Yesterday, I moved into a new marketing demographic. Now in the void known as the 40 – 49 market, I no longer hold the cachet of youth, but have not yet achieved the financial stability or respect of the baby boom. Essentially, I’m supposed to stop caring about being cool and hip and be fully ensconced in paying off my home in the suburbs, while contributing to a RESP for my 2.5 kids. I’m hoping this means advertising agencies will stop co-opting the music of my youth and will move on to early 90s bands such as Pearl Jam and Nirvana so I can go back to listening to the Cult and Modern English without picturing automobiles or cheeseburgers.
I’m not hung up about being 40. I spent the last year working up to it. “I’m almost 40!!” I’d declare when required to admit my age, instead of just saying “39″ and being done with it. I’ve had lots of practice getting it out there. Nor am I self-consciously starting to refuse to admit my age. That’s the one benefit to being festively plump – I look a good 5 to 10 years younger than I am.
No, as usual, my issues are more with where society says I’m supposed to be at this point in my life. At 20, being “alternative”, or “marching to your own drummer” is considered to be a phase of growing up. At 30, it’s a little odd, but there’s still time for you to settle down. However at 40, continuing to be a bit of a freak tends to take on new meaning, and it’s unlikely you’ll ever “settle down”, and be “normal”.
Of course, there are freaks who never give up that youthful creativeness. People who in the 40s, 50s and 60s, are still in bands, still making art or fashion, still writing… and probably doing it better than they did in their 20s and 30s. But there’s also that impression of having clung to their youth for too long, of desperately holding on to the last vestiges of what made them cool back in the day.
I’m looking for some balance. Something in between planning for retirement and still being able to identify new bands when I’m flipping past the music channels. A personal style that is classic, elegant and mature, and is age-appropriate, but still speaks to my sense of nonconformity and uniqueness. And a way of looking at (and partaking in) the world around me that meets halfway between youthful exuberance (“Yay! Jellybeans!”) and cranky old coot cynicism (“Goddamn, people are stupid!”).
I definitely feel wiser than I did when I was 30. I’m happier, that’s for sure – I love what I’m doing with my life and the people who are in it. Somewhere in there I gained the ability to walk away from shitty situations instead of standing there kicking and fighting, but my tolerance for shitty situations also went way down, so I may well have walked away from stuff that was worth fighting for, I’m not really sure.
What I know is this – my 30s were better than my 20s; being young and inexperienced was detrimental to the situations I found myself in. if I am true to myself, if I embrace my inner freak and continue to nurture my creativity, uniqueness and quirky way of looking at the world, it’s not unreasonable to expect that the next decade will be even better than the last. At the very least, TV ads will stop making me nostalgic for my teenage years.