I’ve had a full year of my forties now, and I have to say: so far, so good. Professionally it was excellent and personally it was the same as usual, which in my particular case is pretty damn good. I kept busy, I was happy, and I was not attacked by bees, either individually or severally. The one downside to it all was that I’m roughly 20 pounds heavier than I would like to be. Perhaps I would have been trimmer in the last year if I spent more of my time running from bees. We will never know. I am now going to stop talking about bees.

I don’t spend a great deal of time thinking about my age, because being in one’s 40s is generally no more remarkable than being in any other decade of one’s life — it has its ups and downs and if you approach it optimistically and have some luck, you’ll find that your day-to-day experience of living is congenial. That said, there are some reminders that I’ve reached a certain age. For example, I find myself peering over the top of my glasses LIKE AN OLD MAN to read things close up because my traitorous corneas have decided to stiffen up; there’s very little doubt that the next pair of glasses I get will be bifocals. Dear corneas: Screw you. Go, like, soak in some lanolin or something.

As another example, however, I have a very strong suspicion that I’m much more tolerable to be around as a human being than I was in my twenties or even some part of my thirties, simply because I’ve been around long enough to settle some significant battles with my ego and just be more comfortable with myself and others. And to be blunt about if I had to choose between being comfortable with myself and having supple, near-focusing corneas, I’ll wear the bifocals. Of course, it’s not as if I have a choice, so I would say that, wouldn’t I, me and my arthritic eyeballs.

Anyway. My plan for the next year: Do some more writing, spend time with my family, continue my neverending quest for better time management (which become more and more critical the closer you are to death) and overall make sure I enjoy my life, because it is actually enjoyable, and I should really try to remember that. Beyond that, I’ll make it up as I go along. Because that’s fun too.

90 Comments on “41”

  1. Happy Birthday!

    My corneas stayed soft and supple about a year longer than yours. Just in the last year have I started to lift the glasses up to read small stuff, and I’ll be 43 in September. So, I feel your pain. Or your annoyance. Or something.

  2. Hope you enjoyed your birthday. Personally I’m getting to the point where counting down would be preferable but I’m still enjoying life so that’s all right too.

  3. Being in your 40s seriously rocks. I couldn’t believe how much better the 40s were compared to the 20s and 30s. Now that I’m 50, I’m determined that the 50s will be even better than the 40s, so there’s that to look forward to.

  4. “Bees have too much freedom. I wanna keep them…My father was a beekeeper before me, his father was a beekeeper before him; I wanna walk in their footsteps.” And their footsteps were like this: “I’m covered in bees!”

  5. Kid.

    I remember when I told my general physician at my annual physical that I’d gotten bifocals, he glanced at my chart and my then 42 years and said, “Right on schedule.”

    For me, I find the continuous variable lenses good for normal tasks, such as driving and glancing at the speedometer with a flick of the eyes, but I insist on rectilinear and properly proportioned computer screens, so my Office Glasses are computer/reading bifocals. Yeah, they’re useless at distances past 6-7 feet, but you’ll thank me later.

    Dr. Phil

  6. As someone that made 29, 2 days ago, therefore being a dozen years younger than you, I have to say that I, for one, will live until I have another age starting with a number 2. Someday. In 171 years.
    Just wait and you will see it.

  7. One of the few advantages of being profoundly nearsighted: At 42 my eyes are actually starting to get *better* every year. The doc says I may actually catch up to a natural 20/20 before I kick it.

    Oh, and happy birthday!

  8. Happy birthday!
    I wish you a fantastic day and a delicious and moist birthday cake. :>

  9. Many happy returns! Remember that 41 is prime, and so are you.
    May you live as long as you love, and love as long as you live.

    (But avoid the weather balloons, m’kay?)

    – Chris

  10. Happy birthday, John. Best wishes for the coming year and may you be happily productive and provide your slavering hordes with many literary treats. Now get back to work!

