterday. In the middle of a year-long assignment in Brazil, I had just picked up my boss at the Sao Paulo airport. As I was zigging and zagging in and out of early morning rush-hour traffic back to our destination, he asked me how old I was. I thought it was an odd question. We had known each other for at least two years. It’s not a legal question in the hiring process, but since we were well past that phase, it was a harmless query. He told me he was 39. For a second or two I felt self-conscious of my age. When I told him I was 40 I remember hoping that my (old?) age wouldn’t be held against me (apparently it wasn’t as he sent me on numerous assignments after Brazil).
The next year I spent in Peru and during a three-day holiday weekend I flew up to explore Iquitos, at the base of the Amazon, where I rented a motorbike and proceeded to get lost in the surrounding area (long before GPS devices). Thankfully I stumbled onto a small, remote resort among the lush vegetation. It was hot and I had been riding for a while so I stole some comfort in a lounge chair by the empty pool area, had a cold beer and dozed off. I woke up to the noise of three college-age guys talking loudly in the pool. They were recounting stories of the night before. One described an encounter with an old guy (he actually said old f**k), emphasizing old. His friend asked “how old was he?” His response was “he must have been at least 40.” As I lay there contemplating being 41 and feeling young, I realized that to a certain age group I was an old f**k. It was a sobering (I was already sober) thought.
This past summer a 20-something coworker asked me for a ride to her bus stop on one of the rare days I rode my e-bike. We passed a plaza area where a large group of mostly adults were dancing to outdoor music, as they do in most open spaces here. I asked her if she ever danced as an exercise like that. She responded emphatically, “oh no, that’s for old people, like my parents.” I asked how old her parents were. “They are 40-something,” she said. I immediately wondered how she thought of me. Had she no clue that I was (a clump of years) older than her parents?
Recently I was talking to someone who told me about her old sister. She is “old, in her early 40’s,” she says, again emphasizing old, (not older). A tingle of curiosity slapped me in the forehead as I wondered if she realized I was older than her old sister.
This week a colleague, who is 45 years old, was commenting on a “very old guy in his early 60’s” who is the most photographed guy in the world. “He is your age Freddie,” he says. So, let’s see, 60 is the new very old. Puzzled, I knew my old associate didn’t realize that he himself was an old f**k, or that in a half-blink he’ll be in that same very old category?
Strangely, I suppose like most my age, I don’t feel that much different than I did when I was just an old f**k. Now though, I’m coming to grips with the fact that I am, to many, a very old f**k. I guess that’s not so bad, as long as there is plenty of room in life’s equation to (gracefully) age more before it’s somewhere beyond old.
What we all come, or will come to realize, is that at some point, 40 is the new young.