Eighteen days from now, I'll be turning forty.
I normally like having birthdays, but I haven't been looking forward to this one.
I don't have the usual excuses for fortieth-birthday angst; I'm fairly happy with my life, I've got a good job and a nice house and a multiplicity of wonderful friends and lovers, and good weather and interesting hobbies, and so on and so on. I haven't become an internationally renowned best-selling writer and creator of virtual worlds, but those were never goals I really expected to achieve. So it's not like I feel like I haven't done enough with my life, or anything along those lines; I've got more or less the life I want.
And I have plenty of friends who've turned forty in the past few years, and plenty of others who turned forty a few or several or many years ago, and none of them seem to have been particularly damaged by the experience; they're all cool folks, all still as interesting and fun and smart and funny as they've always been.
So there's no good reason for the tension I'm having around this birthday, except, I think, my continuing feeling that I'm in my late 20s; I think some part of me feels that forty is the dividing line after which it's no longer okay to think/act as if you're younger. This despite the fact that I've had numerous excellent examples in my life of people well over 40 who've had no qualms about (for example) being silly in public. Again, no rational basis for this stuff, just wacky stuff lurking in my subconscious. (Also, I realize that nothing I'm saying here is terribly original or new. I happened across a sequence in one of Kam's comics the other day in which the protagonist turned 40 and said much of the stuff that's been going through my head; it's all pretty culturally standard.)
Clearly it's time for me to buy a red sportscar and take up with a ditzy bottle-blonde 20-year-old. (Of whatever gender happens to be available.)
Anyway. I thought about having a birthday party, especially since I haven't really managed to have much of a birthday party in the past few years, but I couldn't face the thought of twenty friends slapping me on the back and saying "So--you've reached the big four-oh!" and "How does it feel to be over the hill?" and other such witticisms. (Consider this a request not to say such things to me, either online or in person. I won't enjoy them.)
So I think I'm going to try to repeat last year's birthday week model, which worked well for me--spread out the celebration, keep it low-key, don't try to stretch my boundaries that week, do several activities I know I enjoy, see friends but don't try to squeeze in seeing everyone at once, etc.
Then again, maybe I'll go to Vegas and squander the last few hours of my thirties in a dissolute and decadent orgy of sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll, and gambling, then wake up in a gutter the next afternoon with my wallet and clothes gone and a headache the size of the great outdoors.
P.S.: Probably best to save the happy-birthday greetings 'til the end of the month. Last year I really enjoyed reading them in dribs and drabs over the course of that birthday week; I'd rather do that again this year than get such notes now and have nothing but ashes and sackcloth, and coal in my stocking, when the actual birthday rolls around.