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40 Lessons

by Stephen Lautens


December 17, 1999

I'm turning 40 this weekend, and I expected to be more anxious. As it is, it looks like I'll mark the occasion with family, a few good friends and a modest celebration at home.

My wife asked if I wanted to come home to 40 flamingos or plastic penguins on the lawn. I think she was relieved when I said I didn't feel they were necessary. The same goes for the "39 And Holding" badge and the "Old Fart" coffee mug.

I guess feeling indifferent to birthdays is one of those signs that you are getting older. It's made me think about what it means to be turning 40:

At 40 it's too late to be considered a child prodigy or boy genius. The best I can do is hope that our next door neighbour has forgiven me for picking the tops off all her prize-winning tulips when I was four.

If you get a zit at 40 you don't feel obliged to cover it with a 'fleshtone' cream that doesn't fool anyone.

At 40 you can refuse to sit at a bad table in a restaurant. How many times have they tried to seat you right next to the washroom door in a completely empty restaurant? Or beside the vegetable-throwing Pavorotti of pre-schoolers? I'm old enough to pick my own table, thank you.

At 40 you realize tattoos and piercings just look plain stupid, even on a supermodel.

At 40 you're old enough to have a fully stocked bar, but don't feel the need to have a drink. There was a time when you were younger when drinking butterscotch schnapps from the bottle was the height of sophistication.

At 40 you're not scared by Quebec's politicians threatening to leave. It starts to lose its terror after listening to it for 4 decades. I do feel sorry for Mr. Lafferty, the Montreal investment counsellor who is being sued by Bouchard and Parizeau for comparing them to Hitler. I understand his troubles aren't over yet. I hear Hitler's relatives are threatening to sue too.

At 40 you actually do start to read the articles in Playboy.

At 40 you'll still listen to Korn and Marilyn Manson, just not at full volume.

At 40 you can hire a moving company to pack up your stuff and haul it down the road to your new apartment. One of the best parts of getting older is no longer having to rent a rusty van and impose on your clumsy friends when you move.

At 40 you accept the fact that the pants you wore at high school are never going to fit again, and it's time to give them to Goodwill.

At 40 you no longer feel embarrassed buying items of a personal nature at the drugstore. You can even smile at the sixteen year-old female clerk as she asks for a price check over the PA system.

At 40 you can go to a restaurant and not finish everything on your plate without someone telling you there are starving children somewhere.

At 40 you realize you're not going to live forever, and it's important to look after your health.

At 40 you're able to say the proper names of the female anatomy out loud without blushing or whispering.

At 40 you still care how your car looks, but you're more concerned about the mileage you get.

At 40 you've seen enough of the world to have some understanding, but hopefully not enough to be cynical. Your heart should be strong, but not hard.

At 40 you realize you don't have all the answers, although you swear you did when you were twenty.


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