Forty is age when you officially begin your slow descent into old age and death. You can no longer tell yourself that you are young and developing, that you are really a kid. You should not be listening to Eminem if you are forty. You should not be trying to put enough money together to get a decent car. If you are still doing this, it is already too late. You are not up and coming. You are a loser. I am thirty-six. My vantage point on forty is keen. I have been watching it like an approaching leopard, ready to strike at any moment, mauling my features until unrecognizable with age and sour maturity. (At thirty-six, you need to stop wearing your hair in double pony tails, but I started doing this instead.) In less than two months, I will be thirty-seven. (At thirty-seven, Kid Rock is out of the question.) I will be issued a bottle of Metamucil and a pair of spectacles then told sternly to behave.
A youthful appearance is supposed to be a good thing, particularly for those of us edging ever close to that fateful precipice. I am not fond of wrinkles. I think it is especially unfair that it is possible to have both wrinkles and pimples at the same time. Whose cruel idea was this–putrefaction spiked with adolescent angst? I will confess, though, that I seem to pass somehow for someone much younger than myself. This could be, as I might hope, due to supple skin and grey hair artfully concealed by foils, but I suspect it may have something to do with my bearing, which communicates something less than a goddess-like maturity.
At any rate, the situation I find myself in goes as follows:
Nice person asks me, "Oh, do you have children?"
"Yes, I do, " I reply.
"How old?," they say.
"I have three boys," I confide. "Six, eleven and fourteen."
This is when the stares of open horror begin.
"Fourteen, you say?"
I can see them making mental calculations.
"I am thirty-six.," I assert.
"Ohhhhhhhhh," the person says, finally able to breathe again. " I thought you were in your twenties for sure."
"Yes," I say, " I get that a lot."
I guess I should have t-shirts printed for when I meet new people. They will say "I Was Never a Teenage Mother". And then, because I'm me, on the back, they will say "Not That There Would be Anything Wrong with That" and list some resources for teenage mothers.
Maybe, instead, I'll just tell people my oldest son is a really surly ten year-old.