Turning 50 tends to make many people, especially writers, take on a philosophical bent, as they consider, from their lofty perch of a half century, the nature of aging, the meaning of life, the coming to terms with the prospect of death. Yet with that very same big-fat milestone looming for me at the start of January, try as I might, I just cant whip up any good angst on the topic. This might be because (a) I'm shallow; (b) I'm in denial; (c) I'm channeling George Burns; or (d) I have a healthy attitude about the aging process.
Judging from the fact that I seem to be having my own unique brand of midlife crisis, I think the answer might be 'all of the above.' For unlike like my straight male counterparts, instead of having an affair with my 20-year-old secretary and buying a Lamberghini, I have taken up roller blading and unicycling. Oh yeah: it's all about speed and feeling the wind in my hair and making the young girls stare. Never mind that, on the unicycle, my top speed is about one mile per hour—though it's hard to calculate a speed when you can only stay upright for about two or three feet—and that with my helmet on it's impossible to guess I have hair much less feel the wind in it. And if young girls are staring, it's because I look like a dork, with protective gear on every inch of my body except my butt, which is where I usually fall when engaging in either activity so I have seriously considered strapping a pillow to my derriere when practicing—and you know how wild that makes the ladies!
Never mind, too, that I have neither a secretary, of any age, nor the kind of dough necessary to buy a car that costs more than my house: those interests are about as alien to me as to a ten-year-old tomboy. Actually, I think the tomboy and me may be one and the same. Because while everyone in my office, from twenty-five to fifty, is, like me, trying new things, what they are trying is knitting and crocheting—notably more sedentary than roller blading, although I suppose the needles do add an element of danger. However, if there hasn't been a report on the dangers of knitting on Primetime or 20/20, how dangerous can it really be? Let's face it: knitting, my friend, is no roller blading.
I'll admit that my elected pursuits aren't exactly skydiving or snowboarding off a cliff, but balancing on one wheel over concrete with nothing to hold me upright counts for extreme in my book. Plus, how brave am I to let the college student I mentor see me in my full dork regalia? Though frankly, it was probably more brave of her to admit to the friend with whom she was walking across campus that, yes, she did know the weirdo in the Kazoo helmet on the unicycle who was calling out hello to her.
Like any 50-year-old bald guy driving his convertible whose rug has started flapping in the breeze, I do occasionally wonder if I'm engaging in activity that's too young for me—especially when I have to head to the chiropractor again with my latest sports-related kink. But then, as I've told everyone who knows me ad nauseum, I recall the example of Roger Little—the 92-year-old man from Nebraska who ran a 10 K this past summer. He didn't come in first, but he also didn't come in last, beating out dozens of people nowhere near his age. More impressive still—and it is from this I take my inspiration—he didn't start running until he was 79.
To my way of thinking, this means I've got a good quarter of a century or more to take up new sporting activities. Speed skating might be fun. And the Irish sport of camogie is intriguing. Or I might just work on becoming a mountain unicyclist. My AARP benefits should kick in shortly—do you think I'll be able to find a discount unicycling travel package? One thing's for sure, as long as that wheel of life keeps spinning, I'll figure out a way to ride it!
firstname.lastname@example.org . Check out her new Web site, www.yvonnezipter.com, mid-January.