Fortysomethings (and Why I Hate Them)

November 21, 2010

Myth and bitterness and regret haunt the modern fortysomethings. They are too old to dance well and too young to have gravitas. They want to run in the sun, only to find their knees give and their backs ache. They lack their wartime grandparents’ moral certainty and courage, inheriting instead the baby boomers’ spoiled indolence. They are bored with their circumstances, jobs, spouses, and friends. They are trapped without an alternative. This generation expected much and desired everything, yet it seems confused to find that at the end of every rainbow is a crock of shit. They are a sorry and feckless lot. Sans faith, sans grit, sans understanding, sans ability to cope. Sans everything. Scarcely surprising I was forced to rebuke a bleating fellow fortysomething with the words, “I’m acquiring a nut allergy—guess who’s the nut?”

Put it down to a passing phase, the listless mania of an in-between stage that will one day evaporate into pleasure and acceptance. Life is imperfect, and the fortysomethings have yet to stumble on this truth. They want it easy and do not find it so. Forty to fifty is the great divide, the chasm—as gaping as any male pattern baldness—between the successful and the also-rans, the fit and the gone-to-seed, the rabbit-rearers and the bunny-boilers, the bearing-up and the trodden-down. There are some real crashes out there. Middle age can be more beleaguered and beset with dark forces than Middle-earth itself.

One answer is to grit the teeth, smile, and plow on. The trick is to find happiness where one may—honestly, even a blueberry muffin delights me—but fortysomethings make a habit of inventing and embellishing problems they have plucked from thin air (or that have been suggested by their hairdressers, counselors, fitness gurus, life coaches, or embittered alcoholic friends). When these are exhausted, they move on to embrace their children’s playground troubles. I would love to call it a syndrome, but it is merely a pain in the butt.

So as I steel myself to attend another drab and dreary drinks party populated by drab and dreary individuals with their drab and dreary conversation, I cheer myself with the thought that we fortysomethings are simply in chrysalis-transition and will pupate on the other side of fifty into brighter and more fascinating creatures. Should I be wrong, stamp on me now.

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