Life socks it to you at 42

December 03, 1993|By KEVIN COWHERD

I turned 42 yesterday, an occasion of such importance that my family marked it by presenting me with several pairs of navy blue socks.

Later, as I placed the navy blue socks in the drawer next to the nifty black socks they gave me last year, it occurred to me that 42 is a watershed period in a man's life.

Some men become morose and detached -- after getting socks, who could blame them? Me, I've become strangely energized.

I want to take up yoga and Tai-Chi and synchronized swimming. Maybe bridge, too. Bridge seems like such a neat game. "East plays low, South plays the queen. West wins, but can't afford to lead a trump." What does that mean, exactly?

I want to lose weight. I weigh 187 pounds right now. I'd like to get down to, oh, 114. Just to see what it feels like.

I want to travel, too. New Guinea, the Falkland Islands, Schenectady, N.Y. They say there's a bus station in Schenectady where the streetlights cast what appears to be the image of Jesus' face on a billboard, and where you can still get those little 6-ounce bottles of Coca-Cola.

I'm never going to yell at my kids again. Ever. I mean it. No more freaking out when the 2-year-old picks up the gravy boat at dinner and flings it against the ceiling.

Instead, I'll take a deep breath and say quietly: "Do you think that was the right thing to do?"

If he says no, we'll explore other avenues of expression that he might have considered.

If he says yes, we'll just let the matter drop. He must have had his reasons. I'm 42. Life's too short to worry about huge gobs of congealed animal fat dripping onto the furniture.

There's a bounce in my step that was not there yesterday. Part of that is this morning's prostate exam. But also, at 42, a man undergoes an epiphany of sorts.

He sees the sand slipping a little more quickly through the hourglass. There's an urgency to -- stay with me here -- sample all the richness life has to offer before beginning that long, dark slide into the cold ground.

Some men reach this point and buy candy-apple-red Porsches or take up with women half their age.

L I find myself . . . well I already told you about the socks.

Here's something: I'm thinking of becoming an engineer. Not a person who applies science and mathematics to make structures, machines, products, etc., useful to man -- I mean a train engineer.

You know, with the striped overalls and the hat? Tooting the horn on the 7:15 Amtrak as we hit that upgrade on the Baltimore to Philly run -- man, that would be a rush!

Unless you think that's too silly. If you do, just tell me. I'll listen. When I was 21, I would have punched your lights out, mister. Or bitten your nose clean off your face.

But I can handle criticism now. As long as you acknowledge somewhere in that tired, boring sermon of yours that I'm right.

There's a whole world out there just waiting to be discovered. I'll start by looking into other people's windows after dark. Around 10:30, say. With a pair of high-powered Tasco binoculars. Or creeping up behind their hedges.

Especially if there's nothing on TV.

Family is important at my age. I suppose a man's first instinct upon receiving three pairs of navy blue socks from his wife and kids would be to turn away from them in anger, to isolate himself.

But that's not my style. No. 1, they have keys to the house, so they'll find me anyway. And No. 2, if I come across the receipt, maybe I can return the socks without anyone knowing.

I never took a vitamin in my life until I turned 42. This morning, I swallowed 113 of them. Acetate, beta carotene, vitamins D,E,C, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin -- I gobble them like they're Tic-Tacs.

Do I look pale to you? The woman at the 7-Eleven said I did. "Mind your own business, granny!" I told her.

OK, fine, I was still a little steamed about the socks. But is it me, or are people who work in convenience stores incredibly nosy?

I don't know . . . during the physical this morning my doctor told me to slow down. Take time to smell the roses, he said.

Then I came home and my wife said: "You said you'd move that big pile of cinder blocks so we could put up the bird-feeder."

"It's a little chilly out here," I said. "Maybe I should put on a pair of those snazzy navy blue socks to keep me warm."

Long story short: I moved the cinder blocks -- there were 27 of them -- but only because I wanted to.

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