Steve Mullen: Caught in the middle

October 14, 2009 9:38:00 AM

Steve Mullen - [email protected]


There comes a time for all of us when we finally feel our age. 


I turned 39 a few weeks ago. This is a birthday no one wants to celebrate. It''s much like 29, but 10 years worse. I recall, incredulously, that once, I actually wished to be older. Now, I want the clock to turn back, or at least slow down for a precious minute or two. 


At 39, we''re keeping score. The ref blew the whistle, and we''re behind at the half. Halftime is over and the third quarter has begun. We lost the coin toss, and are kicking off against the wind. 


Many of us in this situation look carefully around us. We compare our status to others younger than us, which probably isn''t fair, but it makes us feel worse, so we can''t help but do it. Bill Gates co-founded Microsoft at 20; he was a billionaire by 30. Orson Welles made "Citizen Kane" at 25. Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone at 29. Alexander the Great conquered the known world by 32. 


And us? Today we managed to take out the garbage and get to the post office -- both in the same day, mind you. No small accomplishment. 


This is the beginning of middle age -- a label that I, for one, can''t believe finally applies to me. We scour our sources for all the definitions. OK, maybe the Census Bureau says it''s 35-54. But the dictionary says it''s 45 to 60. I''m safe for six more years. 


It''s not that I''m not meeting the definition. I''m definitely a textbook case of this phenomena.  


According to the Encyclopedia of Sports Medicine and Science, in middle age: 


... "Physical activity usually wanes, with a 5-10 kg accumulation of body fat." Check. (Though sadly, that''s been true for me since about age 11.) 


... "Active pursuits may be shared with a growing family ..." Check. 


... "But it becomes less important to impress either an employer or persons of the opposite sex with physical appearance and performance." Um ... probably better not to go there. Though I try to shower before going to work. 


... "During later middle-age (45-65 years), women reach the menopause, and men also substantially reduce their output of sex hormones." Wait a minute -- I''m outputting sex hormones? What am I, a honeybee? 


... "Career opportunities have commonly peaked ..." You mean I''ll peak when I''m 65, right? I still have bills to pay. And I''m depressed enough as it is. 


... "And a larger disposable income often allows energy demanding domestic tasks to be given to service contractors." This is the day I''m longing for. What''s the use of having a yard if you don''t have a yard guy? You earned it, big guy. You''re middle aged. 


It''s not all bad. Orson Welles may have created his masterpiece while young, but that was his peak. He ended his insufferable, morbidly obese final days doing Nostrodamus documentaries and margarine commercials. And if Alexander the Great was my age, he would be dead for seven years. That''s really not so great. 


We remember that others have done well at 39, and beyond. Jimmy Connors was in the semifinals at the U.S. Open right about now. Hank Aaron put No. 715 over the fence a year from now (though I doubt I''ll catch up). Kennedy was elected president at 43; I won''t catch him. I do have time to turn things around and catch 48-year-old Barack Obama; I still have nine years to start the path from state senate to U.S. president, which he completed in exactly five. 


Or, I can stop dwelling on that and keep plowing away, doing what I''m doing. Celebrate the small accomplishments, and try to learn from the failures.  


Regrets? Some. I didn''t play the best 30 minutes, but I did pretty well -- and the more I think about it, probably better than most. 


I''m feeling good about the second half. 


Steve Mullen is managing editor of The Dispatch. Reach him at [email protected]

Steve Mullen is Managing Editor of The Dispatch.