The discreet charm of the 40th birthday

A few weeks from now I will turn 40. It's made me a little reflective lately. I've been thinking about birthdays and the important part they play in organizing the life process. Up until now birthdays have organized my life according to a series of very momentous rights of passage. They have marked out a reassuring progression towards maturity. From the time I first began to understand the concept of birthday (about 4), and for the following 21 years, almost every successive birthday opened a hulking new door of social privilege and self worth. Indulge me while I explain. And keep in mind, as a Mormon MALE–and by default, a boyscout–the early years of reaching a new birthday had a particular gravitas that would not have been the case for many many others. I'm sorry. I'm also deliberately leaving out all those annual (oh-so-important, but oh-so-arcane) Sunday School advancements. So follow me through the years. Feel free to edit and gripe:

how to get ex girlfriend back

Age 5: You enter Kindergarten. Was anything else this important in your life?
Age 6: 1st Grade. Was anything else this important in your life?
Age 7: Cub Scouts. For boys only, I know, but this was so special. The first club.
Age 8: Mormon Baptism. Humongous!
Age 9: Not much this year. Go make out with a cousin.
Age 10: Webelos. Pretty exciting.
Age 11: Boy Scouts. Really exciting.
Age 12: Get the Aaronic Priesthood, get ordained to the office of “Deacon.” (You get to pass the sacrament. It's a big deal. At least to a deacon.)
Age 13: Teenager!
Age 14: Get ordained to the office of “Teacher”. (You get to count the number of people attending the Sunday service.) Better, you can start attending church dances.
Age 15: Driver's License! Yeah, at age 15!, if you live in New Mexico and you pass the Drivers Ed. class. Age 15. Suck it East Coast!
Age 16: Get ordained to the office of “Priest” (You can bless the sacrament. And other stuff.) Better, you get to start dating.
Age 17: Get into R-rated movies. Although of course you're not supposed to go.
Age 18: The Doozy! And totally unrelated to anything Mormon. You can finally vote. You can be drafted. You can be tried as an adult. And you can buy cigarettes and pornography. And rent hotel rooms. You can get married and get an abortion without permission in every state. You can enter into contracts, own real estate and stocks, and even license your own business. And you online casino enter a new marketing segment/advertising demographic. Truly a kick ass year!
Age 19: Worthy men serve a Mormon mission. Which means you go through the temple and get “your endowments” and start wearing Mormon undergarments for the rest of your life. And get shipped off somewhere for two years to spread the Gospel. Very sober year.
Age 20: You're not a teenager anymore! But you're on a mission.
Age 21: You can buy alcohol. And purchase firearms. You can run for most elected state offices. And none of that even registers. You're just arriving home from your mission and life seems really weird.
Age 22: Nothing much
Age 23: Nothing much
Age 24: Nothing much
Age 25: You can rent a car. You can run for US Congress. You enter another new marketing demographic. And if you're lucky, during those “nothing much” years you've figured out that everything you grew up believing was just a bunch of strange mythical stories passed on from generation to generation. And oh Lordy, there's a lot of experimenting to catch up on.
Age 26: Nothing much
Age 27: The dangerous year. It's the year that all the fabulous rock stars died. Be careful of passing out really drunk at parties! And depression!
Age 28: Nothing much
Age 29: You say: “Holy Shit, I'm about to turn 30. I better fuckin' enjoy this year.”
Age 30: You say: “Holy Shit. Now I'm 30. How lame. I'm so fucking old. Who will find me sexy anymore?” But you can run for the US Senate. Oh, and it's argued that human biological development concludes (the end of the myelinating process of neural pathways). Bummer. It's all downhill.
Age 31: Nothing much
Age 32: Nothing much
Age 33: The Jesus year. Watch out for Crosses! (And if you're lucky and you live with a really cool partner, she might just throw you a party called “Birthday on a Stick” where everything, except the booze, is served on sticks. Corn dogs and Pocky together on your birthday? Alright! Fudgesickles and kebabs! Keep an eye out for Romans carrying nails!)
Age 34: Nothing much
Age 35: You can finally run for President. Finally. And all Constitutionally-granted privileges end. And you enter another new marketing demographic.
Age 36: Nothing much
Age 37: Nothing much
Age 38: Nothing much
Age 39: Again: Holy Shit. I'm about to turn 40. I better fuckin' enjoy this year.
Age 40: Holy Shit. I'm 40. What a massive bummer. I'm so fucking old. Who, but my partner, will find me sexy anymore? At least I have a child.
Age 41–64: Nothing much
Age 60: Senior Citizen discounts
Age 65: Start collecting Social Security. Many people retire. (Note: this age entry will undoubtedly change during our lifetime.)
Age 65–death: Nothing much. Unless you live to be 100 and you can show up on GMA and Willard Scott shows your wrinkly face on TV handsomely framed by a Smucker's jar and says “What a pretty lady!” Yes! And you say “I finally got on TV!” Suck it death!

