- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 15, 2009

Last weekend I reached a magical age — the one that lets you say you’re turning fortysomething for the last time; the one that Romans enumerated as “IL” or “XXXXIX” or “XLIX,” depending on who was chiseling the stone; the one where you get your AARP application promptly in the mail.

I was feeling fine until I saw my AARP application in the mail, then I started feeling annoyed and irritated. I quickly realized the source of my irritation: Nobody has ever said definitively how it feels to get older.

Oh, poets have taken a shot at it over the centuries, but their comparisons to “changing seasons,” “aging wine” and the “rise and fall of empires” don’t quite cut it, you know? Growing up in South Florida, I’ve known only one season. I drink beer, and old beer is just nasty. And the only empire I’m familiar with is the Klingon Empire.

Some say getting older is the worst thing that can happen, and others say it’s the best thing in the world. The truth is both of them are lying. So I will try to fill that void and tell what it’s like to get older. This is mostly for younger readers, so keep reading if you fall into that category. Nearly everybody does.

First of all, no matter what the calendar says or what the mirror tells you, inside your head and your heart you will feel like you’re 21. Maybe 22, because you get used to being of legal drinking age. As you get older, you will feel alert, energetic, clever and interested — you just won’t feel like proving it all the time.

You will develop a strange relationship with time. These days of boredom, confusion, awkwardness and frustration will become your “good old days” in retrospect.

You will find yourself remembering how things used to be and thinking “things were better back then.” Things weren’t better, but you will feel they were — and your feelings about the past become very important to you as you get older.

What’s more, time will speed up the older you get. This is a scientifically proven fact and there’s no escaping it. (It has to do with entropy or microscopy — something like that.) The anniversary of some event will spring upon you, and you will say, “Has it really been that long?” Yes, it has.

You will begin to realize that you know a lot of stuff, more than you thought you knew when you were young. In fact, you will realize that you were an idiot when you were young, because all the stuff you thought you knew then doesn’t compare to all the stuff you think you know now.

Events that make your blood boil today will seem hardly worth a yawn when you’re older:

• A religious leader embroiled in a sex scandal? Yeah, I’ve seen that movie before.

• An elected official accused of taking a bribe? I thought he ran on the bribery ticket.

• A corporate fat cat caught stealing profits? Well, it must have seemed like a good idea at the time.

It’s not that you’re jaded or cynical. You’re old. You’ve seen it before. The guy who said there’s nothing new under the sun knew what he was talking about — because he was old.

You will become suspicious and resentful of change — even if you can believe in it.

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