Goodbye Boy Wonder
I’m at an age now that no matter how successful I become from here on in, I’ll never be called a Boy Wonder! Even if my cumulative youthful accomplishments to date are finally recognized as brilliant by someone other than my reflection, I’ll never, ever be called Boy Wonder! Even that reflection, which, admittedly is prejudiced for me, is not blind. Rather, I am at the age where a colonoscopy is not only medically prudent, but a covered procedure.
And although I conceal my need for reading glasses with progressive lenses, they belie my true age whenever I actually have to see what I am reading, at which point the glasses are perched atop my Rogaine-rejecting pate. Even more ego deflating, I’m not only officially out of the target demographic for MTV, but also VH-1!
How Much Did I Miss It by?
I accept that I’m too old to be a Boy Wonder (aka Whiz Kid or Wunderkind, depending on whether you say “to-MAY-to” or “to-MAH-to”). But what rankles is how much did I miss it by?
For argument’s sake, let’s say that 20, when you are formally out of your teen years, is the ceiling on the Boy Wonder phase. Given that I have already received “The Letter” from AARP, I missed the cut-off by at least 30 years.
Is Genius Still Up For Grabs?
I am disheartened, but not dissuaded. Unless…have I aged out of the Young Genius category, too? When does that window close?
To figure that out, we need to know the phase that comes after Young Genius. Is it plain Genius? Regular Genius? Middle-Aged Genius? Or do you go right from Young Genius to Old Genius? Can you even be an Old Genius? Or, for that matter, can you be a former genius? Which brings up another point: Shouldn’t geniuses have to re-take an IQ test at regular intervals to maintain genius status?
The Years We Don’t Get Back
Here then must lie that long period of a man’s life that some call “The Lost Years” and others call “The Nose to the Grindstone and Hopefully Above Water” phase (Working Stiff for short). These years (decades and scores) are given over to work, family, childcare, pet care, care for the people who care for your children and pets, housework, homework, yard work, mortgage payments, car payments, life insurance payments, contributions to college funds, investments in retirement funds, and if anything is left over, pre-paying for long-term elder care because well, who else will?
Busy Making Other Plans
Upon reflection, I submit that this period in a man’s life be called the “Ha! Who Has Time for Genius?” phase, or as John Lennon (Boy Wonder, Young Genius, and Genius) explained, “Life is what happens to you while you’re making other plans.” This phase naturally, though invidiously, morphs without any tell-tale signs into the Fuddy Duddy phase, which invariably precedes, and has a causal relationship with, the Curmudgeon phase of a man’s life.
What’s vexing about the Curmudgeon phase, seemingly in contrast to the Boy Wonder phase, is deciding how young you can be and still be called, in good conscience, a Curmudgeon. I’m thinking 40 is the right floor to get off. Younger than 40 means you still have a chance, infinitesimal though it may be, of being called up to the Bigs come September. And until that pipe dream is formally dashed, no man with a hope to hang on can call himself Curmudgeon.
However, if you are under 40, I will allow that you can act curmudgeonly, the adverbial form of the word, but not be a curmudgeon as a noun, as a state of being, and certainly not as a proper noun, as a phase of man. Someone under 40 who acts curmudgeonly is better categorized as a Crank, a kind of Curmudgeon-in-Training phase. Of course, not everyone has that proclivity; some working theories link it to the Young Genius window closing.
So, if we agree that 40 is the minimum age for Curmudgeon, what is the maximum age, if, in fact, there is one? Some people argue that Curmudgeons improve with age – hey, Andy Rooney was still at in his 90s – which implies there is no maximum. At some point though, even the most venerated, crusty and ill-tempered Curmudgeon passes into the Crazy Old Coot phase, especially if he hasn’t pre-paid for his own elder care.
What A Geezer
More germane: At what point does a man, should he be so lucky, enter the phase of Codger (aka Geezer, depending on whether you say “po-TAY-to” or “po-TAH-to”)? Can it be as young as 49 ½ and the arrival of the aforementioned AARP “Letter”? Yet, most older-age-related benefits such as 10% off when shopping at major mass merchandisers on Wednesdays don’t kick in until 55.
You can’t withdraw money from a 401K plan without penalty until 59 ½, or quality for Social Security until age 62. Meanwhile, recent studies from the Journal of Gastrogerontology indicate that the biological imperative to dine out on early-bird specials typically doesn’t manifest until age 65. What’s more, if 60 is the new 40, shouldn’t 70 be something other than the new 69?
Grey Ear Hairs And A Golf Handicap
Or, is Codgerdom more of a physical response to aging than the mere accumulation of years (wrinkles, aches, pains, don’t ask)? Can it be earned by simply having a hip replaced? Or is there a quotient arrived at by a mathematical formula, i.e. grey ear hairs multiplied by liver spots divided by varicose veins plus golf handicap? Because it is an uncontested fact that as a man ages, he shrinks incrementally, though only in proportion to how far he has drifted from the zest and arrogance of his youthful ambitions. And yet, he may take some solace in knowing that no matter what phase he may have missed, or how his expectations of glory have diminished, his prostate will enlarge.