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