Jeff Pearlman

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40*

I turn 40 on Sunday.

And I’m not quite sure how.

I don’t think of myself as 40. I don’t think I act 40. I look in the mirror, and sure, there are a few more wrinkles than 30. But do I look 40? Do I look … old?

Maybe, maybe not.

I see 25. I always see 25. I see me as young and eager and excited. I see me as embracing a world of endless possibilities. I see me early on in a career, hoping to move up the ladder and accomplish great things. That’s how I see myself—how I always see myself—even when I’m looking in that mirror. Even when I’m tired and beaten down and feeling, well, old.

I don’t like the sound of 40. Elvis was fat, jumpsuit-wearing Elvis when he was 40. Eddie Murphy was doing The Adventures of Pluto Nash when he was 40. Ozzie Smith was limited to 96 games when he was 40. Tupac was dead. Jim Morrison was dead. Marilyn Monroe was dead.

The number 40 reeks of irrelevence. There are younger people itching to replace us. They’re the ones who go out after work, to the bars and clubs, as we once did. If we happen to tag along, it feels … pathetic. We’re there, but we no longer belong. We long to scream, “No! It’s me! I’m trapped inside this body, but I’m really 27!” It doesn’t work. It’s true and it’s not true. I’m not 27, I’m 40.

At 40, we start fighting to turn back time. Suck in the gut. Cut off a few minutes from the real marathon time. A little dab of dye here, a pinch off the skin there. We’re not quite ancient, but we see ancient. It’s waiting there, taunting us with its cry of, “Stay home … watch TV … it’s too cold to go out … Hill Street Blues re-runs are on.” I have a friend who denies this all. He thinks he’s still cool, and proves such by bragging about hitting up this party with Zac Efron, that party with Usher. I’m sure, deep down, he knows that it’s mere cosmetics. That Zac Efron knows he’s old, and he knows Zac Efron is young. See, that’s the thing about it all—we can try and fool ourselves all we want, but 40 sucks. It hurts. It blows. It bites. Mostly, it stings. I can Tweet 1,000 times a day and wear my cap backward and say, “What up?” and “chillin’” all I want, but I can’t deny chronology.

I actually remember, as a teen, thinking I would never age. Somehow, it would happen to everyone else, but not to me. I would avoid it; push it away; fight it off. Even in my 20s, I thought, “Wow, this is lasting a long time. How wonderful.” But now time mocks me. One birthday chases another chases another chases another. I still vividly recall turning 21, throwing up in the parking lot alongside the Stone Balloon. I still vividly recall turning 30, walking into a surprise party. It’s all right there, memories as fresh as sponge cake. I can feel them and touch them, but—fuck—I can’t grab them. They slip away, down a long hole.

And here I am, two days removed from being 40.

Who wants to snort coke?

  • Dave G

    Happy Birthday sir!

  • Greg Hardy

    On the other hand, look at astronauts. Is there any astronaut younger than 42? That’s how many years of physical training and book-learnin’ ya need to do to earn one of the most important jobs in the world.

    So if you can consider yourself at astronaut-level at whatever it is you choose to do, the 40s don’t sound so bad.

    Now put down that coke spoon and grab a 40-ounce like any respectable 40-year-old.

  • Asherdan

    Good jeeblies, man, 40 may be the end of one thing but it’s the beginning of another just as worthy.

    Put aside the conceits of callow youth and pull up a seat at the adult table already.

  • Ted

    I hit sixty in March. You ain’t seen nuthin’ yet, sonny.

    • jmw

      Me too! March 29.
      Jeff is always freaked out about his mortality. I suppose in his case faith really would be a crutch.

  • http://jeffpearlman.com Doug

    Well, you may be compelled to talk with others about their kids more and watch fake tupac videos less, but to each their own.

  • http://www.thesouthinmymouth.wordpress.com Catherine Mayhew

    Oh, Jeff. Quit your whining. I’ll always be older than you. Well, for awhile at least. What would I have missed in my 40s? Having a baby, seeing him graduate from Kindergarten (yes, green construction paper mortarboards), starting my own newspaper, becoming a master barbeque judge, and so much more. Have a great decade. Make it count. Check in with me when you turn 50 and we’ll go over the rules for that one.

  • Jeff

    Happy Birthday. Thanks for another year of great reading material.

  • http://gmail.com Paul

    The older I get, the more I realize Satchel Paige was right when he (supposedly) asked, “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?”

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Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

— Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life