  11. Happy Birthday!

    You could cheat the aging eyeballs by getting varifocals instead of bifoacls. That’d teach them.

    Also, just so you know, I heard Neil Gaiman has just aquired 4 new hives of bees and is training them in Scalzi-recognition techniques, so the getting chased by bees thing may yet happen before you leave your forties.

  12. Happy birthday John. The difference in the photos of the last day of 40 and the first day of 41 are staggering. :) Have a fun birthday.

  13. Happy Birthday John.

    I have made the adjustment to bifocals; I resisted as long as I could. They are a marker of middle age (that only I can see.) I can know read stuff at work without sticking the files near my nose; I look more distinguished that way.

    Wait til you start the random backache. I get them now and again, and being five years older than you, I expect you will start getting them now and again in due course.


  14. Happy birthday from another old man with traitorous corneas, and a lower back that loves to shoot me some pain every once and a while, just to say “hi”. But yeah, I suppose these are small things to trade for being a little more sane. At least I hope they are.

  15. Happy Birthday.

    If I’m not mistaken, it is during your 40’s that your daughter will become a teenager.

    I’d say you should spend your time preparing for that, but in my experience, there is nothing you can do to prepare for that.

    Except perhaps, stay loose, stay cool, and enjoy yourself and her until it happens.

  16. I think it is like major anniversaries…the universe gives you special gifts every 5 years.

    40 is bifocals
    45 is more salt than pepper in your hair
    50 is declining memory
    55 multiple midnight trips to the bathroom
    60 is Viagra™

  17. Speaking as a 53-year old: You may well find that your patience for time-sucking nonsense (particularly other people wasting your time because they’re in no hurry may become rather thin.

    You have my permission to smack them.

    Normally this permission is not conveyed by the Dark Brotherhood until one’s 50th birthday, but your writing pleases the Brethren.

    Enjoy. Happy Birthday.

  18. I turn 36 in a couple of months. I have noticed several break points on age. When you hit 25 you are no longer a kid and people expect you to be grown up. When you get passed 34, the hot girls in their early 20s won’t date you unless you are rich.

    I like your blog post. Getting older does suck. It takes longer to get into shape and you have more physical issues. I was reading that it is not as much that your metabolism slows down, but people are less active as they get older. Which is one of the reasons people put on weight as they get older.

  19. Bifocals aren’t that bad (for me anyway). They’re far better than the oldie stare over the top for reading.

    Still have to pull out the magnifiers – over the bifocals – for the chainmaille work, though.

    Oh, and Hippo Birday to you.

  20. Yes, happy birthday. And yeah, I actually keep a magnifying glass on my desk. It was not intentional, I inherited it from my father and he used it for peering at photo negatives (remember those things?) But I do occasionally find it useful, for instance, reading the authorization codes on software packages. I mean, REALLY, if you never thought the computer industry was geared for youngsters, think about the font size of the gazillion-digit authorization code on a package of software.

  21. As I’m turning 30 in three days, I’ve come to terms with that whole milestone of aging. Seems to me that your philosophy of ‘chin up, good thoughts, good luck’ is spot on.

    Happy Birthday, Mr. Scalzi. May you have many, many more years of spiteful corneas.

  22. Happy birthday from one May kid to another. (Staring at Five-Oh in a couple of weeks.) I’ll echo the suggestions for progressive lenses for general wear, but for my daily computer work I have a pair of over-the-counter reading glasses. I’ve read articles that claim you can ask for “computer glasses” from your optometrist and they’ll make the middle zone larger, but when I tried my optometrist locked up for a minute, then wrote me a scrip for standard lenses. YMMV.

    If you go for reading glasses, test them by reading something at monitor distance. If you follow the instructions in the store you’ll get glasses fit for reading all those ARCs that infest your mailbox like bees.

  23. Happy Birthday!

    I’m eagerly awaiting next year’s picture, to see how you’ll top these ones. Not that they need topping, really. Except perhaps with bacon?

