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The Joys of Turning 42

The Joys of Turning 42

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2009

I turned a wonderful age last week. An age I've been looking forward to for a few years.

I turned 42 this past Saturday.

It's just got a neat sound. A numeric rhythm that sounds almost poetic, the way it hisses and pops.

Forty-two.

When people ask my age, I say I am the Ultimate Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything, as described in the book, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It's what the computer, Deep Thought, said was the Ultimate Answer after running a 7.5 million year computer program.

"Is that all you've got to show for seven-and-a-half million years' work?" the descendants of the original programmers shouted.

"I checked it very thoroughly," said Deep Thought. "I think the problem is that you've never actually known what the question is."

"It's, you know, the Ultimate Answer. To Life. The Universe. And Everything."

As a serious Hitchhiker's Guide fan — serious, as in, "I also know what the Ultimate Question is" serious — I've been fascinated with the number 42. It makes me smile to hear it. And I've been looking forward to being this age ever since I turned 40.

But I've also hit that awkward age where my body goes through some weird changes. My voice gets deeper, and I get hair growing in new places. I sag more, I sound older, and I have to worry about whether I have hair coming out of my ears.

"You're only as old as you feel," people often say to me.

That's good, because if I felt as old as I act, I'd be back in 7th grade.

Surprisingly, my wife doesn't argue about that.

I've reached the age where, several hundred years ago, I would have be at death's door. I would have reached my golden years 100 years ago. Now, given that men are living into their 80s, I'm middle-aged.

Still, I can't help like I've accomplished something by making it this far, like I must be doing something right. I've lived longer than some famous people who tragically died young. I've outlived Princess Diana, who was 36 when she died. Franz Kafka was 41 when he died of TB. Andy Kaufman was 35, John Belushi and Chris Farley were both 33. However, I've still got a year to go before I catch up with John Candy and Gilda Radner. Elvis Presley was 42 years and seven months.

Meanwhile, Ernest Hemingway was 61 and Hunter S. Thompson was 67 when they both died. And not only would I like to outlive both of them — actually, I would like to outlive both of them combined — I don't plan on leaving the same way they did, on the business end of a gun.

I'll admit, turning 42 has made me more than a little reflective. I think about what I like and don't like, what I used to like and what I now think is stupid.

When I was 13, I used to listen to the newest rock and pop music, and swear up and down that when I had kids, I was going to be the cool dad. I wasn't going to call my kids' music garbage, because I was going to listen to that kind of music when I was older.

It's partly true now. I still listen to the same music I did when I was 13. But I do think the stuff my 12-year-old daughter listens to is garbage.

But realizing I'm not as young as I used to be is the hardest part. I cringe at the fact that I have a daughter who's turning into a teenager this month. I roll my eyes when I see professional football players, guys who make more in a year than I'll make in a lifetime, who were born the year I graduated from high school. And I feel dizzy when I realize that I'm old enough to be the father of the attractive waitress who just brought me my beer.

And she just called me "sir."

The problem with being 42 is that my brain thinks I'm 30, my knees think I'm 50, and my cholesterol thinks I'm John Candy. It's like I'm re-experiencing my awkward teen years, only now I'm old enough to run for President.

I was talking with my good friend Doug at lunch today, and he made an interesting observation.

"When we're young, we celebrate our birthdays because we're getting closer to a special milestone," said Doug. "Like being old enough to drive, old enough to vote, old enough to drink. Once you hit our age" — Doug is 41 — "what milestones do we have? What is there left to accomplish?"

"We're not accomplishing anything," I said. "We're postponing the inevitable."


Photo: Anna Duncan
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