Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Martin Amis on aging: "It all works out"

T.S. Eliot may have called April the cruelest month, but those whose luck it is to celebrate a January birthday may sometimes consider this accident of birth just as cruel a fate. Cold winds blow, ice forms, and springtime zephyrs seem more distant in January than in hearth-and-warmhearted December, when civilization at least has the hope inherent in a holiday season.

Many of my friends have birthdays this month, and to them I offer the solace of the following observation by Martin Amis. His words have the bite of rye whiskey on a wind-swept evening, and I hope all my friends are able to find some reason to believe that all things, even January birthdays, do work out in the end. I raise my glass with the hope that you all find a personally warm and happy reason to celebrate another year.

As the fiftieth birthday approaches, you get the sense that your life is thinning out, and will continue to thin out, until it thins out into nothing. And you sometimes say to yourself: That went a bit quick. That went a bit quick. In certain moods, you may want to put it rather more forcefully. As in: OY!! THAT went a BIT FUCKING QUICK!!!...

Then fifty comes and goes, and fifty-one, and fifty-two. And life thickens out again. Because there is now an enormous and unsuspected presence within your being, like an undiscovered continent. This is the past.

And it all works out. Your hams get skinnier--but that's all right, because your gut gets fatter. Your eyes get hotter--but that's all right, because your hands get colder (and you can soothe them with your frozen fingertips). Shrill or sudden noises are getting painfully sharper--but that's all right, because you're getting deafer. The hair on your head gets thinner--but that's all right, because the hair in your nose and in your ears gets thicker. It all works out in the end.

To all of my friends born in cold January, a warm and happy birthday!

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