  24. Happy Birthday to you!

    May the road rise up to greet you, and the bees stay always to the back.

  25. I hope you had a great birthday. My 40’s were great and so far my 50’s are pretty good to.
    I finished reading “The God Engiens” last night and thought is was wounderful! You are making it hard to decide on who to vote for this year for best novella! I hope you turn “The God Engiens” into a full novel.

  26. Felicitations of the day, Mr. Scalzi!

    I crossed the bifocal divide at 44. While there was little adjustment for me as far as the progressive correction went, the thing that makes me nuts is that you lose much of the sharpness on anything that’s not directly in front of you.

    The doc will say “you’ll need to look directly at things for them to be clear”. What he won’t say is that “directly at things” means anything more than a few degrees off center will require you to turn your head.

    Make it much harder to surreptitiously check out passers-by without looking like a dirty old man, er, rubbernecking gawker.

    Other than that, the 40’s rock! You’re generally past all the drama and work of getting your life/family/career started, but still young enough to enjoy the fruits of those labors. Based on what I’ve gleaned of your personality and outlook on life from your writings, I don’t think that will be a problem for you. Enjoy!

  27. Happy birthday, and may your body largely not remind you about your too-rapidly approaching senescence.

  28. Happy Bidet, John!

    Guess @ 29:

    I turn 36 in a couple of months. I have noticed several break points on age. When you hit 25 you are no longer a kid and people expect you to be grown up. When you get passed 34, the hot girls in their early 20s won’t date you unless you are rich.

    Which, speaking as a 48-year-old, doesn’t seem to be a loss. I mean, I know very well that people in their 20’s can be and often are very interesting human beings. But in terms of potential relationships — or even in terms of FWBs — they need at least a decade or two more of seasoning to be to my taste.

    Y’all go ahead and chalk this up to sour grapes if you like. Plus, it’s mostly academic at the moment, truth be known. But I know what I like.

  29. My forty-four year-old self laughs at the folly of your forty-one year-old youth.

    Why, when I was your age, corneas were stiffer. We had to squint. None of this modern, new-fangled “peering.”

    Kids these days…
    (And while I’m at it, stay off my lawn. I know you were thinking about it.)

  30. Hmmm….

    Post published at 12:00 am means that either you are awfully quick with your photoshoppery skills, or that the pictures accompanying this post show you as a 40 year old.

    Which is it, birthday boy?

    Have a great birthday!

  31. Four out of 6 of my siblings are 50+ and our average age (after all our birthdays this year) is 42, so really you’re a young thing compared to us in aggregate, but the almost 12 yr old thinks you’re OLD. When my older sister turned 40 she said it felt an awful lot like 25, I hope you continue to not think much about your age.

    Happy Birthday.

  32. Since we have such an educated set of readers on this web site, would one of you please invent some good replacement corneas for us old men? We all promise to buy them!

  33. Happy birthday! Care to share any wisdom on anything you wish you had done differently in your 30s? I find it easy to look back on things I wish I had done better in my 20s and my teens. Always curious about what mistakes I may be making at this age.

    Also can I just highly recommend putting aside some time for the gym especially if you’re unhappy with the extra 20 pounds. There are some good books with programs specifically for guys your age available. Really helpful stuff to make sure you don’t waste time.

  34. Happy Birthday to you ! Since we share a birthday, would it be an appropriate gift for both of us if I went out and re-purchased the OMW series?
    Sure it would. You can never have too much OMW.

  35. Happy Birthday!! Please spend it doing whatever you like to do!! No working, unless that is what you want to do, in which case please write faster. 40’s aren’t so bad. Life is what you make it. Here’s hoping your next 40 will be as good as the last.

  36. Happy Birthday! You like like you could still star equally well in a U2 or Queensryche video.

  37. Happy birthday! You are exactly 10 years and one day older than my older brother, which reminds me that I should maybe buy him something for his birthday tomorrow. So, your birthday has done me a favor today. Thank you indeed for being born.

