I'm off work today, preparing to chaperone my son's field trip and contemplating my mortality.*
*I feel the two are somehow related.
When I turned 40. . .ummm. . .a few years ago. . .I was woefully unprepared for the paradigm shift that would occur in my life. People inundate you with tales of crow's feet and increased cancer risk and Colonial Penn applications appearing in your mailbox like some shitty gift from Alex Trebek, but no one tells you how it really is. No one looks beyond the whole morbid "well, I'm halfway to death" spiel to nut up and tell you the God's honest truth about turning 40. So, pull up a chair kiddies, because Auntie Jen is about to throw down some veracity, old-school style. Ready? Here goes. . .
TURNING 40 IS FUCKING AWESOME.
True statement. Lately I've noticed a lot of articles on the Huff Post and Buzz Feed about how turning 40 is about as pleasant as being waterboarded by Dick Cheney while listening to Fran Drescher read the collected works of Shakespeare, but personally? I. Call. Bullshit.
A friend of mine is turning 40 on Sunday. . .
*We are throwing him a Joss Whedon themed party. If you don't know who Joss Whedon is, click here. Actually, if you don't know who Joss Whedon is, self-flagellate for an hour, then get thee to a Netflix.
. . .and I don't feel that the man is properly prepared for the level of awesome that awaits. So, as my gift to you, Nathan. . .
*And, yeah, I did get you an ACTUAL gift as well, so don't be thinking I'm all cheap and shit.
. . .I give you, my list of "The Best Things About Turning 40" (copyright pending)
1. Your hormones get totally jacked-up, but in a completely magical way. Suddenly your moods get uber-regulated, your hair gets all thick and Pantene-girl shiny, and you are horny 24 hours a day. It's like going through puberty again except now you don't have acne, and you can buy beer. Huzzah!
2. This is where the rubber meets the road with your friendships. Shit's gonna get real in your 40's. Life-changing stuff like mortgage payments and divorces and that weird mole on your back that the doctor wants to "take a second look at". This is when you are going to look around and see who was really there for you through all of it. Who you could call at 3:00 am when you have a panic attack, who will sit in your hospital room for nine hours after your surgery, who will openly disagree with you on a Seahawks play.*
*Because, seriously? That pass was totally catchable.
This is the era where the drinking buddies and Facebook/Twitter/Instagram "friends" are replaced by the real-life ones. This is when you find your tribe.
3. Your "Give A Shit-O-Meter" goes from low to non-existent. Am I still alive? Check. Do I have a roof over my head? Check. After that, everything else is gravy.
4. When you're in your 40's and not fabulously wealthy, the odds of you being kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and/or held in a sociopath's cellar having lotion lowered to you in a basket are significantly lowered. So, you've got that goin' for you. . .which is nice.*
*Ten points of street cred to whomever caught that reference. Five extra points if you don't throat punch me for being a pompous douche for using the word "whomever".
5. Your 40's are when you turn off the headlights and start looking out the rearview mirrors. Suddenly, life becomes less about searching for what you want and ruing what you don't have, and more about reflecting on everything you've accomplished. "Good enough" is finally good enough.
6. Your teen years are angst-ridden, your 20's are laughable, your 30's will make you want to guzzle Dran-O, your 40's are when you realize all of that and can laugh at the first 39 years of your life instead of feeling remorse or regret.
7. Sex is better in your 40's than it has ever been. Partly because you aren't afraid to say "That ain't workin', Babe", partly because you are no longer self-conscious about the size of your ass, and partly because the odds of an unplanned pregnancy in your less-than-fertile years is practically nil. And, for whatever reason, this is also the era where 20-somethings with a Sugar Daddy/Stifler's Mom fantasy will come crawling out of the woodwork to get their freak on. Be prepared.
8. You learn to forgive. All of the wrongs done to you by others made you who you are today and that person is pretty goddamned amazing, so let it go. And, most of all, forgive yourself. Whatever you did in the past was done for a reason -- either to teach you a lesson or make you a better person through healing. Embrace it. Own your shit.
9. You learn how to keep a secret and how to be discreet. You sleep with a girl in her 20's and she'll tag a naked photo of your ass on Facebook, give it an Instagram filter, and tweet that bad boy to everyone on the world wide web. You sleep with a woman in her 40's and she'll be too damned busy to mention it to anybody. Hell, she probably won't even let you sleep over.
10. You become less critical. Unless you're discussing The New York Jets or Baz Luhrmann films, because, seriously? 'Moulin Rouge'? Just. . .fuck you, Baz.
11. Hangovers will hit you like Chris Brown on Rihanna. You will wake up after two gin and tonics feeling like you just got cornholed by Optimus Prime and praying to everyone from Jesus to L. Ron Hubbard to make the pain go away. I mention that this is a "good thing" because it is God's way of telling you to slow down before your liver is jutting through your navel. Your body is a little less forgiving at this age so start treating it more like a temple and less like a strip club on payday.
12. The smallest things make you happier than Jerry Sandusky at a Cub Scout Jamboree. No longer do you require mind-altering substances to get high. Almost overnight, hearing a child laugh will make you feel like you just did a bump of Colombian marching powder, and a really good song on the radio will have you higher than a bowl of North Slope trip weed. As your tolerance for bullshit lowers, your appreciation for goodness sky-rockets. Not that you'll go all Leo Buscaglia and start running around hugging everybody. . .
*Because I know you and you're way too cynical for that shit and that's why I hang with you.
. . .but you will become more altruistic, and start seeing that everyone truly is good at heart. Just like Anne Frank, only with more social interaction, and. . .fewer Nazis.
13. Raymond Chandler was 44 when he wrote his first novel. Alan Rickman got his first movie role at 46. Roget was 73 when he created the thesaurus. Colonel Harlan Sanders started KFC at age 66. Julia Child didn't learn to cook until she was 40. And the great Stan Lee drew his first comic when he was 43. Success has no age limit. It's never too late to accomplish your dream.
On Saturday, we will celebrate your birthday, Nathan. Not as a "congratulations on not dying for a year", but more as a homecoming. You are about to join the ranks of the 40-somethings. We may not have a handshake or a secret password or a member's only jacket...
*Although we're all old enough to remember Member's Only jackets.
. . .but we do have a kinship. We've all lived through the hostage situation in Iran ("Argo" to the youngsters out there), 8-track tapes, the explosion of the Challenger, the Jager-soaked frat party known as the Clinton Administration, and MTV when they used to actually play music. We've seen some shit. And we're all incredible people because of it. Welcome, Nathan. Welcome home.