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Edsel Ford died on May 26, 1943, at the age of 49.
This week, my wife turned a birthday that is round and was the subject of a mostly middling Judd Apatow movie a few years back. We’re having a whole big party for her this weekend, tonight, in fact, with friends coming in from all over the country. It’ll be a whole production. She threw me a 40th birthday party a non-specific number of years ago, and it was a definitive life highlight: She is excellent at throwing parties.
As mentioned a couple of newsletters ago, at my party, she had everyone read lines from the old “Life As A Loser” series, all of which sounded borderline insane when read more than 15 years after they were written. It was a fantastic gag, and I’m in the process of nailing down something similar for her. There is something about this particular birthday that brings out the desire to chronicle how silly you were when you were younger.
I don’t remember that at my 30th birthday party, or really any other one. I turned 30 about a month after Deadspin launched, so to be honest, I was mostly tapping my foot for that party to get over so I could get back to work. My 21st birthday — the same day as 1996 NLCS Game Two, when Gary Gaetti hit a grand slam off Greg Maddux — ended with 21 shots in about 90 minutes; I think I took the last two while lying on the floor. I had other birthday parties, but those are the only two I remember, and both of those are plenty hazy.
The 40th birthday party, though, felt definitely like the end of something. But in a good way. I don’t really think I’ll be having any big birthday parties anymore. Not because that party was bad, quite the opposite, in fact; it’s just that after 40 birthday parties begin to feel less like a celebration and more like a weary obligation for everyone involved, including (perhaps especially) the person whose birthday it is. For the last two birthdays since my 40th, Alexa and the boys have gotten me a card, Alexa and I have gone out to dinner, I’ve spend most of the day hiding from Facebook and the next day we’ve all gone on our with our lives like normal. This is all I want from my birthdays in the future. I think I’m done with them. Let birthdays be mere acknowledgements that I am, in fact, still here.
But a 40th birthday ... a 40th birthday is special. It’s a legitimate signpost. After 40, you can’t pretend you’re young, or vibrant, or even all that particularly emergent anymore. It doesn’t mean you can’t do great things, or be a wonderful person, or make a difference on the planet. It’s just that you’re officially doing them as a regular old adult now. You’re not old. But you are definitively not young. (My wife, obviously, is the exception to this.) This is probably why I enjoyed my 40th birthday so much. I always felt pressure being young, like I had to be a wunderkind, that I was in constant competition with other people my age to reach certain level achievement or I would fall behind. It was stressful and oppressive and ultimately pointless, something I realized when I turned 40.
Once I turned 40, I could just be a regular person, with a job and a spouse and a family and a house and friends, and it was totally fine and normal and not a big deal. I just get up, I work, I spend time with the wonderful people who live in my house, I watch some sports, I go to the movies, I have a drink now and then, I work some more, I pay some bills, I go to bed. That’s all I have to do. I don’t have to constantly try to prove myself. I’m 42 years old: We all try to evolve and be open to the universe and capable of change and insight, but let’s not kid ourselves, at 42 you’re pretty much the person you are. I just get to be that person now. This, perhaps inevitably, has freed me up to do some of my best work, and definitely my most confident work. It is much easier to be assured when you no longer feel obliged to try to impress everybody all the time. I enjoy being in my 40s. It’s my favorite decade so far.
I understand that birthdays, and aging in general, are different for women, particularly around this specific age, than they are for men, so I’ll claim no unique wisdom over, or for, my wife tonight. She has always been more assured and more confident than I am, more aware of who she is and secure in herself than I ever have been. She is better than me in just about every way. She is a whole other human being with her own feelings about birthdays and lives and work and family that are hers and hers alone; I’m just honored and lucky she gets to share all of them with me. (It is also worth noting that she has roughly five times as many people coming in for her birthday party than I did for mine.) My job is just to make sure she has the time of her life this weekend, just like she did for me almost three years ago. And to make sure that she looks fantastic in every photo I put up of her. That’s a pretty easy job.
Here is a numerical breakdown of all the things I wrote this week, in order of what I believe to be their quality. (This is an attempt to have an objective look at the value of my work in a way that I suspect will be difficult to sustain.)
1. LeBron James and the Fallacy of the Superstar, The New York Times. I’m on a pretty regular NYT-piece-every-three-months-on-the-dot plan, and I am very comfortable with that. It still blows me away every time I’m in there, to be honest. I know I should play it cooler than that, but I’m not going to.
2. The Brewers Are Finally the Team Their Fans Deserve, MLB.com. I’ll confess I do hope I jinxed them.
3. Ron Howard Movies, Ranked, Vulture. A solid filmography, but the highs are ... not so high.
4. If the Angels Are So Fun, Why Aren’t They Better? MLB.com. Here is your reminder that Mike Trout has still never won a playoff game.
5. The Thirty: The Fastest Player on Every MLB Team, MLB.com. The answer is not Yadier Molina, even before the injury.
6. Debate Club: Best Re-Creations of Iconic Characters, SYFY Wire. Alden Ehrenreich is fine! He’s fine!
THE WILL LEITCH SHOW
It’s Keith Hernandez! I was most pleasantly surprised how much fun Keith Hernandez was. You can watch the show on Amazon or on SI TV.
Grierson & Leitch, two shows this week, only because I put up the “Solo: A Star Wars Story” show early. So the movies we’re discussing in these two shows: “Deadpool 2,” “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” “Amadeus” and “The Prestige.”
Seeing Red, Bernie Miklasz and I throw up our hands at this point.
Waitin’ Since Last Saturday, no show this week, taping next week.
If you have an Amazon Alexa — and my family doesn’t, for obvious reasons — you can hear a special show Grierson and I are doing weekly solely for the Amazon Alexa. Read about it here. If you have one, will you try it out and see if it works? I have no idea how to work that weird device.
I’m off to the party. It’s sort of weird going to a party in to honor someone whom you brush your teeth next to. I feel like every conversation I get with her tonight is like a rare exclusive interview with a celebrity. I kind of like it.
Have a great weekend, everyone. Be safe out there.