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Aging: a series of ‘uniquely brutal crossroads’


Commenting on a new movie titled “This Is 40,” a New York Times columnist the other day gently mocked its director for portraying “the arrival of life’s four-decade mark as a uniquely brutal crossroads, flagged by sputtering libido, suffocating commitments and curdled dreams.”

If you think 40 is bad, the columnist advised, just wait until you’re his age, when “Your body will be even wobblier, your obligations weightier and time running out more ruthlessly on the gaudiest of your plans.” The columnist’s age, incidentally, is 48.

With all due respect to the movie’s director (Judd Apatow, age 45) and the columnist, neither of them has lived long enough to know what they’re talking about.

Because no matter how firmly you believe that the milestone decade you just reached is the most life-changing one possible, there’s always another one just as life-changing ahead. If you’re lucky.

Sure, “the big four-oh” is significant. It’s the number that forces you to admit to yourself that you’ve probably run out of opportunities to become a pro football player or an Elle cover girl. What I remember most vividly about the big four-oh was the shock of learning that I had become eligible to play in the old-timer’s softball league.

But then comes the even bigger five-oh, accompanied by the realization that the producers of movies and television shows no longer care if you like their products, because you’ve outlived their preferred demographics. And that the music you assumed would rock forever now is heard mainly on “oldies” radio stations.

Which is followed by the big six-oh, when you come to the office one morning, look around you and wonder why they forget to tell you that it was “bring your high school student to work” day. It’s the decade that forces you to admit to yourself that your children probably had run out of opportunities to become pro football players or Elle cover girls.

Brutal crossroads? Just wait until the big seven-oh, when you discover that the only companies competing for your business are ones that sell hearing aids and you find yourself paying less attention to the sports pages and more to the obituaries.

The reality, of course, is that there is no decade you will enter in which your body will not be even wobblier, your obligations weightier and time running out more ruthlessly on the gaudiest of your plans

Still, there’s always comfort in the fact that no matter which “uniquely brutal crossroads” you think you’ve reached, there are plenty of people who arrived there a decade or more earlier and would be happy to trade places with you.


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