Back in May of 2014, I wrote a somewhat humorous post on the angst of turning 49. Some 8 months later, I now sit 119 days away from turning 50 and the angst is still very real. Considering that most of my friends and associates are about the same age, this is a conversation that I have had on numerous occasions. Inevitably, the “age is just a number” comment comes into play. As does, “you are only as old as you feel.” To which I say, “bullshit”!
Despite what nonsense people spout, 50 is not the new 40. 50 is 50 and it has a psychological impact on you whether you admit it or not. My mind is too curious to carry on about my day, about my life as if nothing changes when that half-century mark hits. I want to know what to expect both physically and emotionally in the months and years that follow. I hope that, in understanding the possible impact, I am better able to deal with the change in life. The Man Up blog will chronicle my journey of discovery and neuroticism, my thought process and emotional vicissitudes from today until May 20 (the 50 mark). I hope you will join me and share your experiences as well.
For a lot of men, the concern of aging isn’t out of fear of getting old. It’s a fear of losing potency. The image of ourselves that we hold on to is one of a strapping young, virile man with energy and stamina for days and it does not jibe with the image that we see in the mirror. The number 50 is a marker. A midlife marker that distorts our self-image. We’ve likely lived more than half of our lives with key markers along the way: finishing school; getting that first career job, pair bonding, child rearing etc. Those markers are ones that we expect and plan for. For many, at least for me, 50 represents the unknown. How will my career wind down? What will I do in retirement? Can I retire the way I want? Do I have enough resources? Will I be alone? When will I be alone? When will I lose virility? That thing about 50 being the new 40 is so untrue. At 40, you still have relatively young children, a good 25 years or so of work ahead of you, perhaps even another career move, and many more things to accomplish. With 50, the window becomes shorter. Younger, more talented people enter the workplace with highly developed skills. Your years of experience in the new technology environment becomes less valued. Technology itself begins to slip away from you. Your music choices become more nostalgic. People start calling you “sir”. Dinner out starts at 6 o’clock. You’re in bed by 9 p.m. Multivitamins, Ensure and adult diapers are on the horizon.
50 represents change and, for men, change is not growth. For men, change represents the loss of something. In this case, the loss of time, the loss of virility, the loss of potency, the loss of effectiveness. I feel like I can still walk up to a young Mike Tyson and kick his ass…in my mind. But it doesn’t reconcile with my cracking bones, aching feet and arthritic knuckles. Yeah, 50 is screwing with me. I’m not going to lie.
For me, 50 is going to be a time of self-reflection. From what will I derive satisfaction? How can I be a better lover? A better father? A greater contributor to life, community, and business. I will learn to live with a new reality. Cope with the aches and pains and mood swings.
Quite a bleak outlook, I know. I also know that we have advantages over our fathers and grandfathers before us. We have better healthcare so we are living longer and healthier. We have more tools in the tool box like the internet and access to research, studies and articles. Greater income to do more things and acquire more shit. We also have an openness and willingness to talk about how we feel and what we are going through with our partners and friends.
In the weeks to come, I will dive deep into the abyss to discover what lies ahead for me over the next 10-15 years. Perhaps I’ll learn a few things that will help me cope and better prepare or discover the secrets to juvenescence. Or consider it all rejectamenta and just drink more wine.
If you’ve already crossed that marker, I’d love to hear about your experience. If 50 is staring you in the face, I’d equally love to know your concerns, if any.
Until next time Hominids…keep it on the good foot!