Fifty, I was told ten years ago, was the new forty. Heck, in some instances, it might have been the new thirty; after all, it's just a number, and a fairly arbitrary number at that.

Sixty, I believe, isn't just a number. And actually, to me, fifty wasn't just a number either. As I learned from H. Allen Smith:

If we accept seventy as the allotted span, and if we divide life into youth and middle age and old age, then we divide seventy by three and arrive at a fraction over twenty-three. Just to give everybody a break, let's make it an even twenty-four. So, we are young up to the age of twenty-four, at which point middle age sets in. Middle age lasts until we are forty-eight. Anything after that is old and that's where I am.

Smith refers here to Psalm 90:10 [KJV]: "The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away." We don't, of course, actually accept seventy as "the allotted span," despite the Psalm. We know, or we know someone who knows, someone who's made it all the way to a hundred; therefore, at 50, we are clearly middle-aged, for we have completed only half the journey.

At sixty, you can't get away with that reasoning, if "reasoning" it be: you don't know, or you don't know someone who knows, someone who's made it all the way to 120, and you don't get to play the Methuselah card unless you've seen the old man's birth certificate. Sixty is clearly on the downhill slope, and you keep speeding up, gravity being the inexorable force it is, until you finally run out of space and the ground rushes up to meet you.

Still, sixty doesn't strike everyone in exactly the same way. Almost every weekday in the breakroom, there's a blonde with a couple of years' worth of sixtyness under her belt, and that belt is just for decoration: she does for a pair of skinny-ish jeans exactly the same thing that a vacuous twentysomething in a lad mag does for a pair of skinny-ish jeans, except that it would never occur to her to try to get some guy's attention. It helps, of course, that at that hour I'm usually the only guy in the breakroom, and no one particularly desires my attention anyway.

And why should they? I am sixty. If I'm not actually old and decrepit, I'm certainly older, and perhaps a tad closer to decrepit, than I was at fifty. But that's probably not as important as I'm making it sound. At sixty it's possible to drop open the gatefold in any random issue of Playboy, scrutinize the contents, and then toss the magazine aside with "Meh," while guys half my age, or a third my age, are still in mid-drool. Been there, seen that. While I admittedly haven't seen all that much of "that" over the years, I figure I've answered the call of biology — six grandchildren, after all — more than adequately.

Other things change on the road to sixty. I still have what I think is a surplus of minor frustrations. What I don't have is time to waste being furious about them. I don't think this is so much because I fear I'm going to worry myself into an ulcer or some sort of cardiac event, but because it just seems rather pointless: over the years, outrage has contributed little to my life except the occasional bon mot, and I can do those when I'm not annoyed. Sometimes.

Still, one learns. (The moment one stops learning, I contend, is the moment the lid should be closed.) And one thing I learned in my sixtieth year is this anonymous bit of wisdom: "The last one you think about before you fall asleep, is the one who truly owns your heart." I'm just surprised it took me this long to catch on.

And what would I ask for, now that my sixties have begun? Right now, the only thing I'm pretty sure I want is for them to last for ten years. I'm not ready to fly away just yet.

The Vent

  25 November 2013

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