I have just received this letter from a friend. Reworked it slightly in my style but the sentiment is much the same.
“I am going to be fifty. Soon. Soon enough. Far too soon. Sooner than you think. All too soon. Round the corner, rushing at me like a train in a James Bond movie, crushing youth into strawberry jam, that’s it brother, we are going downhill from here.
And I have been thinking where’s the hurry, back off a bit and postpone it by a year. I like the sound of forty-nine, there is something young and vigorous about it. At forty-something, there is still hope. You could get another job, have a kid (only kidding), go hiking without carting your daily medicines with you and not complain about an old college-day injury that throbs when the weather is cold.
Fifty has this watershed feel about it, like you have been shoved into another dimension and there is no going back. Fifty means, this is it, Clyde, better hit the road, you’ll never be a colt again, this is where when people tell you that you are only as young as you feel, what is age but something in the mind, they are actually visibly sorry for you and only trying not to hurt your feelings.
Fifty opens the floodgates on unsolicited advice. People telling you to slow down, ease up, stop playing Squash, be careful with the sugar and the salt and not too many late nights, cut the smoking, you are not getting any younger, you are fifty, like it was an indictment.
An age where you are supposed to suddenly stop indulging yourself in fun things because you are fifty, you know, it doesn’t look nice, act your age.
What is of most concern to me in this bleak and depressing state is this inclination in people to expect a celebration, a party, some sort of public recognition that you are whizzing past this milestone. Why would you want the world to know your cake is getting squishy? Why on earth would you want to set your depression to music? It is a sobering thought that if I was a game of bingo I would be way past halfway house. It is also a sobering thought that when Mozart was my age he had been dead for seventeen years.
And while on the subject of sobriety, this is the age when men especially begin to recall their past, dredging it up like an old shoe from the bottom of the lake. An age when you begin to preface your speech with ‘In my time’ and ‘When I was’ and ‘Way back when’... Since I loathe nostalgia I see little reason to share this thoroughly un-momentous occasion with anyone.
Seriously though, it is only my body that is hitting fifty. I am only twenty-two. And if we can postpone marriages, business deals and cricket matches I see a lot of precedent on postponing birthdays, especially these epoch-making ones.
You could take out a public notice, all nice and legal, like those people who are changing their names. I, Robbie Nath Jha hereby declare that henceforth I shall be rechristened Babblu Bhola Jha hear ye, hear ye.
I could cheerfully do the same. This is to inform you that I have decided to delay my fiftieth birthday by a year. Consequently you are advised to continue responding to me for all intents and purposes as a forty-niner until further notice.
This sort of deferred thing could catch on. Wedding anniversaries could go the same way. Let’s skip the silver, sweetheart and go straight for gold.
After all, what’s a year between friends.