Ah, the life cycle. How grand and romantic. So my question, and perhaps my whole point of writing today, is this: Dear over-40 reader, is there anything else that happens Birthday-wise between 40 and retirement? (Ok, age 50, people are supposed to get their first colonoscopy.) But are there any new privileges, excluding medically-recommended anal exploration, that occur after 40 (hell, let's be honest here, after 35)? Are there any more important Birthdays? Obviously excluding the rapture of living to the year 2045 and experiencing the singularity. Thank you for your consideration. And make a nice wish for me.


51 responses to “The discreet charm of the 40th birthday”

  1. lane says:

    nothing will carry you through 39 like list-making.

  2. ks says:

    Despite having grown up in Utah and vicariously experiencing (through Mormon friends) all those youthful age markers, I had never given thought to how many crazy M-related milestones that faith puts upon young men. V. interesting. I can’t help but think that Mormon girls’/women’s reflections would be considerably sparser. So I’m processing the meaning of this from a gendered, indoctrinational perspective. (No offense intended…it’s just where this post is making my head go.) I love how much you seem to reveal about your personal life narrative in this creative, amusing manner. Excellent writing. (Fav line: “Suck it, east coast.”)

    Hopefully 40 will prove to be at least as exciting as 18 was for you! Keep us posted. June is my big transition to the age. I’m anticipating enjoying my 40s and am refusing to worry about much beyond it being the year I’ll have to have the baseline mammography I’ve been dreading for the past decade.

    Happy Birthday. Please write a post about the party!

  3. Missy says:

    Oh, I’m right there with you, ks. I love that Farrell made this list–totally fun. But I’m surprised at how much 12, 14, and 16 still sting, as a once-faithful Mormon girl who watched fuck-up boys who didn’t even care pass the sacrament while I sat and thought really hard about Jesus for fifteen long, boring minutes. I felt my heart pang with anger when I saw those years come up just now. And that’s not even touching on the boy scout stuff. So. fucking. stupid.

    Any of you out there who are raising girls Mormon: STOP!!!!!

    Fun list, though, dear Mr. [Fawcett]. I love the birthday on a stick party.I’m 40 this year too and one of the things I’ll remember about this year is how much I’ve loved listening to the Farrell and [Trixie] Dinner Party Mix of late 2008.

  4. Scotty says:

    As I too am turning 40 this year, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it all means — not that I didn’t spend way too much time on that one anyway, but this time it somehow feels different. As a soon-to-be 40YO artist, I feel like a have a different degree of responsibility. I don’t really know what I mean by this, but I guess I figure it all out…pass the medi-weed: Suck it East Coast!!

    Funny, I ordered two of Kurzweil’s books on Monday. I can’t wait to dive into that shit — again: pass the medi-weed.

  5. Jeremy says:

    I was hoping in the 25/26 range, there’d be some of the more personal milestones, like getting drunk and then starting a wrestle-fight with your roommate in the front yard at 3am. That sort of thing.

    (And to revisit our earlier debate: I still say there are songs I’ve heard more times than Happy Birthday…)

  6. ah yes, the wrestle fight years . . .

  7. farrell fawcett says:

    Hey Missy, I’m glad you wrote that about the repellant sexism in Mormonism It pained me too just writing down those priesthood advancements and scout stuff. I hate thinking about it anymore. Thanks for bringing it up. It has to be discussed–for as long as it takes to someday end it.

    And happy 40th to you. So glad you’ve enjoyed the mix.

    Scott, freaky friday. I also just ordered the Kurzweil on Monday!

    Jeremy, I’m surprised you’d bring up drunken wrestling what with all the stinging humiliation you must still feel. Sorry. And no, there is no other song people have heard more in their life than Happy Birthday. They have computers that have figured this out.

