First, the bad news. I’m going to be 48 years old tomorrow.
It took me forever to realize I wasn’t young anymore. Until I was forty, the thought never really crossed my mind. When I was in my early 30s, I was hanging out with people much like myself. None of us were married. We lived in apartments and threw big noisy parties on weekends. We went to hipster rock clubs in lower Manhattan that catered to snobby music fans in their late 20s and early 30s, just like us. We gathered on Sunday mornings in bars and watched pro football all day. We dated the wrong people and changed jobs a lot.
Some of that came to an end when I got married at 35. But not all of it. My wife and I bought a house near the Jersey shore, so the Manhattan rock clubs were out. The noisy parties petered out. I’ve now worked for the same company for eight years.
I still spend too much money on music, though there’s really no one to share it with these days. I can still hold down a bar stool pretty good, though I’m rarely out late anymore and the bands tend to be alt-rock cover bands in sandy-floored beach bars rather than post-rock experimentalists exploring exotic tunings in basement performance spaces.
When I lived in Hoboken in the mid-’90s, we would make a point of seeking the most out-of-the-way bars to get drunk in. Hoboken has well over 100 bars—plus less official drinking establishments—in a one-square-mile area, so we had plenty to choose from. Elks Clubs. Italian and Portuguese social clubs. Spanish bars in the less affluent streets to the west. Old man’s bars. VFW bars.
We never thought of this activity as slumming. We argued vigorously against the idea. We liked to believe that our forays into the most obscure bars of Hoboken were irony-free. But still, though, there was no questioning our faith in the fact that we looked like we didn’t belong in the bars we were patronizing, even as we hoisted our mugs of Schmidts and Yuengling. I would never do anything like that today, not least of all because I know that I’d fit right in among the other middle-aged regulars as a new crew of determinedly non-ironic tourists blew in through the door. At the same time, I can think of dozens of Jersey shore bars—dance clubs, party bars—that I’m much too old to frequent now.
And second, the good news. I’m going to be 48 years old tomorrow.
I lived long enough as a single guy to know that the things I’m missing out on are less important than the things I have. It turns out that 48 is a pretty good age for writing books. I finally have something to say, and I know how to say it. It’s a pretty good age for having kids, too, if you can keep up with them. I can still run a sub-two-hour half marathon, go two-on-one with my kids in half-court basketball, and stay with them in Jersey’s tame surf. My backflip off the diving board isn’t what it once was, I guess.
A brief inventory, conducted at the juncture approximately halfway between too young and too old.