April 18, 2005

What's Your Favorite Age?

The hot party game on the Internet this morning is, "List five things that people in your circle of friends or peer group are wild about, but you can’t really understand the fuss over," and I've found interesting answers at Ambivablog and Camassia, but I'm more interested in Sisu's implied question, "What's your ideal age?"

According to USA Today (featuring this Harris poll that's actually a couple of years old), 41 is the ideal age. In addition, each age group has its own favorite. Overall, people in their twenties and early thirties want to be a little older, and people in their late thirties and up want to be a little younger. Yep, that sounds right. The dream age for people in their thirties is 37; for people in their forties, a flat 40; for people in their fifties and early sixties, 44; and for people over 65, the ideal age is 59.

I'm glad to learn that last one, because it means that I still have years to go before I reach the ideal age, according to those who have seen the most of life.

Looking back, what do I think of the listed ideal ages?

37 was excellent for me. I was between marriages -- it was one of the three years of my adult life that I was actually a bachelor, and I was enjoying it immensely. I'd had a very well-received novel published the year before (it's called SAY YOU WANT ME, if you're interested, and you can find it on amazon, still in print, through my search button), and was feeling more optimistic about my careeer as a book writer than the future would turn out to warrant. I was having fun in Madison, WI, and seeing a lot of my boys, the splendid and legendary Agents 81 and 83, who were in elementary school.

40 was a transition I welcomed. I suspected I'd like being in my forties and it turned out to be true. We had a party for my birthday, the only real birthday party I've had as an adult. (That's by choice, by the way.) I was living with my future wife -- who asks to be called Agent 61, on principles established recently in these pages -- in a nice apartment on Lake Monona with our own dock, and lots of nearby friends. That was the year of our car trip across the top of the US and lower Canada to Vancouver Island, camping in the Canadian Rockies and the Cascades, and seeing the Badlands of South Dakota.

41 was even better: the year of my three-week solo to Greece, my spiritual homeland. I took ferries from island to island -- drove a rented car around Crete for a week, picking up hitchers from all over the world -- saw Knossos and Delphi -- ate taverna food and drank Greek coffee and ouzo -- and was so intoxicated by the beauty of the land, sea, and sky that I could drink a carafe of wine with dinner and not even feel it. I've wanted to go back ever since, next time with Agent 61, who so generously and sanely let me go by myself the first time.

(I'll just briefly mention that 42 was great too -- the year of my marriage, and a month-long honeymoon in Morocco, Agent 61's second home -- though it's not on the Harris list.)

44 Was a notable and progressive year, the year we moved to Austin, but transitions like that have never been my strong point and we had more arguments than we should have -- more than we've had since, I'm glad to say. We loved Austin from the start but didn't make many friends the first year: felt a little isolated. But Agent 95 was the handsomest, most exuberant, life-loving toddler on earth, and the widely adored Agent 97 was on his way.

Still and all, I like my present age best: recently turned 53. I'm liking my life and myself and the people around me more than I ever have. I think it's partly simple maturation. Also because a long span of self-help work -- thinking, reading, exercise, nutrition, tai chi, meditation -- has gradually borne fruit. But also, 52 was a crisis year for me, a year of major literary disappointment and of finally putting aside a lifelong ambition, and I got over it so well that I feel renewed in all aspects of life. Blogging has had much to do with that. Another important factor: I got successfully treated for a sleep disorder that had been dragging me down psychologically for many years.

This is my favorite age so far, and I hope my favorite age will always be whatever age I am.