Backing Into My 40s

Turning 40 gets you thinking.
Illustration by Mark Weber
A humorous look at turning 40.

Turning 40 gets you thinking.

It got me thinking…about intense pain. On a recent Sunday, a few weeks before turning 40, I could not get out of bed. Each time I tried, it felt like someone stabbed me in the lower back.

It turns out I had a bulging disc.

At least I had a manly story to tell about how I ended up with this injury. The day before, I had been engaged in the very vigorous, youthful activity of – uh – sneezing.

At this point in life, I figured I’d be considering a stereotypical purchase to ease into my mid-life crisis — most likely a fast, flashy car to create the illusion of youth. Instead, I was begging my wife to let me drive the family mini-van. Getting in and out of my car, which sits much lower to the ground, was a new adventure in pain. I literally screamed several times when attempting the difficult maneuver.

Even before suffering this “sports-related injury” (sneezing is a very violent action that I think the NFL may ban), this was the first birthday I had reservations about.

Sure, turning 40 beats the alternative (as far as I know), but I suddenly felt like one of those guys I used to dismiss as whiners.

You know the guys — the ones who tell you about every one of their aches and pains. The guys who say they would have out-jumped you for that rebound a few years ago. The guys who drive fast, flashy cars to try to look young, but appear more like nursing home residents sporting do-rags.

It seems like when you hit 40, you can pretty much do the same things you did a few years ago, but the perception of you is different.

In a Top 10 list my office produced about “Why turning 40 sucks for Rob,” number four was that I’m no longer an entrepreneur — “Now you’re just another small business owner.”

While funny, that one stung.

It reminded me of a story I heard recently. To protect the innocent, let’s just call the man in this story Paul McCombie.

One day, Paul was in a fast-food restaurant. After taking his order, the attractive, college-aged woman behind the counter asked Paul if he was married.

Although I wasn’t there, I can picture Paul swelling with pride as he graciously thanked the woman, but broke the news to her that he indeed was happily married.

“That’s too bad,” the young woman said. “I wanted to fix you up with my mom.”