I turn 41 years old this year. Today, in fact. Yes, happy birthday to me and all that poop. I’m actually celebrating my 12th Annual 29th Birthday, because that’s more fun.
Luckily, I seem to have been spared the typical “midlife crisis” that’s supposed to occur to all men around this age, probably because I had my first midlife crisis at the age of 12. I don’t remember what brought that one about, but others followed regularly every other year or so, for various petty reasons. These were a welcome change from the crises of my childhood, however, such as the existential crisis I went through at the age of eight brought about by the animal-themed wallpaper my mother hung in my room, and my belief that if I did not say goodnight to each of the types of animals pictured that I would hurt their feelings and they’d think less of me. Regardless of my repeated efforts, the bobcat always looked sad. Thankfully, I got over this before deciding that I needed to say goodnight to all the animals pictured, not just each type.
I was an odd child. Feel free to gasp in disbelief.
Aging for me has been more of an observation of others getting older around me while I seem to stay the same. For the most part. I tend to be more tired at the end of the day. I’ve read in another column that the best treatment for feeling so, so tired … so very, very tired is a hot soak in the tub. However, this really isn’t an option for me, as the result of yet another crisis in my youth …
(Please hear harp music playing here. Thanks.)
In my late twenties, I lived for a number of years in a camper trailer. To call it cozy would be to call a closet cavernous. I couldn’t stand up straight inside, and the tub, while small and serviceable, was raised even higher off the floor. Luckily, the roof above had a ventilation window that cranked upwards, giving me space to put my head. The shower was also a hand-held model, allowing me to clean myself every morning well enough that no one complained.
I forget the exact circumstances that led me to attempt to take a bath in this tub. It may have been exhaustion; it may have been an oatmeal bath to soothe a skin rash brought about by showering with my head stuck out a window. I sat on the edge of the tub of water, and slowly lowered myself backwards until my torso fit snugly into its clammy, plastic embrace. Because that’s all that would fit– my upper torso. Kind of. My legs protruded outside the tub, resting on the chemical toilet. My head folded neatly onto my chest, propped up by the other side of the tub. My shoulders wedged in tightly, forcing my arms to cross, and the three inches of water I had put into the tub surged up around me and sloshed to the floor. I spent a relaxing 30 seconds in the tub’s luxurious embrace before I’d had enough. Unfortunately, like a turtle on its back, I was stuck.
The thought of being found trapped naked in a tub by rescue workers prodded me to find a solution. Of all the encounters I’ve dreamed of having with a firefighter, having one laughing while pointing at me naked is not one of them. Luckily, soap was close at hand, and I gained enough leverage by wedging my legs under the toilet that I was able to wrench my soapy-self free from the embrace of the evil plumbing. I haven’t taken a bath since. But you’ll be pleased to know I no longer shower with my head in a window either. Part of growing up, I suppose.
I can’t claim that my memory is worsening either as I age. (You can turn off the harp music now.) My memory has never been great, especially with names. Unless I’m around a person regularly, their names tend to fade, until all women become “Ma’am” and all men become “Steve.” It works well enough, especially with those people in my life that actually are named Steve. These have almost all been men. Some of the men have occasionally been Ma’ams, which confuses everything. But I get by.
I’m also lucky enough that I haven’t reached the age where I need to have my prostate checked, which relieves me and most likely my doctor as well. Once again, cavernous closets and such.
Forty-one has arrived without feeling the need for a sports car or some young, nubile, presumably blond trophy partner(s). What has arrived is what I feel is probably the true “midlife crisis” that most people go through– that stunned feeling of “How the hell did this happen?” My life is being compressed in a Doppler effect of aging: the older I get, the faster my life goes.
My late twenties seemingly weren’t that long ago, and in a lot of ways, my mindset is still stuck there, like a fat guy in a little tub. Except that in the wee hours of the night I no longer wonder to myself when I’m going to grow up; now I wonder exactly when I did grow up.
Because that line of demarcation between growing up and grown-up turned out not to exist. Over time, debt and responsibilities gathered until reaching the critical mass that is Adulthood, and that passed by like a billboard on the highway that you don’t really pay attention to because you’re distracted by the testicles on the bumpers of all the other vehicles that are children and pets and mortgages that you’re finding your way through like a twisting metaphor that suddenly goes disastrously wrong but you hang on to anyway because you’re really not sure what else to do and you hope no one else notices or at least won’t say anything if they have.
So, again, happy birthday to me. I’m bringing this column to a close even though my highway will hopefully continue on for a long time to come. Because, Steve and Ma’am, I’m doing this by the seat of my pants and maybe, one day, I’ll figure it all out.
Perhaps by my 20th Annual 29th Birthday celebration.