Some say when your number's up your number's up. But what if when your number comes up it's downhill? Louie C.K., the star of my new favourite program, is 42 and, he says, ''really on the decline''. ''There's never going to be a year of my life that was better than the year before,'' he says in his stand-up show on his TV show. ''That's never going to happen again. I've seen my best years. The loss of ability, of agility and breath... Last year I lost 90 per cent of my health and wellbeing...'' Forty-two is Louie's number. What's yours?
Louie had reason to feel his age in this episode - in fact he felt it so hard he was compelled to examine his 42-year-old paunch, his face, his buttocks, in the bathroom mirror (his verdict: unimpressed and depressed). After leaving his divorce attorney's office he had met his brother at the deli. Bro was upset about the break-up. ''You know what's really sad?'' he said to Louie. ''You're too old to get anybody else. You signed a paper that guarantees you're going to die alone in a room with a thin blanket over you and the nurse comes in and just shuts the machine off.''
I laughed like a drain (I love that phrase and I love doing it). You had to be there. But Louie wasn't fighting his age. He was just feeling it.
Often a middle-age crisis - or an any-age crisis for that matter - is precipitated by a trauma. A wake-up call such as a death or an illness or an accident brings mortality into sharp focus. It can also be from a positive - a birth; acknowledging and appreciating younger generations as part of the cycle of life. On his 24th birthday Karl Lagerfeld was told by his mother that from that age onwards it was ''downhill all the way. So you would do well to start taking precautions now. You can say goodbye to your youth.'' Says Lagerfeld in his book The Karl Lagerfeld Diet: ''I don't know why she had chosen 24 but I have remembered it all my life. I remember exactly the room I was in when she called me.'' Twenty-four was her number.
Many people skate along for years looking and feeling younger than their chronological age. Then one day that's over. Suddenly they are their true age and oh how they realise it. It happens. I don't think there is anything that bad about this. Own your age. There's a reason old people boast about how old they are to anyone who'll listen.
But when you start to feel your age - or start to just feel old - it can be pretty awful to deal with. Has it happened to you? When - what was your number? Why - what happened; what were the symptoms? Was it indeed all downhill from there, as Louie suspects, or did it peak again?
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