  8. farrell fawcett says:

    And Lane, lists will not just get me through 39, they will get me through till 99. or some old age, i hope.

  9. farrell fawcett says:

    And ks, are you the ks who lives in brooklyn with your talented towering son? thanks for the kind words.

  10. Scotty says:

    “…I also just ordered the Kurzweil on Monday!”

    Perhaps the Singularity is already upon us!

  11. Marleyfan says:


  12. Dave says:

    For me, 26 was a weird freak-out year. “OMG, I’m almost at the end of my mid twenties! I’m getting old!” I can’t quite explain this. I forgot about the president-35 thing until someone made some crack this year at my birthday party about it that I didn’t get at first. I suppose I gave up on becoming president some years ago.

    The worst thing about all those teenage-boy Mormon milestone birthdays is getting interviewed by your bishop, who inevitably asks about masturbation.

    Also, slight correction: IIRC, New Mexico will give you a driver’s license at 14 1/2 if you pass Driver’s Ed; at 15 if you don’t.

  13. Natasha says:

    Happy Birthday, Farrell! I wish your wildest dreams come true!

  14. Scotty says:

    Natasha, I don’t know if you want Farrell’s “wildest dreams” to come true.

  15. Natasha says:

    It depends, what are they?

  16. Natasha says:

    If you don’t mind me asking ;)

  17. ks says:

    Farrell, Re: #9: Nope, that’s not me. I’m the KS in St.L who went to high school with Lane for a year before I transferred to a Catholic school to get away from all the Mormons dominating the public school culture of Ogden, UT. I now teach women’s history, the history of marriage and sexuality in the US, gender studies, & assorted other things of that ilk. I basically look at the world through the lens of gender every. second. of. my. life. I’m sure I must owe the patriarchal world in which I was reared for this outcome.

    #3: Missy, oh kindred spirit! I SO agree that Mormon culture privileges boys/men, regularly marking their passage into manhood (power) while girls lead cheers and suffer silently from the sidelines as eternal dependents. ARGH!

  18. Dave says:

    ks, for some reason I had though you were a man. I will now rethink my lens of gender.

  19. 17. Come on now KS isn’t this human history in general. I’m no Mormon, but aren’t most cultures guilty of this? Catholics too?

    We are all emerging from the past. Feminism is like what 30, 40, 50 years old?

  20. 18. funny, no she just knows how to sling the shit with the best of the boys. oh and, . . . she used to go out with . . . (um, ks, almost all these people know him . . . can we say?)

  21. ks says:

    Dave, that is awesome. No one’s ever mistaken me for a man.

    But back to Farrell and his upcoming b-day and the really important matter of what kind of cake/pie/tart/pudding will be holding his 40 flames?

  22. ks says:

    #19–Sure…yeah, Lane.

    #20: I don’t care, but will he? He surely has a reputation to protect.

  23. no he’s proud to know you. KS used to go out with Doug. They were really serious for quite a while.

  24. swells says:

    I am the tart that will be holding Farrell’s 40 flames, I hope.

  25. Happy B-Day Farrel! Thanks for the walk down memory lane. I think the church lines up those early benchmarks very effectively. They kind of remind me of that old cautionary tale, the favorite of so many general authorities, about how to boil a frog.

  26. The Resident Jew says:

    So, can somebody recommend a concise explanation of what all these Mormonisms mean (i.e. what the hell is “Webelos”?) Perhaps Mormon 101 would be a good post. Okay, okay, it was just an idea. Jeez.

  27. ks says:

    24: priceless comment!
    25: you HAVE to explain that now!
    26: GREAT idea! I’ve kind of always wondered how/why the Boy Scouts and the LDS church were so intertwined, yet the same was not at all true for Girl Scouts. I have my suspicions, but would love to hear a male insider’s p.o.v. on this. As Webelos, where those little wooden cars you raced precursors for something…like, say, whoever loses will have to eventually do a mission in Utah, or Idaho?

  28. 25. yeah that really is what they did isn’t it.

    27. ks, come on, this whole back and forth about hating them and then wanting to know more . . . i wish there was a website where you kids could resign your “non-mormon kid from utah” status and just be done with it.

    the university of utah was exhausting in this regard.

    and besides, Farrell aint a mormon so let’s all get beyond it!

