On being 40(ish): a few more questions for middle-aged Canada

Chatelaine’s survey missed a few questions about life at 40-ish: e.g. Why are you squinting like that?


Our colleagues at Chatelaine recently conducted a survey of Canadian women aged 35 to 45, asking them questions like, “How satisfied are you with your relationship?” and “Do you think you look good naked?” Almost three-quarters of women answered “no” to the nudity question, which is weird because a recent survey of me found that roughly four-quarters of women do in fact look good naked.

The survey results, which informed Chatelaine’s “This is 40(ish)” series, are interesting but incomplete. The magazine neglected to ask several questions that preoccupy both women and men in middle age. Here are five additional queries that help paint a more complete picture of life at 40(ish).

1. Why are you squinting like that?

If you’re a young person looking for a fun night out, I invite you to tag along with me and my friends and watch us try to read stuff. It’s pretty hilarious.

Sure, with a single appointment I could easily address the deterioration of my eyesight. But why go to the hassle and expense of getting new glasses when, in order to peruse the menu, all I need to do is:

1. Tilt back my head;

2. Fully extend my right arm;

3. Use my other arm to point a flashlight;

4. Ask the server if that word says “salsa” or a “salad” when it turns out I’m actually looking at a photo of a hamburger; and

5. Die of starvation.

2. Why are you getting out of bed at 2:40 a.m.?

Need to pee. On the plus side, this affords me the opportunity to grab my phone and read the tweets of insomniacs and Europeans.

3. Which of your skills has improved as you’ve aged?

As I get older, I’ve become really talented at noting things out loud. For instance, there was a lot of fog one morning and so I thought it would be interesting to point out: “There’s a lot of fog this morning.” I am also excellent at forgetting stuff, such as names, meetings and a third thing.

4. What’s your current hobby?

Experts say it’s important to take on new challenges in middle age. And so lately I’ve been challenging myself to find the shortest possible window between waking up and napping. Is two hours too soon to go back to sleep? Recent evidence suggests it’s not.

Don’t get discouraged if you can’t keep up. I’m super advanced at napping because I often work from home, which coincidentally is where I keep my bed. Plus, I’ve put in the training. When I was in the Prime Minister’s Office, I had an office with a couch whose horizontal orientation was a pretty alluring alternative to discharging my duties to taxpayers. I once slept through a meeting that I myself had called. Sorry, Canada.

5. Have you noticed any strange sounds coming out of you?

The other morning, I bent down to pick up the dog’s water bowl, and from my insides and through my mouth there came a noise—an involuntary utterance that suggested exertion. I sometimes find myself making a similar noise when I reach to a high shelf, get up out of bed or climb anywhere between two and five stairs. (After five stairs, I abruptly transition into “sweat wheezing.”)

These noises are the baby talk of old age. Over the next two decades, this array of grunts and moans will expand and coalesce into a vocabulary of Old People Sounds, the primary form of communication among the elderly. Here, as an example, is every conversation ever held by my grandparents:

Grandpa [sitting down in his chair]: Uuurrrrrrhhhhnnn.

Grandma: Is your back hurting again?

Grandpa [waving hand dismissively]: Nuuuhhh.

Grandma [waving hand dismissively]: Hmmppp.

[Seventy-eight minutes of silence.]

Grandpa: Bah.

This touching anecdote also serves to remind those of us in our 40s that we have fewer than 25 years to pick out a chair that will become “our chair.” Today we are relatively young and wild. Over the course of a typical day, we can still sit in as many as five or even six different places, like a bunch of teenagers! But soon enough that number will be reduced to one, and that one chair will be placed three feet away from The Price is Right.

It will take us 12 seconds and four noises to get out of it.

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