  38. At 44, I still don’t need reading glasses…I got my nearsightedness lasered away and so am enjoying a few years of perfect vision. But I can tell I am a few inches away from reading glasses. Oh well…I don’t really mind. I did Lasik more for the desire not to be attached to glasses for everything. Needing them for reading is no big deal.

    More annoying is the way the damn lenses refuse to refocus in a timely fashion. Too long reading and the far away world goes blurring.

    The more annoying thing to me about age is all the little medical crap that starts happening this year. So far I’ve had two “oh crap, I need to get this checked out” moments…fortunately both ended up being nothing, but the days of seeing a doctor only once a year appear to be gone.

    One of the welcome parts about aging is that as I get older, the concern about appearance, etc. goes down. Maybe it’s age, and maybe it’s just being married, but it’s nice to mostly not have to give a crap about impressing the opposite sex.

  39. I love my no line bifocals. No one knows they’re bifocals and I like it that way.

  40. From 45, looking back, I think everything you said rings true, especially the part about corneas versus ego.

    Wisdom and perspective are great things to gain. Egocentricity is helpful to lose.

    I truly wish you continued balance and perspective in the new year. Happy birthday!


  41. Happy Birthday!

    I’ve been 41 since January, and so far it’s been a lot like 40. Of course, it’s better than the alternative!

  42. Happy birthday!

    If you haven’t noticed, the average youth has gotten some extra isolation material as well, so when it comes to that, the gap is closing.

    And losing 20 pounds isn’t that much. When you reach 42, you should be able to be at your desired weight.

    People have put in some inshightful stuff. I’m 20 years your junior, and need some seasoning, as one user put it. I don’t really have anything else to add other than that I like your posts and that bad vision can come in handy in the ignorance is bliss department.

  43. Happy Birthday, John! Hope this year is even better than the one just past!

  44. Happy birthday, Scalzi! Next is 42, the magical number.

    Bifocals. Finally got them at 58. Progressive polycarbonate lenses (Nikon, supposedly designed for optimal acuity in the center and distortions on the edges, rather than diffused distortions over the entire lens.) I’ve worn glasses for distance most of my life and had very few adaptation problems (mostly with backing the car down the hill that’s our driveway, a few missteps on stairs.) What I really miss is the ability to read two point agate type without a magnifier, but that happened a decade before the bifocals.

    Twenty pounds. Catch them now, throw them away! It’s much, much easier to lose 20 than 40. Nordic walking is good for weight loss, and walking of any sort is easy on the knees. Tai Chi Chuan is good for extending flexibility and keeping your balance. This is the decade where you have your last shot at putting on muscle fairly easily.

    Have a happy day. Celebrate. You’re finally a grown-up! (But you still feel like a teen-ager.)

  45. Happy birthday, and I think you look darned charming in those photos!

  46. 41? Whippersnapper. Get off my lawn. I’ll sic the bees on you. Go ahead and have a happy birthday…just not on my lawn.

  47. Meh. On the matter of bifocals, YMMV. I tried the progressives on the insistence of my optometrist. Several months into use (after I had given myself plenty of time to get used to them), I mislaid them for a couple of days and had to use my previous pair. I actually found myself liking the way the single-vision lenses worked better, and returned to them for my most recent glasses. If I end up needing 2 pairs, one for reading and one for distance/night work, so be it.

  48. Maybe this will cheer you up, it did me.

    I’m about 4 months behind you. I was complaining to these two octogenarians that I know about turning 40. They exchanged a knowing look, then one of them replied,

    “Ahh, the Forties! Good decade. I enjoyed my forties more than any other years: Your kids are old enough to take care of themselves, you have some money, you’re still in good enough shape to do stuff, and you can still have sex!”

    So, we’ve got that. Happy birthday!

