Monday, 1 October 2007

Life Begins to End at 40

As I have noted in previous postings I turn 40 in October. As with most men this is something that preys on my mind a great deal. What angers me is people saying 'life begins at 40' which is clearly a lie. By the time you turn 40 you can no longer, in the bizarre words of one commentator, come home and find your family wiped out go to a monastery and train to be a martial arts expert and wreak revenge. Though this is an odd analogy, it does reflect that from 40 onwards, and probably a few years younger, you are incapable of learning anything new. If you lose your job you will be unable to move into a new career, rather your new job will usually be the same or simply a lower grade version of what you did before. Your options are severely limited. Despite all the legislation, age discrimination creeps in and this means if you have a job you cling to it. There is no longer any opportunity to pack it in and move to somewhere you prefer, you have to hold tight to whatever you can get. Within the job itself your ability to comment and criticise is stripped from you too, or you face the risk of being replaced by someone younger, cheaper and more compliant. You are seen to be out of touch and can be patronised by younger colleagues and yet not allowed to take offence.

From 40 onwards your healthiest part of your life is over. You will never be as fit or free from illness as you were before. Your senses, your memory, your fitness levels all begin deteriorating. Obviously the speed of deterioration is faster for some people than others. I have suffered this for the last couple of years. I do not really feel ill, but I never feel good. My head feels like it is in a box, I am constantly flatulent or bloated, my limbs ache, I find it difficult to wake up in the mornings and come home from work feeling so tired that I can do not activities in the evening. Slumping in front of the television is all that I am fit for these days when even just a few years ago I could cycle 40 miles on a Sunday or write thousands of words of a story in an evening, all of that has gone now and will never return.

Now, I accept that not everyone goes down hill as fast as me, but even if it takes a few more years, you have to face the fact that the best of your life is over. Of course if we lived in Stone Age times we would be dead by now, and even in the 1880s the life expectancy of a working man was 45, so these days were are effectively being kept alive by artificial means and living though what in normal human lives would be 'dead time' quite literally. Your body and brain are not equipped to take on new skills or fitness once you turn 40, for the biological pattern there is no need for this as you should no longer actually be around. I suppose with the juvenalisation of our society and middle age being pushed further into the 50s rather than starting at 40 as it did in my youth, I guess people are tempted to pretend that they are not ageing. For women it might be a bit different as the menopause can mean the end of complicated and uncomfortable contraceptive methods and a greater freedom in sex, but the menopause itself brings on physical difficulties to counteract this gain, plus all the wrinkles that commercials seem to advise you how to combat.

The juvenalist behaviour of the middle aged means they have lost the respect of those who are both younger and older than them. The elderly look down on us with disapproval, the young as if we are irrelevant. We need to restore the credibility of the middle aged by behaving properly, not thinking we can begin to snowboard and go to Take That concerts. As it is, our bodies are not up to it. I will try to live my middle age appropriately and encourage others to do so rather than fooling themselves about their capabilities.

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