THE COLUM­NIST

GQ (Australia) - - GENTLEMEN'S QUARTERLY -

And so life be­gins. By the time you read these words, I will have turned 40. The big four-oh. A whole new tick-box on the of­fi­cial form of life. Oh god, I’m of­fi­cially mid­dle-aged. Half­way to death, sta­tis­ti­cally. Though if this were the Mid­dle Ages, I’d be long dead of scurvy or small­pox or a dodgy hog roast. Av­er­age life ex­pectancy in the year 1300 was 31 years; it’s now 80 for Aus­tralian men. I’d like to say this land­mark has snuck up on me al­most un­no­ticed but it’s been on my mind con­stantly since the day be­fore I turned 39. Since then I have crossed off each day on a wall calendar with ‘The 40’ – a self-de­signed six-minute body weight ex­er­cise reg­i­men com­prised of 40 push-ups, 40 sit-ups, 40 tri­cep dips, 40 lunges, rounded off with a two-minute plank. The idea was to stave off dad-bod and hero­ically breast the tape of 40 rather than wheeze over the line. In the last des­per­ate, fren­zied month, I’ve em­ployed the services of a per­sonal trainer three times a week – a con­sid­er­able price I’m will­ing to pay as the big day looms into view. Forty is a thresh­old when peo­ple start to ei­ther look re­ally good or re­ally bad for their age. Thanks to my wife’s ever-im­pres­sive or­gan­i­sa­tional skills, I will be lucky enough to see in my roar­ing for­ties sur­rounded by the same 14 friends with whom I cel­e­brated my 30th when we all lived in Syd­ney – all DINK (dou­ble in­come, no kids) cou­ples back then. We’re hav­ing the re­union on the he­do­nis­tic is­land of Ibiza. (Watch out, mil­len­ni­als!) A decade on, there will be an ad­di­tional seven baby-gate­crash­ers. And one of the cou­ples has split. I dis­tinctly re­mem­ber feel­ing quite de­pressed about turn­ing 30, like it was the end of some­thing rather than the start. The lead up to a land­mark birth­day of­fers the op­por­tu­nity for in­tro­spec­tive re­flec­tion. Am I where I ex­pected to be at this stage in life? Am I happy? Do these swim shorts still fit? There’s a line in Drake’s song ‘Port­land’ that touches a nerve ev­ery time I hear it: ‘Fuck be­ing rich when I’m 40, man, I’m try­ing to make it now’. I’m days away from 40. I’m not rich, at least not fi­nan­cially. I have not ‘made it’. Sure, I earn sev­eral times more than I did when I started my pro­fes­sional ca­reer at 21 but some­how I don’t seem to have any more money. Less, if any­thing. Bloody mort­gage. If I squint, I can just about re­call my dad turn­ing 40. I was six; he was an­cient. When you’re 20, 30 seems old. When you’re 30, 40 seems old. When you’re 40, 37 seems so damn young. I didn’t have sleep-thiev­ing kids then. Or a grey-patched beard. Or these love han­dles. Look­ing back though, I had a pretty good run at my thir­ties. My wife and I have a carpe diem at­ti­tude to­wards life’s op­por­tu­ni­ties, which has taken us to live in three dif­fer­ent coun­tries. There’s a trite bumper sticker line that res­onates with me. ‘One day your life will flash be­fore your eyes; make sure it’s worth watch­ing.’ I don’t feel 40, nor do I feel like I even act 40. Per­haps I’m in de­nial though, for the re­cent ev­i­dence would sug­gest I am very much in the throes of a midlife cri­sis. For ex­am­ple, hav­ing sanc­ti­mo­niously vowed in this col­umn in the past that I would never get a tat­too, I re­cently got my first ink: two par­al­lel rings un­der my wed­ding band to rep­re­sent our twins. Seen from an­other an­gle it ap­par­ently spells out the word ‘cliché’. Last month out of pure van­ity, I se­cretly got my teeth whitened and had Bo­tox. My wife only no­ticed when she saw the credit card state­ment. My bar­ber re­cently started trim­ming my eye­brows and my ear hair. WTAF. And it’s one of life’s tru­isms that grey hair looks re­ally cool on ev­ery guy ex­cept your­self. I like to think of my­self as down with the kids but re­cently I’ve be­gun to feel a bit out of touch. Not 100 per cent sure I know what ‘ex­tra’ and ‘woke’ mean, for ex­am­ple – cer­tainly wouldn’t be con­fi­dent about us­ing them cor­rectly in a sen­tence with­out sound­ing like a be­fud­dled grand­dad giv­ing it the ‘was­sup dudes!’ with two ov­er­en­thu­si­as­tic thumbs up. Yes, life be­gins at 40. But so does the habit of re­peat­ing your­self, say­ing ‘oof’ when you sit down, fall­ing fast asleep within 15 min­utes of a new episode of The Hand­maid’s Tale, and re­peat­ing your­self.

CAU­TION: LAND­MARK AP­PROACH­ING

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