birthdaycake

The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything

birthdaycakeYou want to make a 3 1/2-year-old laugh? Tell them you’re turning 42.

My kids are convinced I’m screwing with them.

“How old do you think I am, guys?”

They’ll think for a minute. “4?”

They’ve heard of kids who are 6 or even — gasp — 7, but they can’t imagine an age as big as 42. It wasn’t until very recently that I could imagine turning 42 myself, like in the last few weeks. When I was a kid, I used to imagine myself in high school, or in college… and that was about it. In part, it’s because I was convinced back then that there would be a nuclear war that would, at best, leave me hairlessly wandering a scorched hellscape where age had no relevance. So at least we dodged that bullet.

But today’s the day. I’ve lived 42 years on this planet. Laugh if you must.

In my head, I haven’t changed much from when I was a teenager. I still have a lot of the same insecurities and fears. I still judge myself by the aspirations I had when I was 16, even though I’m nothing like the person I was then. I want to smack that kid, seriously.

And I don’t believe that bullshit that you’re as young as you feel. I’m 42. Check my driver’s license and you’ll see.

I’ve given up on being celebrated for my youth. I was never on anybody’s list of Top 20 Under 20 or Top 30 Under 30, and nobody does a list of the Top 43 Under 43, so screw it all to Hell.

I’m not trying to say that I feel bad about getting older. What do I look like? Some kind of asshole?

Whenever I actually feel bad about getting older, I try to remember two people. One is Future Jerry. Future Jerry is a guy who means a lot to me, and he hates when I call myself “old”, because Future Jerry is always going to be older than I am. “You think you’re old now?” he says to me. “Just wait!”

I’ve been as guilty of prematurely feeling old as everyone else. I think back now on how I felt when I turned 30, with a mixture of disbelief and dread. How could I ever have thought 30 was old? I was so lucky to be 30. Then I realize that someday, I’m going to feel that way about being 42. And by then, maybe we’ll have invented time travel, so I can actually travel back in time and smack myself. 42 is a whippersnapper by many people’s standards. Why wait until it’s gone to appreciate it? I’m 42. Yeehaw!

The other person I try to think of when I fear growing older is Heather O’Rourke. You may not remember her name, but she’s the little girl who said, “They’re heeeeeeeere!” in Poltergeist. Then in Poltergeist 2, she said, “They’re baaaaaaaack!” Then, while she was filming Poltergeist 3, she died.

Bummer, huh? Heather O’Rourke lived to be 12 years old. That’s it. That’s as far as she got, and you know what she says to me from inside my television whenever I complain about turning 42?

heatherorourke“Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck yoooooooooou!”

Heather O’Rourke never learned to drive. Never got to waste six years of her life watching Lost. And she never got to whine about turning 42. She has my permission to complain about her age.

Then, if I’m feeling really morbid, I think about the billions of others who never made it as far as she did and never got to meet Steven Spielberg either.

There are places on this planet where the average life expectancy is 12, and here in America, people blush and insist they’re still 29 because they’re embarrassed to say how old they really are. Embarrassed? You should be wearing a freaking badge. “I made it to 50!” You’d be the envy of everyone in Zambia.

Age is a gift. That’s why we don’t count backwards from death. Well, that and the fact that we don’t know when we’re going to die, and that’s another reason to appreciate the time we get. Every birthday I make it to signifies one more year I didn’t get run over by a truck or get cancer, that I wasn’t killed by some asshole’s homemade bomb or didn’t fall victim to depression, drugs or alcohol abuse. It’s one more year I got to play XBox, waste money on sneakers endorsed by professional skateboarders and watch my kids learn to sass me with increasing cleverness.

After they’re done laughing at me, my kids will ask, “Am I going to be 42 someday?”

“Yes,” I say, and then I’ll think to myself, “… if you’re lucky.”

42 years. Happy birthday to me.

*****

Hey, you know what makes a great birthday present? When you like my Facebook page, follow me on Twitter and/or subscribe to this blog by entering your email in the upper right corner of the page. (No solicitations, I promise. You just get an email every time I post something new. It’s like a birthday gift for YOU!)

Shamelessly yours,

Jerry

41 comments on “The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything

  1. Happy birthday to you!!!

    We are celebrating our daughter, Myah’s, first birthday today with a huge party. She is our miracle IVF baby and I went BIG on the party. Everyone has criticized me for planning such an elaborate party because she won’t remember it, but for me- its a big deal.

    I never got to plan any parties for my first daughter, McKenna, was stillborn at 40 weeks, 1 day May 27, 2007. She’d be turning 6 this year. So this party- and everything I do for her little sister- is because I never got to do it for McKenna.