  49. John, “41 is the new 37” is a bit silly. Everyone knows 41 is the new 28…

  50. John H @67: Agreed. 53 is the new 37, not 41. 41, as you say, is the new 28.

    Gee, guess how old I am? ;-)

  51. An auspicious day. My younger set of twins have their birthday today as well. They are now 20.

    @hugh57 68: So I’m not the new 37 yet. Just 7 months away from there now. :(

  52. 41 and the peering over the glasses thing is definitely not funny :(

    A few years ago I had an eye test where the optician used a contraption with a reading card attached and a scale of ages on the side. He told me that I should be pleased to know the age related degregation of my sight was almost text book.

    I could have cheerfully hit him with the thing.

  53. Get the computer glasses and enjoy it: you’re a couple years older than I, so you’ve been a good sport about the whole thing for longer than I managed.

    When I got mine a few weeks ago the doc said that people generally don’t like either bifocals or varifocals, so tend to take them off rather than use them. He said just to get the computer glasses and carry them around, and I’d get used to it. It’s true, I’m still not thoroughly into it (as I sit here leaning away from my computer monitor so I can see), but it really does help for extended periods of time on the computer and reading.

  54. Young whippersnapper. GET OFF MY LAWN!

    (Seriously, Happy Birthday! And echo the above about enjoying parenthood before teenagerdom hits. No that that’s necessarily bad, but it sure gets different…but you seem adapable.)

  55. Well, I’m 23 and I’ve had bifocals since I was 15, but then I can’t see clearly more than three inches in front of my face without them. So be glad you’ve had decent vision up until this point.

    And happy birthday!

  56. john, as yogi berra once said, “when you come to a fork in the road,take it”

  57. Happy birthday John! The God Engines was a truly great piece of work. You rock man.

  58. While I’ve noticed a certain amount of age related annoyances, progressive bifocals being one of them, I do find myself more focused and conversely more relaxed about it than I was.

    Also, to all of you that have pointed out that getting older sucks, I would like to remind you that it beats the alternative. I’m not planning on seeing a spectral dude on a pale horse anytime soon, thank you very much.

    John, happy birthday and remember that if you decide that you are now middle aged that means you’ll run till 82. I’ll be 52 soon and consider myself middle aged, so I’m planning on 104.

    Or: 75 if I get to join the army…

  59. Ahhh… the bifocular diagnosis. I received it at 39, which my optometrist said at the beginning of my visit (bless him) “was way too young.” Now that I’m 40 I think I’m actually going to have to get the dang lenses, if only to prevent the wrinkle on my nose caused by squinting over my glasses.

    Many happy returns of the day to you John, and thanks to all of the commenters for the good hints about which lenses to purchase. I had been thinking of a set of stacking lenses, á la “National Treasure.”

  60. 40s were my best decade. 50s sucked. 60s much better. Things should really pick up by the time I turn 100.

    Best comment I heard about aging: At a 95th birthday party, an ignorant 20-something commented, “Man, I don’t know if I’d want to live to be 95.” Said the celebrator, “You will when you’re 94.”

  61. Your hairline almost looks normal, Friar Tuck. They should have cast you in the new Robin Hood movie. You’re an anachronism, which is why I like you, sort of; but mainly on Wedesdays and Friday afternoons, odd Sundays as well. Live long and prosper . . .

  62. “41 IS THE NEW 37”

    More generally, “Y is the new X” :: New:x -> f(x) is loosely defined as Rewrite_In_Base_9(x). Q.E.D.

    Hope you enjoyed a most spectastic birthday!

  63. Your birthday happens to be on the same day as my oldest son’s. Or vice versa I guess since he’s only ten today, whilst you are now very old.

    We went out together and celebrated your birthday mightily. Oh, we celebrated his birthday too.

  64. Re: bifocals. At 68 (well, 69 in a week) I’ve worn monocular bifocals for about 20 years. My left eye is focused at screen distance (I work on a computer for hours a day), my right eye at infinity. It took me about 15 minutes to adapt to them, though I’m told many people don’t ever do so.

    Oh, and to read the fine print I slide them up on top of my head.