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Published on June 18th, 2014 | by Richard Black


Substituting Alcohol for Fiber, Using the Word “Labia” in Polite Company and Other Happy Thoughts From a Soon-to-Be 40 Year Old Man

At the wizened old age of 39 and a half I’ve come to a few conclusions.

The first is that it is rarely appropriate to use the term “labia” in polite conversation more than once and probably not even then. Let’s face it. If you happen to be in polite society and feel the urge to use the term “labia” you’ve had too much to drink or you’re with the wrong crowd.

The second is that large amounts of alcohol can only substitute for fiber as far as regular movements are concerned and the third…


Well the third is that there’s a reason why I’ve been telling people that I’m 39 and a half these days. Part of it most certainly involves my unparalleled sense of honesty and respect for the truth. Another is  a poor attempt at irony given the fact that most people who refer to their age in half year increments tend to be under ten and the last is my own feeble attempt to stave off the inevitable aging process.

Yes I’m well aware that aging is a benefit afforded to few. If I were still alive through some minor miracle at this age 10,000 years or so ago I’d either be the wizened old tribal elder in  or being sized up by my younger brethren for jerky. Either way  I’d be contributing something to the group but that’s beside the point.

Growing old is, to use the parlance of our times, a motherfucker and it’s only going to get worse. I have yet to speak to anyone over the age of 70 who is as geared up to be a septuagenarian as he, or she, was to be at any other age. Then again who knows, being in a coma during my 80’s might be a blast and I might even wake up at the age of 94 and ask to be put back under but I doubt it.

I remember my father’s 40th birthday. There were black helium balloons with tombstones on them, black plates, black napkins. I’m pretty sure even the cake was covered in black icing which colored our teeth a cheery shade of gray the chemical composition of which, I’m certain, contributed to many of my siblings neurological disorders.

My father took it all in stride, he always does, he was magnanimous about the coffee mug we’d all chipped in to buy him that had a silhouette of an old man climbing the crest of a hill. We all had a good laugh when he couldn’t blow out the forty candles in one mighty breath and it was only later that I had the thought that half my father’s life was over. I remember the thought vividly. I was lying in bed after the evening’s festivities or, to be more accurate, the evening’s  anti-festivities, when it occurred to me that the old man wouldn’t be around for a while and that he’d done quite a lot.

By the time my father turned 40 he had really achieved quite a bit. Instead of being drafted (his draft number was four), or deferring because he was in college my father enlisted into the army during Vietnam war. During his tour he rose to the rank of a staff sergeant, patrolled regularly and only lost one man.

After his hitch he went to law school at Michigan, met my mother who had just left the convent (a story for another time) married, had two children and set up a profitable law practice in a small town in Indiana.

Sure it wasn’t all wine and roses. My parents parted ways when I was eleven or so. The town was inundated with attorneys, about 12 or so for a population of 8,000 which might sound reasonable that’s more than one lawyer per 600 people and small town Indiana was not particularly litigious in the 1980s. .

Still my old man made it work. He remarried, took in three children, had another, kept all of them alive and even manged to put them all through college which is no mean feat in any day and age.

I can’t compare myself to my father. It’s like comparing apples to astronauts or fish to bicycles. They’re both nouns (they’re all nouns by the way) but that’s about as far as it goes. We share the same blood in addition to many characteristic both useful and irritating but we are not the same man; a fact I’m sure that we both breathe a sigh of relief when we give the subject some thought.

Still as the days tick down and I close in on the last few months to 40 I’ve been taking stock. The question “what have I accomplished” is one that weighs heavy and constant on my mind as of late. I have a beautiful wife and daughter, a home and a decent life but I want more. I’m American after all and we always want more.

In my teens and twenties I skirted through school and, well, a few skirts with the belief that I was much brighter than I really was. In all honesty I was just a pretentious little prick in, a lazy one at that if truth be told, and while I can’t say that much has changed in my thirties I think I’ve found some measure of humility along the way.

Still that’s cold comfort as I enter the age of wrinkles and obesity,  pre diabetes, hair loss, and the loss of just about everything else (mental acuity and erections just to name a few).

I wont lie the idea of entering my forties is terrifying. I’m a terribly vain person but that’s not really what upsets me the most. It’s the fact that I’ve only got a few more decades to make my mark, make my life worth something, when so many others have done so much so much earlier.

This, more than any other thought, keeps me awake at night.

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