Hitting 40 and freaking out a little? Relax. There’s a modicum of respect that comes with middle age and gray hair, but more importantly there’s a new freedom. People assume you’ve gleaned some wisdom from your many years on God's green Earth, and the door is wide open for you to say and do anything you want. Like, say, write a book called Like, say, write a book called Curmudgeonism: A Surly Man’s Guide to Midlife. Or Phil's-osophy, for that matter. But really, that's just one of many benefits, including the following...
14. Letting people fail because they need to: By the time you turn 40 you’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. You know that the next big thing really isn’t. A Dyson loses suction, Ginsu knives get dull, and there is no wonder drug in the entire world that keeps a boner up for more than a few minutes. But instead of telling your kids these things we let them learn it for themselves. Some people need to stick their fingers in the fire and smell the burning flesh to realize they should never do it again. Let them. Someone did it for you so pay it forward.
13. Embracing the inner curmudgeon: Middle-aged men have learned to walk away from idiots because we don’t have enough time left on Earth to tolerate stupid. We’re unapologetic and don’t give a shit what people think, which is more liberating than you can imagine. In your forties, you finally say what’s truly on your mind without caring about the consequences. "What are they going to do to me?" becomes your mantra. Judge me, son. I’m doing the same to you right now. It’s a priceless privilege of age.
12. Self-sufficient kids and the liberation that comes with it: By middle age our kids are walking, talking, pooping, eating and dressing themselves all on their own. Your life no longer revolves around their feeding and sleeping schedule and you can finally take the wife out to dinner at that new place while leaving them home alone knowing full well they will have a party so you can come home early and bust them. That’s part of growing up and it’s your responsibility to make them realize they still can’t outsmart you. Take it seriously. Even better is when they start doing the chores so you can watch football.
11. A taste for the good stuff: For all life has to offer you will develop standards and won’t settle for less. SpaghettiOs and a sleeping bag might have been just fine in your dorm room days, but Charlie Manson will get out on good behavior before you do that shit again. Crappy booze? Forget it. Run to your car because it’s raining? That’s for weaklings afraid of a little water.
10. Reminding twentysomethings that they’ll be you someday: Rubbing your bald head or your bulbous belly while telling a smooth, chiseled, long-haired Michael Phelps that he will eventually turn into you is scintillating. Practice this line: “Your hair care products cost more than my Lipitor but less than a hobo’s dignity. Someday you will be me.”
9. A true sense of professionalism: We don’t realize what it really means to be a professional until we are one. Professionalism means taking the emotion out of the situation and using only facts to put some dumbass in his place. When others let anger, fear, sadness, frustration or whatever take over their lives, the professional man stays calm and lets experience be his guide. As we get older, restraint and tolerance shrink but we don’t let our emotions get the best of us because that would be unprofessional—even though we don’t give a shit who we offend.
8. MILFS and Cougars: Do I really need to explain this? Rawr.
7. A substantial portfolio and the unyielding pressure to protect it: Will the markets rise? Will they fall? When can I stop working for real and not come back? By your forties you’ve been in the workforce for a couple of decades and don’t want to put up with it anymore, so you hoard your money and scrutinize every expenditure so you can one day take the off ramp from the highway of pain and never look back on it. You debate whether or not you need those NFL tickets, a first-class plane ride or the cool new drone to spy on your daughter on her first dates because each and every purchase has an impact on the exact date you can tell your boss to piss off and really mean it.
6. A greater sense of irritation at the government: Now that you actually have something worth protecting, you pay more attention to what the government is doing and how it will or will not affect you. In your twenties and thirties you could get away with voting blindly or not at all, but then Senator Grinch enacts a tax that hits your hard-earned portfolio in the scrotum and suddenly it’s time to dust off the soup bones and go to war.
5. Terrorizing boys who want to date your daughter: Don’t underestimate how fun this is. It’s your right as a father to make every boy earn the privilege of looking at your baby girl. Harrassing them is totally worth that drone purchase and in the end, she’ll thank you for it.
4. Reaching the intersection of “I need to get back in shape” and “I don’t have the energy to”: It’s a fact…we all slow down after 40 and cannot, no matter how badly you think so, do the things you did 10 years prior. You tell yourself you need to get into the gym more to fight the flab, but then you can’t find the energy to, so you face a decision…let it go or step up your game? Be a fatbody or a FILF? The path you choose says a lot about who you are and is a key decision in middle age that will stay with you.
3. Golf: Because your days of playing hard sports are over. After 40 you’re like the infamous leg lamp from A Christmas Story… fragile and easily breakable. You will yawn or stretch and suddenly throw out a shoulder or walk down a flight of stairs and pull your pancreas. Basketball passes you by and rugby is out of the question. You will resign yourself to golf and hate it until you realize just how sweet the (rare) perfect tee shot or putt feels.
2. A deeper appreciation for true friends and absolutely no desire whatsoever to make new ones: In midlife you don’t need friends. You have Amazon. You’ve met enough great people that you become reluctant to meet anyone new because you know they won’t measure up to the compadres of your past and present. Your friends are your brothers and the chances of inducting a new brother into the current clan are remote.
1. Nooners: By now you’ve established yourself at your job and no one questions when you want to head home for lunch. And by lunch I mean your significant other bent over the kitchen island while the kids are at school. Take advantage of this opportunity before the fifties kick in and you don’t have the energy.