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Aging Disgracefully

By Amil Niazi

Thursday November 3, 2005

The Slow Crawl To Manhood

It’s widely accepted these days that 30 is the new 20 and 40 is the new 30. Like most clichés and turns of phrase, this idea is supposed to be comforting and offered up to friends in their time of need. But if you talk to anyone about to enter their second phase of life, there’s little comfort in these words. Apparently for some, specifically men accustomed to living like a boy, the concept of leaping out of the crib is frightful at best. Though we’re used to women complaining about the weathering signs of age, and women over a certain age are phased out of popular culture and visible societal norms, men have other concerns beyond the superficial process. For them the advance of time means failure, soulless labour and acceptance.

Fifty years ago it was true of men in their thirties that they held the same job for more than ten years, they also held the same woman and generally stayed in the same town. Their future was relative and confined to whatever they trolled in their present. Not anymore.

“When I turned thirty it was in a park covered in grass and soaked through with rain. I spent the morning checking the ATM’s to see if I had enough cash to buy a croissant because I was starving.”

These words from a man turning forty and disillusioned with the fears of twenty-something’s. In fact, he says he wasn’t nervous about turning thirty, but he’s terrified of turning forty. Because we don’t define humans by their day jobs, nor their matrimonial sanctities, the anxieties have changed. Middle-life has morphed in to something more cerebral and haunting. The concerns of ageing alone and in an abstract poverty have replaced the pithy headaches of RRSP’s and marriage woes. Are we umbrellaed under the same struggles and is age inconsequential in a boundary-less world?

In this time of slow-burning mortality, what shape does the mid-life crisis take, if any? According to another modern man, it happens faster than you’d think.

“I had my mid-life crisis when I was twenty-five. I got it all out of the way. Now I can buy that Ferrari in my fifties without feeling bad about it. Our generation doesn’t feel the need to mature at thirty.”

So we’re left with a world full of hairy children struggling with the same hang-ups of adults but without the tools to deal with them; with only a few poorly staffed men’s help lines to accommodate them.

Maybe it’s because youth has been overused in our new statute of living. Stuck behind the veneer of achievable immortality, we don’t feel the need to grow-up, only to cover-up. With this concept thrown around for the last five decades, we’ve hollowed out the meat of wisdom and replaced it with the shell of anxiety.

Thirty may not be the new twenty, but with the erasing of accumulative experience, we may have eliminated the responsibility of age and the beauty of innocence. By rejecting convention for illusion, we’ve made it easier to avoid reality at all costs, even if that reality catches up on its own. Accepting the fact that with old age comes a certain amount of monotony means allowing ourselves the opportunity to revel in routine.

Cliché as it may be, there is no chaos without routine, no knowledge without experience. And if nothing else, there’s always the discounts.