The following is an original essay by Roy, sent to his brother, Del, to mark his 40th birthday, July 2. There is wisdom herein...
Being older and ostensibly wiser than you, I would like to offer you a few insights into the age you are entering. While the change from being 29 to being 30 is significant only in a wow-it's-a-new-digit-in-the-tens-place way, turning 40 is a real milestone. It's like entering puberty: the body is rapidly changing to make you a very different person. I call it olderlescence. You enter adolescence a child and come out a young adult. You enter olderlescence a pretty-much-still-young adult, but you're going to come out of it an old guy.
In adolescence, you start sprouting hair in places you didn't used to have it. Same thing happens in olderlescence, only the locations are more arbitrary and pointless. Don't need hair on your earlobes? Well, you're going to get it. It's just one of the characteristics that says "old guy".
The hair on your scalp, which so far has probably just entertained a few gray or white fellows in the name of diversity, will suddenly decide that these newcomers have the right idea. Mass conversions. It's an unstoppable craze among follicles. If they don't just shut down entirely, that is.
Up to now, your body has been pretty cooperative about turning food into muscle and energy. Soon, it will get tired of that and want to try something different: turning it into a gut. When adolescence ended, your ability to eat quite so much and stay trim was reduced. There is another quantum drop coming. On the plus side, it saves on food bills. Just try to enjoy every bite, because six is a meal.
Your eyes, which have worked pretty much the same since you were two, are going to retire. They'll still function, but they're not going to work at it. Change focus? Not anymore, I'm retired! You want something in-focus, you move it.
The encouraging news is that you don't have to have an "old guy" brain. You know, the curmudgeonly types that complain about everything new, different, or fashionable. You can stay "hip" and "with-it" as long as you like, although God knows why you'd want to, with all the stupid things young people are wearing these days. And Twittering and Facebook! What kind of time-wasting, TMI nonsense is that? I swear, if that's the future of this country, it couldn't get more depressing. When we were their age, we knew how to dress, and how to treat people with respect!
And while that was quite complete, I felt that Roy had managed to leave out a rather important point, which I emailed thusly:
One other rather significant thing that you will very definitely notice is an alteration in libidinous intentions. (This is in no way related to female menopause, and even mentioning this in the presence of a woman within your age cohort can have disastrous consequences... ) Quite simply, you are going to start slowing down. You've had your fun (presumably), and now your higher-order brain has decided to start finally exerting control over the more deeply-rooted areas of your cerebellum and medulla oblongata. Fixing faulty appliances will begin to have more appeal than watching, say, Baywatch or Spike TV. Driving past coeds on campus wearing short skirts will no longer cause unnecessary deviation in vehicle speed and/or direction. Very significantly, you are now of an age such that someone who is not a teenager may well fit the statement, "Oh, for crying out loud, she's young enough to be your daughter!" and a certain amount of decorum kicks in. You are not, repeat, not dead; it's that on a certain level you realize that Something has had his own way for a good portion of your life since the age of thirteen or so, and that maybe other body parts would like a turn in the driver's seat for a change.