    HAPPY 40TH (come July!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

  29. #26 and 27: People have been asking for one of those posts for awhile. I’ll write and submit it if you put together a list of the Mormonisms you’re wondering about. Send them to Dave (the TGW editor) and he’ll Email them to me, if you ask.

    I don’t really know why the church chose to use the Boy Scout program as the backbone of their Young Men’s program, but I suspect it’s because the church likes the values that the program teaches: self-reliance, knowledge of practical stuff like money management and survival skills, community service, and education, along with an appreciation for the spiritual.

    Of course, the catch is that it takes a community of dedicated adults–both leaders and mothers–to pull off a successful Scouting program on the community level. If the leaders are just kinda blah or boring, and the moms don’t support the assignments that the boys are sent home to do (for example, for the Nutrition merit badge, the boys have to cook at least one dinner meal at home on their own for their family) then the kid never gets involved in Scouting.

    Webelos is part of Cub Scouts, which is the kiddie version of Boy Scouts. Same thing, except to a slightly younger age group and the uniforms are navy blue and yellow-gold instead of tan.

    I was always mad that I couldn’t be a boy scout because my brothers and my dad were always doing scout stuff. I tried girl scouts, but you’d be surprised at how wimpy that program is compared to the boy scouts. The LDS church has their own program for the young women, and it does include a Girl’s Camp that they create and attend every summer. The girls concentrate on similar values, along with the usual stuff like homemaking skills and sports/fun stuff: education, self-reliance, and community service, along with spiritual development.

  30. Jane says:

    Love the age breakdown. Happy birthday!

  31. PB says:

    Happiest wishes Farrell – the 40’s are cool, you can still move pretty fast and you can still firt is you dye your hair, the only bummer is that your up close visions blurs.

  32. PB says:

    firt = flirt, apparently your spelling goes, wait, mine never was.

  33. swells says:

    29: don’t forget the core of Scouting values that would appeal most to the Momos: homophobia.

  34. lane says:

    29. Kate I’m so damn proud of you. 33. she’s my niece you know.

    to stand up to this bunch of yahoos? wow THAT”S guts!

    U GO GRL!

  35. The Resident Jew says:

    Kate, thanks for offering to spell these things out. I don’t even know enough about Mormonism to come up with terms for you to define, so maybe just the very basics will do. Or not, as I’m probably one of the very few people on this blog who is Morm-ignorant.

  36. a nonny mouse says:

    29: this site really doesn’t need an unironic mormon lexicon. hell, it doesn’t need an ironic one, either. sounds tiring either way. just sayin.

    besides, the internet exists. webelos? jfgi.

  37. a nonny mouse says:

    35: Here you go.

  38. lane says:

    37. nice.

  39. farrell fawcett says:

    12: Dave, IIRR (if i reckon right), 14 1/2 is true is you passed driver’s ed–and had an adult in the car.
    24: Me too
    36: Agreed. I really hate bringing mormonism up on this site at all. This is NOT a Mormo-processing place. There’s plenty of other chat rooms for that. If someone doesn’t get some obscure reference, that’s what google’s for.
    17: ks, you’re cool. Please comment more often, hell, you’d make a great contributor too. And Missy, why haven’t you posted something yet. I’d love to hear what you’ve been thinking about lately!

  40. Tim says:

    This is NOT a Mormo-processing place.

    It may not seem like it to many of the Jack- and ex-Mormons who read and write here, but sometimes it seems like it to others who read and write here but were never Mormon or even lived amongst them. Just sayin.

  41. TRJ says:

    36, 38, and 39. I sense that I hit a nerve – still chewing on that old maror, eh? . Not to get all Midrashic on you, but Mormonism is referred to constantly on this blog, and I thought I’d emerge from the Choshech to understand what you’re talking about rather than just remain bored. Ah, well. Happy Pesach, y’all.

  42. lane says:

    41. Oy Vey! Well put you Mensch! L’CHAIM!

    Now might I suggest to you, or ks or 40 to generate some content for the site so the balance tips and all “those people” will shut the fuck up about the trauma of their provincial upbringing!

  43. ks says:

    41: that is a brilliant response to this whole mess of meshuggah about sect-specific language and its tendency to alienate (and bore) folks not in the know. And, it makes an eloquent end to this rather long discussion…

    But, I can’t help but extend my personal apology to everyone, esp. FF–writer and rightful cause celebre for the day–for starting a conversation, and then perpetuating it, that so offensively departed from a line which would have better resprected and reflected his intentions.