  2. Happy Birthday!!! 42 was kindof awesome, being the answer to life, the universe and everything. 43, not so much lol. But I get it. (And just wait until you have an 18 and 11 yr old who remind you how OLD you are and then you can tell them they are the reason you have white hair).

    xo

  3. Hah, I will be 40 later this year and the only thing that I really regret about it is that it will be November, so I won’t be able to have that huge outdoors bash with all my friends! Maybe I’ll move the whole thing into 2014, but not because I want to delay getting older. You are so right with everything you said there! Happy Birthday, Jerry, and, as the Brits like to say, many happy returns!

  4. Happy Birthday! I won’t tell you how old I am, but I was already lying about my age on this year’s birthday. And then I realized that is dumb. You are never too old to enjoy life, and that’s all that really matters!

  5. I heart you. I have thought this same thing a million times a million ways. We are blessed and lucky to live…even when we don’t feel like we are. I get annoyed when people make snide comments about how old someone is…like when a musician is still touring after a certain age or an actress reemerges after a hiatus…as if growing old is somehow a sign of weakness or is an embarrassment. Really? Because I am pretty sure I would be thankful if I was any age still doing what I love instead of not here at all. It is hard to be truly grateful for anything if we can’t even appreciate the the mere fact we are still breathing.

  6. Happy Birthday, Jerry! 42 is a great age – being the ultimate answer, of course. :) You’re right, of course. We should be grateful for whatever age we are because so many people don’t reach that age.

  7. Happy Birthday!! The best thing about having a birthday is how much fun and exciting the kids think it is. Age doesn’t matter, who we love and who we get to share it with is all that matters!!! Wishing you a fabulously fantastic day and year!!!!!

    • Thanks. Not sure I’d call my Zambia comment a “stereotype”, though. According to this Wikipedia page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_life_expectancy) Zambia has one of the lowest life expectancies in the world. Make it to 50 there, and you are above average. That’s why I chose to reference them by name here. (Yes, I did some research before writing this post.)

      Look at that list, and you’ll see there are a lot of African countries at the bottom of the chart. It’s sad and shameful, and I point it out not to slam Africa (believe me, I wish those numbers were higher in Zambia and all over the map) but to slam people in the so-called First World who feel bad about turning an age that many people aren’t lucky enough to get to.

  8. Oddly, I was just talking about this today! The twins I nanny for are 2-1/2 and assume that I’m the same age (they sing “Happy Birthday” to me all the time and tell me I’m 2 now.) I’ve been working with kids long enough that “How old am I?” is one of my favorite games. My 2 favorite responses have come from 4-year-olds: One said I was 13, she knew this to be true because I was “wearing grown-up shoes.” (this meant they tied instead of having velcro.) The other thought I was 7, and when I said I was 23 (at the time, 10 years ago) he gasped in horror, “Oh my G-d! You’re older than my grandma!!!” (His parents were both plenty older than I was, for the record.) Kids are the best!

    And by the way, Happy Birthday!

  9. Happy birthday!

    I’m not going to lie, I’m one of those “lie about your age” sort of people. I don’t lie, but I don’t exactly tell people I’m 33. Most people think I am much younger, so I don’t exactly dissuade them. Maybe I should embrace my age as well as you do!

  10. I just had a birthday May 8th(turned 24) and my mom always says “See how your twenties are flying by?” I don’t care because I’m enjoying watching my life happen

  11. Happy birthday. It reminds me of a conversation I had about 4 years ago with my kids when my oldest guessed that I was turning 16. When I said I was older than 16 (still having not mentioned the age) he replied “Wow, you’re really old. So how old are you?” I was turning 32 at the time. He was almost 6.

  12. Happy Birthday to you! You have the right attitude about the whole aging thing. It’s gonna happen, if you’re lucky. I had no idea that Heather O’Roark died so young.

  13. Happy belated birthday… :) You make me smile and think how fortunate I am of living life without hidding my 53 and being glad for it.

  14. Coming from a country where life-expectancy is low (though not 12-low) and having traveled to countries where it is even lower, I appreciate this post. What a wonderful outlook to have. Happiest of birthdays to you.

  15. amen, amen, amen. Last week, I wrote about seeing my late husband’s “age” on a bureaucratic form. It gave me great pause to see him aged eight years since he died, even if it was just a typo. I don’t know if you allow links, but here it is http://wp.me/p2kkhy-jX

    Now get back to scaring your kids!

  16. Happy birthday! However I must say that your cake-self looks a bit devious – I think it’s the eyebrows!

  17. Kids are an awesome reminder of how time used to sit still when we were growing up! I will let you in on a secret, my beloved Grandma used to say she was 39 and holding. We caught on when my mom was older than she! Great post and happy belated Birthday!

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