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Growing Old In A Red Miata
By:Tim Knox

I just had a birthday. Let me correct that: I just had ANOTHER birthday. Before you start congratulating me on making it through yet another year with most of my hair and a fair number of my own teeth intact, let me say that I was not particularly thrilled about the occasion. In fact, I would've been happy to have just slept through it. Then again, I feel that way about most days.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not one of those men so afraid of growing old that I'll wring the neck of the sweet bird of youth until its eyes pop out. You know who I'm talking about, that doofus at the stoplight in the red Miata with the top down and the Grecian Formula trickling down the side of his face. He's got a cellular phone stuck in his ear, probably talking to his plastic surgeon about his impending facelift or his personal trainer about working off those love handles that flop over the sides of his Calvins. Oops, gotta go, twenty year old girlfriend on the other line. Thank God for call waiting and vitamin E.

Why go to so much trouble to stay young when growing old requires so little effort? I've had youth and, if my aging memory doesn't fail me, it seems I spent most of my time sitting around wishing I was older.

Birthday or not, I'm not going to dye my hair. I'm not going to join a healthclub. And the only plastic surgery I'll ever undergo will likely involve a pair of scissors and a maxed out Home Depot card. I wouldn't mind having a red Miata and a cell phone, though. Every man needs a toy or two.

My apathy for birthdays has nothing to do with aging. I just don't see the point in celebrating the anniversary of what was undoubtedly the most traumatic day of my life.

Thankfully, God blocks the memory of our births from our minds because He knows it would be too much for us mere mortals to handle. We blame our mothers for enough already. Why saddle them with the blame for our eviction in this biological landlord/tenant dispute.

We can only imagine how it must have been. There you are, minding your own business, dog paddling around in the dark. It's nice and warm, safe, cozy. Then - BAM! Somebody pulls the plug on your parental wave pool and all hell breaks loose!

You're thrust head-first into an incredibly bright place where some hysterical woman is yelling at some poor man who's passed out on the floor, calling him awful names, accusing his parents of never having been married. Suddenly, you're being dangled upside down and someone claiming to be a licensed member of the medical profession is slapping you on the behind! What kind of voodoo medicine is this, you wonder? If anybody should be getting slapped it's that hysterical, screaming woman, certainly not you.

I guess we should just be thankful that being hung upside-down while naked and spanked on the behind never became a widely practiced tradition. I understand there are places in larger cities where you can get such treatment if you like, though I have no personal knowledge of this myself.

This birthday was my 37th, which means that I have another three years before hitting that age commonly known as "The Big Four-O." The "O" stands for "Ominous." It's all down hill from here, bubba.

In the grand scheme of things, forty is the hump day of life.

Forty is the age when your friends and coworkers come up to you and say such wonderfully warm things as, "Your life's half over!" and "You really look great for someone your age!"

Thanks, dear friends. Thanks a lot.

They decorate your office with black streamers and black balloons and present you with black flowers and a black coffee mug that says "Older Than Dirt" on one side and "Excuse Me While I Decompose" on the other. They strap a black birthday hat on your head (the rubber band fits nicely under your double chins) and shove a black noisemaker in your mouth and expect you to smile and act gracious as they mock your mortality.

That's when you realize that attending your own fortieth birthday party is a lot like attending your own funeral. The only difference is that funeral food is usually better.

As you struggle to blow out the forty black candles that are quickly achieving bonfire status atop your black cake, you hope that there's not a seventy-year-old stripper waiting in the wings.

Then it's time for the obligatory singing of "Happy Birthday To You," done in the style of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat," by a group of well meaning idiots that couldn't carry a tune in a paper bag.

And all the while you're thinking, "Where did I leave my AK47?"

It's a documented fact that most disgruntled postal workers become disgruntled soon after their fortieth birthday. Not hard to figure out why.

As always, I tried to keep this birthday under wraps. I didn't want anyone congratulating me on my "big day," not my coworkers, not my close friends, and certainly not those damnable singing waiters at TGIFridays. I embarrass myself enough during the course of a normal day. I don't need help.

There was a party waiting for me when I got home (I have no control over what goes on there). It was a quiet affair, just my wife and my kids and my dog (the cat had a prior commitment). There were streamers and balloons hanging about the dining room and the table was perfectly set with paper plates and plastic forks, courtesy of my nine-year-old who fancies herself the Martha Stewart of the middle school set.

My youngest insisted that we all wear Barney and Baby Bop birthday hats as we ate our bucket of birthday chicken. Luckily, my wife forgot to buy film for the camera. A thirty-seven year old man wearing a Barney birthday hat with chicken grease running down his chin, does not exactly qualify as a Kodak moment.

Unless, of course, he's sitting in a red Miata.

Tim Knox

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