By most measures, today marks my full transition from relative youth to middle age. Although, when I really think about it, didn’t I really hit middle age in December ’07, when I turned thirty-eight? The average life expectancy of an American male is about seventy-seven, right? And for Black males, it’s barely sixty-five. Given my family history, though, I won’t hit middle age for another two years. My maternal grandfather turned ninety-six three months ago, and my paternal grandfather lived until he was ninety-six. Even my father’s still moving along at seventy-five, despite his battle with alcoholism between the ages of twenty and fifty-eight.
I do feel things in my body and mind that until a few years ago were merely minor aches and pains. My right hip is misaligned with my left hip, likely from years of walking at warp speed, lots of basketball, and six years of my running regime. My L-5 vertebrae is a bit compressed, due to years of activity, including many years hunched over a keyboard trying to make myself into a writer, author and educator. My right knee has been a bother since I was twenty-four, but the issue has gotten worse in the past two years (maybe time for some HGH or microfracture surgery?). I now have white-coat syndrome (because most doctors and nurses get on my last nerve), and I’m mildly anemic. No, folks, forty-six isn’t the new thirty-six, even if I can still run forty yards in under five seconds, pop a three over my son’s outstretched hand or leg press 360 pounds.
But I still have good health and a mostly healthy body and mind. Since I turned twenty-seven, my weight has never been higher than 241 pounds (including clothes, wallet, phone, and keys) or lower than 212 (I weight 229 now). I can still memorize when inspired to do so, remember virtually anything important from my life from the age of four to the present, and could still probably win at Jeopardy if I ever got the call.
What’s more impressive, though, is whom remains in my life now that I’m no longer “young” anymore. My friends live all over the map, from the DC area to Pittsburgh to the Bay Area and New York, from Atlanta to Athens and from Seattle to Shanghai. I’ve made peace (mostly) with my family and my past, even if they aren’t always at peace with me. There’s my wife and son, of course, who are mostly likely the reason I’m still “young” relative to my age. Though I remain a Christian, I do not have the blind faith or evangelical -isms of my youth, and I’m at peace with that as well. I’m probably further to the left culturally and politically than I was at sixteen, twenty-six, or thirty-six. Because I’ve learned, sadly, that so much of what I was taught or fed growing up was either incorrect or a complete lie. But even with that sad disillusionment, I’ve come to accept the possibility of change for myself and the Sisyphean task that this nation and world always has been.
Yet even the idea of middle age has changed in the minds of capitalists as the Baby Boomer generation has begun retirement and all of them have received their first AARP cards. Before 2000, the ad folks and entertainment folks had split up adults into the age demographics of 18-34, 35-44, 45-64, and 65 and up. Now, it’s 18-24, 25-54, and 55 and up. This privileges Baby Boomers (as usual) and props up Millennials (folks who used to be Gen Y). My middle age is not the same as Baby Boomers’ middle age. Even in demographic representations, money-grubbing capitalists give us Gen Xers little respect.
Rodney Dangerfield quipped this funny line in Back to School (1986):
Coach Turnbull: What’s a guy your age doing here with these kids?
Thornton (played by Dangerfield): I’m lookin’ for the fountain of middle age.
Maybe when I’m sixty-five (like Rodney Dangerfield was in this film), I’ll be looking for the Fountain of Middle Age, too. But my choice will be to stand in it for the next thirty or forty years!