Thursday, August 25, 2011


A month from today something terrible is going to happen.

It's something I don't like to talk about, think about, or tell people about.

It's my secret shame. I try to hide it from people, because when I tell them, I know they will look at me differently, think of me differently, and put me in a different category.

A month from today I turn 40.


Ever since my divorce three years ago, I've been reluctant to tell people my age. When they ask me how old I am, I turn it around and ask, "How old do you think I am?" Thankfully, they usually guess much younger than I am, sometimes as much as 10 years younger.

Can you believe Dick Clark is 106?

I don't look or act my age, and most of the friends I've made in the past three years have been in their early 30's. It's actually uncanny how I'll make a new friend and then later discover they are between 30 and 32. That must be the demographic that I have the most in common with.


People say age is just a number, but it's a number other people will judge you for. I may not look my age, but when people discover that number, I can feel their judgy gaze. What's this geezer doing hanging out with us?

And if it's someone I'm trying to date, it's often a dealbreaker. Especially on online dating sites, where they filter you out based on a number, 40 can be a death knell. (What's a "death knell" anyway? Why not a "death gong?") I defended myself to one woman on a dating site, explaining that I was in great shape, immature, and I only read at a 32-year-old level. She thought that was funny, but she still rejected me just the same.

(I don't only try to date younger people. I'd love to date someone my own age. It's just harder to find them.)


It's not so much being 40 that bothers me. It's the boolean combination of being 40 AND single.

A venn diagram of a boolean search.

I never wanted to be single this late in my life. Dating in your late 30's sucks, and I imagine it only gets worse in your 40's. Dating in general sucks, but at least in your 20's you can convince yourself you have plenty of time. Now I'm getting too old to date most graduate students, which used to be my biggest pool of potentials.

Forty is that age when people start to panic and compromise. Whenever young single people make a backup pact, it always starts with, "If neither one of married by the time we're 40..."

Well, I AM 40.



Perhaps that "almost" is the worst part. The anticipation of turning 40 may be worse than the actual thing. In a way, the last month of being 39 may be the hardest part of being 40.

Here's a story to illustrate my point.

When I lived in Germany I traveled over the winter break. I was in Prague for Christmas, so my friend and I went to midnight mass at the huge and beautiful Prague cathedral.

That cathedral was packed more full of people than any place I've ever seen. We stood in the back, squished together in standing room only. The mass was in Czech and we didn't understand much, so after about 10 minutes we decided to leave. But as we tried to get out, there were so many people it was a huge bottleneck at the door. It took us a full 10 minutes just to get out, and at the point where we squeezed through the door, I almost got crushed from the bottleneck. It was actually quite a terrifying moment.

But I managed to wiggle through the door. Once outside in the cold Czech winter night, it felt good to out in the air where I could breathe.

Right now I feel all this pressure to enjoy the last of my 30's. As I get closer to turning over my odometer, I'm going to get more panicky, until I'll almost be crushed by anxiety. But maybe once I get past it, I'll feel relieved to be on the other side of it, out in the cool air of middle age.

That's what I hope turning 40 will be like.


My 20's were better than my teens. My 30's were better than my 20's. There's no reason to believe that my 40's won't continue that trend. As I get older and more experienced, I have more resources, tools, and knowledge to deal with life. I'd even venture to say that, thanks to tennis, organic cooking & eating, and healthier habits, in some ways I'll be in better physical shape at 40 than I was at 30.

But that doesn't mean that the big Four-Oh-- the portal to middle age-- isn't a big ol' scary place.


Sarah said...

I don't get -- I legitimately don't understand -- why people put such an emphasis on age. (Not you. I'm talking about the people you're talking about being rejected by.)

I think I've mentioned on several occasions that my fiance (maybe we'll get married one of these days) is 42 to my 26. People find that out, and they're like OHMYGAW! But. . .it doesn't matter! He's still hot, everything still works. . .it's just a number!

Also, while I'm on my rant, I'll tell you about a little girl whose books I checked out at the library the other day. She was really cute, really excited about starting school the next week. I asked her how old she was, and she said, "Six. . .how old are YOU?"

It caught me by surprise, but I wasn't offended or anything. Her mother, though, went BALLISTIC. "You can't ASK PEOPLE THAT!" she said.

I looked at the kid and said, "I'm 26."

And then I'm thinking, why do adults get to ask kids how old they are all the time, but kids can't do the same? Why is being above a certain age a bad thing?

I don't get it, but I've left a long enough comment here to get it out of my system. So happy last month of your 30's!

Tim said...

Thanks for your comment, Sarah. To be honest, the reason why I'm freaking out is because I also put an emphasis on age. 40 seem OLD to me, even though I don't think of myself as old. I went through the same thing when I turned 30, but at least then I could console myself that I wasn't 40. Now I guess I'm happy I'm not 50.

I don't know why the mother freaked out (maybe a Southern thing?), but it doesn't seem like such a horrifying question. It's not like she asked you how much you weigh. :)

You should have told that little girl you were 119! Kids at that age have no concept of age. When my mom was middle-aged, this kid once guessed she was 20-- because that was the highest number he could think of!

MathOughts said...

Hey Tim,

Enjoy every day, no matter how old you are.

At 51 and 1/3 years, I think who gives a crap about age? I don't look my age, and I don't act it either.

By the way enjoy the fact that you probably don't remember the "Cecilia" reference in the way that us older folks do. And if you do, "I fall on the floor and I laughin'!"


Sarah said...

I am a giant hypocrite, as it turns out, because getting older TERRIFIES me. A big part of that for me, though, is the fact that I know the older I get, the more likely the diabetes symptoms to progress, and I'm not looking to be not only old, but blind and with no feet.

But kids' concept of age IS pretty funny. I worked in a daycare when I was all of 18, and the kids asked me how old I was, and when I asked them how old they thought I was, one kid said, "54?" Ah, kids.

Tim said...

MathOughts, I don't know if there are references to Cecilia that I don't get, but I do love that song.

I get up to wash my face, when I come back to bed, someone's taken my place.

Thanks for your comment!

Jolene said...

I think it's human nature to be fearful of 'getting old' or just FEELING old too. And you definitely don't 'act' 40...just like I don't feel like I 'act' almost32 ;-) It's all in how you carry yourself, right? With pride!! March towards Timageddon!!

Anonymous said...

I was brought to this blog because someone pinned the Cecilia venn diagram on Pinterest. I have a daughter named Cecilia so I followed the link to this page from August 2011.
I'm reading that you were turning 40 in the fall of 2011. I thought, hey, I turned 40 in the fall of 2011. You wrote that you were divorced three years ago--for me it was two. Then I kept reading and you mention you lived in Germany and I thought, hey, I lived in Germany, too. Then you wrote about your visit to Prague. Do I need to go on?
So I had to comment that turning 40 was not a big deal to me. I went to NYC with my sisters for it and had a blast. I do fear 50. Something about 50 seems terribly old. It does help that I get told I look younger. :) Hope the dating is going well. Have a great day! ~K

Tim said...

Thanks for your comment, K! Very interesting coincidences. (I wrote a blog post about coincidences here:

Turning 40 hasn't been as bad as I thought. I had a good time my birthday weekend (Timblog: I'm 40!) and the thing I feared most, being 40 and single, hasn't really happened. I started dating my girlfriend two weeks before my b-day, so I haven't had to deal with finding dates since I've been in my 40's. (Knock on wood.)

Two other coincidences: My last serious girlfriend AND my current girlfriend are also both K. And, next month I'm going to NYC with my current K.

Thanks for stopping by! As a librarian I'm always curious about how people stumble on my blog.