    I can’t really remember the whole thing so I made parts up, but there’s something in the Girl Scout Law that applies here:

    I will do my best to be
    honest and fair,
    friendly and helpful,
    considerate and caring,
    courageous and strong, and
    responsible for what I say and do,
    and to
    respect myself and others,
    respect authority,
    use resources wisely,
    make TGW a better place for all contributors,
    and to not digress into unrelated, unresolved issues
    about a subject all the cool folks on this site have grown pretty tired of hearing about

    **FF, I still hope for a b-day update because topping the ‘food on a stick’ party will require some pretty creative planning and execution. And, most importantly, post pics so everyone can tell you how great you look for your age!

  44. ks, you are still really cool. remember that biology class when you were stoned and we were disecting frogs?

  45. Dave says:

    See, it’s comments like 44 that made me think ks was a dude. I am sexist.

    Re: Mormonism and TGW, it’s obviously the plurality religious background among the writers here, although there are plenty of non-Mormons. When we started, we didn’t know how Mormon the place would get. Waterman wanted it to be pretty non-Mormon. I figured the Mormon stuff would seep in eventually. And it has, especially because we have so many personal or confessional posts.

    And then suddenly in the comments (like that “Various Cults” post linked above) you get a whole discussion springing up, with battle lines already drawn, among people who have been involved in one way or another for decades in the moderately insular world of Mormonism. I can see how that would be off-putting for non-Mormons. It’s a great idea to ask questions, and hopefully people will explain things when asked. I do have a sense, though, that while Mormonism is an important part of may TGWers’ backgrounds, it’s not the most important thing, and not the dominant topic of discussion on this blog.

  46. E&R's Papa says:

    Following up on Kate #27 about mormons and the Boy Scouts of America — when I was at the ACLU suing the Scouts (or rather suing government agencies that unconstitutionally sponsored scouting), I had access to mounds of materials about the relationship between the church and BSA. In some ways it’s really the mormons that are holding scouting hostage — the church sponsors over a 1/4 of troops, and essentially has a veto over the organization. In one general authority’s deposition it came out that the first presidency actually has a written policy stating that if BSA lets in the gays, the mormons will pull all their sponsorships.

  47. ks says:

    #45: Dang, I don’t really think that was ME! I think Lane is misremeberatin’ on this topic. (Or, well, I’d love to believe that!) I was a wild thing back then…which is so hard to believe because I’m now really very dull and responsible and have hardly any substance abuse issues (caffeine, maybe…and some vino, sure…but). But if I was stoned in bio, I bet I wasn’t alone. ‘s’all I’m sayin’.

  48. 47. hey i didn’t start sparkin’ up ’till after you were at St. Joe’s (and you know ks we’re doing it again, and dave has bitched us out for this . . .)

    sorry everyone . . .

  49. I agree with Dave in 45. I don’t like that Mormonism is brought up so often here of TGW. I’m much more than my religion, and I like a lot of the people here, whether or not they have or had ties to my religion. I don’t mind answering honest, general questions, but I do agree that they could be answered by Googling or searching

    Can we talk about something else? Or have Dave close the comments prematurely? I hate getting into arguments with people.

  50. Dave says:

    I dunno, Kate, I don’t see anyone engaged in an argument here. (And I like arguments, anyway. It’s the internet! It’s supposed to get a little spirited!)

    I think The Resident Jew did us a favor by reminding us that this is a general-readership blog and not everyone knows all the terminology. Farrell’s post acknowledged that by explaining some of the Mormon terms in context, although explaining “deacon” by saying “you get to pass the sacrament” is probably, um, less than helpful to a non-Mormon.

    There’s also clearly a little defensiveness or tetchiness about Mormonism around here. Just sayin.

    I generally love yammering on about Mormonism, especially if the questioner is buying me beers.

  51. PB says:

    ah, but Dave, they may be buying you beers for a totally different reason . . .

    My 2 cents – I think if we don’t get “spirited” now and then and get in each others faces and share whatever personal context we are coming from at that moment – we might as well not have comments. The point of these posts is to call each other out on being brilliant and short-sighted and occasionally dingalings. If all of us think the same way – there will be a lot of redundancy.

    Just sayin’

    Good ole’ Farrell – always stirring (or – ) the pot!!!! We love you!!!!!!!!!!