Observations on life in a new demographic.
There is really no point denying it any longer, so I may as well fess up: I am a MiHLF. That’s right, a MiHLF, or Man in His Late Forties.
A month or so ago, before January 16, things felt different. Back then, when I was (at 46) still in my mid 40s, well, I was full of (relative) youthful exuberance, and loving life. Now I am acutely conscious that my next birthday of note is the big five-oh. You can’t argue with a number like that. A half-century on this planet is no small integer. Five decades. Two score and 10 years.
It’s not the only big milestone of note, either, with 2016 the 30th anniversary of my high school graduation. Thirty years – how is that even possible?
It’s funny (but not ha-ha funny) how the passage of a few weeks, or even days, changes one’s perspective. And it’s not that I feel bad – far from it. I am in a stable relationship, am buoyed by a close-knit family and group of friends, and am fortunate that it doesn’t take too much to keep me happy. A good workout, nice cup of tea, or an excellently crafted sentence to read will often do the trick. There is a roof over my head, and I don’t want for sustenance.
Still, I can’t deny that my entry into the (hardly exclusive) realm of the MiHLFs hasn’t been a little unsettling.
There are world leaders, corporate titans and successful sports coaches who are my age and younger. MiHLF musicians are conducting revival tours, playing in out-of-the-way venues and shamelessly topping up their superannuation with one more run through the old song list.
To some degree I agree with the adage that you’re as young as you feel. There are some individuals whose verve for life, dynamism and self-care has them acting and appearing far younger than their chronological age would suggest they should.
Others are old before their time: young fud-duds whose inflexible attitudes, unhealthy habits and perhaps life circumstances have taken a physical and psychological toll.
Yet aging needn’t be all bad. With age comes wisdom, even if the epiphanies we experience are often bitter sweet.
“Age is an enemy in some ways but a friend in others,” says writer Mike Sager. “People who rely on their minds should get better and smarter with age.”
Of course, turning 47 wasn’t a complete surprise. It has been a case of “gradually then suddenly”, like a frog being boiled alive.
The signs have been evident for a while. The 5kg I pt on in my early 40s has stayed stubbornly adhered to my midsection, like the detritus of a conjoined twin. I’ve been wearing glasses for a while, but lately my eyes have been noticeably worse. My knees create their own sound effects, a cacophony of grinding noises known as crepitus (perhaps from the same Latin root as “decrepit”?)
My cholesterol has been creeping up for a while.
Grey hairs are becoming increasingly prominent, although evidently this is something of an optical illusion; hairs are either their natural colour or white, with the palette of grey determined by the number of whites in a particular patch. Still, I am starting to sport the fluffy George Negus “senior statesman” white-sideburns look.
As if to accompany this, I’ve developed a fondness for cardigans. Can sports coats with elbow patches be far behind?
Some years ago I determined that whatever levels of athleticism and rate of recovery I had enjoyed in previous decades had diminished (kind of a no-brainer that one), and that I had to respond accordingly. This has led to my patented 45-minute Warm-Up Routine, a series of exercises that enables me to have a decent sweat without tearing a calf or groin muscle. I do my “warm-up” and then go home in one piece. Clearly, however, things must be stepped up if that 5kg is to be dislodged.
The key, as all those ageing studies have told us, is to keep moving. Renowned long livers the Okinawans don’t even have a word for “retirement”. They just keep on keeping on in the form of manual labour on their farms or martial arts.
It’s important to differentiate here between the MiHLF and the MAMiL (middle-aged man in lycra). Don’t get me wrong, I applaud the efforts of my cycling contemporaries to be fit and spry – good on them. But sometimes those chaps have an air of desperation and obsession regarding their exertions – that if they ride hard or often enough and in the right suburban peloton wearing the best gear and riding an inordinately expensive bike – they can somehow, Rupert-Murdoch like, stave off the grim reaper for ever.
But, really, what’s with the completely matching lycra ensemble? Wearing a head-to-toe authentic Tour de France or manufacturer’s riding kit is the equivalent of me heading down to my local court to shoot hoops entirely in Boston Celtics gear. No one wants to see this, least of all me.
Then again, if the passing of years tells us anything it’s that we may as well wear what we like. Our time allotment on this planet is small, and time marches on inexorably.
We MiHLFs need to stick together.