I suffered at the hands of another birthday this week and it means I am now well into my… don’t go there… but this latest milestone I endured did prompt some thought on the totally inappropriate expression: ‘Life begins at 40’.
In fact, life begins at 0 but let’s not be pedantic. One suspects this ridiculous expression was conjured up by a person who turned 40 and wanted to deflect some pain. Life absolutely doesn’t begin at 40 and as you may have gathered, I’m in a good position to present a cogent argument.
The reality is this: when you do, or if you have hit 40 you’ll have experienced some disappointment along the way and perhaps a few too many nights consisting of Friends reruns.
Conversely, turning 30 is a breeze. It’s like experiencing proper adulthood. At this point you are sensitive to house parties turning flat and have trained yourself to leave at their peak. You don’t have to go to nightclubs anymore and as an individual you have become aware of your strengths and, more importantly, your weaknesses. You know more but realise that you know very little.
You’re starting to understand that you need to spend over £7 to get a decent bottle of wine. You also appreciate the value of drinking out of clean glasses and how to get stains out of cream-coloured carpets. You’ve learned to book in advance to avoid disappointment and you have started wearing good quality underwear. You don’t expect people to drink out of plastic cups and you’ve moved on from culinary atrocities such as tuna bake and jars of quick’n’easy pasta sauce. You’ve learned that Skins is not entertainment.
Then 10 years pass.
Now things are a little more complicated. You’ve got some grey hairs, the career hasn’t quite delivered what you’ve expected, relationships have become more difficult, the gym is an unpleasant necessity and snoring becomes the norm. Then at this seminal moment – your 40th birthday – you receive a glitter-covered card depicting balloons and a sozzled ‘comedy’ character raising what looks to be a Martini glass, complete with bubbles and japes. The card reads ‘Life begins at 40!’
Go get the gun.
The ‘character’ depicted isn’t much fun at all and one might be forgiven to for thinking that this is merely an attempt at prophecy fired at you straight from the caption writers at Hallmark who have tracked your life from birth. It’s like The Truman Show but nobody’s that good-looking.
The phrase ‘Life Begins at 40’ is wholly offensive. Let’s take 40 for what it is: a starting block for old age and a training ground for belligerence, senility, impotence, incontinence and, ultimately, death.
Next week: the joy of colostomy bags.