On the first of this month, my husband turns 40.
He is taking it well, as he should be. It’s a privilege to turn 40. It’s a privilege to turn any age, marking another turn around the sun. We’ve got one life apiece, and I don’t know about you, but I want to live mine trying to squeeze all the good out of it I can—in flavors like real orange juice and sunshine and my kids and piles of dogs trying to lick the inside of my mouth—and not obsessing over the minutes I have left until I don’t get any more of those things.
You could say I’m an optimist. I am happy for my partner. It’s slightly surreal to be embarking on a decade together that is different from the one in which he and I started out, but that’s the nature of marriage, best-case scenario.
But also, just to be crystal clear, I am now married to someone who’s 40. Doesn’t that make me a tiny bit 40, by association?
Something I’ve noticed as of late is the small ways that he and I have been trying to make ourselves seem younger, without having it look like we’re doing that thing. I bought him a paddleboard class. He suggested we start yoga. We both signed up to have our clothes sent to us by some lady (presumably better dressed than we are, and younger) on the internet.
We’re both learning new languages. Isn’t it gross? I tell people that, knowing if they said the same thing to me I might like them a tiny bit less. We’re doing it anyway. I’m working on Italian. My husband studies French and Arabic. In a recent lesson, one of his French tutors told him not to fear turning 40, that 40 was the perfect blend of sagesse and jeunesse, or wisdom and youth. He comes back to that a lot. You could call it a mantra, or a prayer.
A true midlife crisis has yet to take hold of my husband, largely because we have young children and he can’t afford one. You can see small ways he’s starting to shift, though, to poke at character traits we’d all long ago signed off on as absolutes. When I first met him, he was a true-blue Apple fanboy. He bought me my first smartphone and told everyone in my family that they weren’t really living until they all purchased Macs. That was seven years ago; it began sinking in with my parents around the latter half of 2015, and by then he’d swung around to Samsung. This year, he’s talking more and more about Google. None of the rest of us can keep up with him; increasingly, I’m starting to think that’s the point.
My parents moved to Manassas about the same number of years ago that my husband was born, and they sometimes talk about how much the city’s changed since that time. One of the really big changes, the one they can’t seem to get over, is the number of cars out on the roads on Sundays. According to them, you used to go out on the main artery through town, Route 234, and on that one day a week there wouldn’t be any other drivers the whole way through to I-66. Manassas—like my husband, like me, like so many of us approaching middle age—is developing its own self-imposed sense of urgency. It’s got hustle. Where’s the finish line for this rat race? In my hometown, it’s the turn into the parking lot of Costco.
“Mick Jagger just had a kid,” I tell my spouse. “He was 73! We’re all going to live forever!”
We won’t, of course.
Best-case scenario, we have another 50 good years left—though they do say the first person to live to 150 is already walking this earth, and let us pray it’s not Mick.
What we’re all afraid of, Mr. Jagger perhaps most of all: the Big D.
My husband read somewhere that to fear death is to experience “5,000 little deaths” and then still end up stuck with the big one. Consequently, he likes to live large and take chances. Motorcycles. Skydiving. Samsung. Google. I tend to cherry-pick: a little column A, a little column B. Maybe not motorcycles, but I rented a Vespa one time. And no skydiving, thanks, but I like to think my roller coaster days are not all behind me.
As for column B, I do think some about death. Lately that’s taken the shape of how to talk to my kids about death. Do we avoid it entirely, traipsing along wearing daisy chains and sundresses until a death—hopefully that of a houseplant or very elderly goldfish—crosses our paths? Or do we head it off, diving headlong into the big talks and resulting bad dreams (read: seedlings for existential despair)? At the park, my kids’ buddies run around shrieking and “killing” bad guys, and what do my kids think is happening there? That the stick swung at the invisible bad guy’s neck removes the head, spins it around thrice neatly then precisely replaces it wearing a daisy chain?
But none of that is for this month. This month, my husband turns 40.
We’re going to have a big party.
I’ll say this for getting older: I like our friends so much more. It’s not out of place for us to hang out with 50-year-olds now, and nothing against 20-year-olds, but I’ll take the company of a 50-year-old lady over that of her daughter any day of the week. The 50-year-old’s wine’s so much better. She doesn’t like to lose sleep. I turned 50 the day I turned 19.
For my husband, I want to throw a really good cocktail party, with lots of grownup cocktails like Tom Collinses and Palomas and other stuff a well-established 40-year-old ought to drink. Admittedly, every time I throw a party I want it to be a really good cocktail party, but it always spins out into appetizers, then a dinner party with courses, then way too many invitations wildly distributed at the last minute out of fear no one will come. We usually end up somewhere between pigs in a blanket and too much chain restaurant-brand spinach-artichoke dip.
This time will be different! I’m capping the guest list at a firm 15 and not offering food. Not so much as a Cheerio, though if somebody really rooted around, we do seem to keep an obscene amount of Cheerios.
Here’s what else I won’t do at that party: Speak Italian. Bring up speaking Italian. Cancel my plans for the next day to go ride roller coasters with anybody who might suggest doing that thing. Beg a person to go ride roller coasters with me. Rouse my children from their slumber and tell them we have to talk. Buy an aged goldfish online.
No, no. None of that. We’ll sip our gin cocktails with twist garnishes and airs of sophistication and absent any greasy pots of TGI Fridays’ dip. We’ll toast my husband, bid our exactly 15 guests farewell at the reasonable hour of 11:30 p.m. and wake up the next morning feeling refreshed and looking not a day older than 40.
Well, maybe one day older.
Un giorno di più.
Did you see that? I’m doing it, even though I know that I shouldn’t. I’m sure I’ll regret it when my sagesse finally catches up—more fool me, for as many years as any of us can muster it.