NYT: What You Learn in Your 40s

If all goes according to plan, I’ll turn 44 soon after this column appears. So far in my adult life, I’ve never managed to grasp a decade’s main point until long after it was over. Read full story here.

8 Responses to NYT: What You Learn in Your 40s

  1. Sal March 1, 2014 at 12:32 pm #

    The NYTimes comments were closed but I just had to write and say – this piece was so freaking good! I agree with you on the decade of the 20’s, and I loved and agreed with so much of what you wrote that I came here to find out if this was a fluke or you really are this good. Turns out it’s the latter. I am with you on parenting too.

    Thanks for all this great writing and insight. From NY – have a great day!

  2. E. Marie Broussard March 1, 2014 at 11:23 pm #

    I agree with Sal, loved the NYTimes piece. It was funny, insightful, gentle and frank. Just great. I’ll turn 43 shortly and I’m trying to not “wake up” to this decade after it’s ended! ( I wrote a piece recently on the same topic: http://www.alchemyriver.com/i-think-i-understand-that-mid-life-crisis-thing-now/)

    Nice work…Pisces rule!

  3. Bina Shah March 2, 2014 at 4:46 pm #

    I really enjoyed this piece. I’m 41, going to turn 42 later this year and things have settled down in my life in a way I couldn’t anticipate when I was younger. If you asked me would I like to go back to being younger, in my 20s or 30s the answer would be HELL NO. And the point that resonated for me most in your column – forgive your exes. I find that happening almost organically because I’m really too bored to go on hating them anymore. Cheers, your Pakistani colleague at the INYT.

  4. Jeff Schult March 6, 2014 at 12:46 am #

    You’re doing really, really well for 44. And I swear I am *not* being condescending — just admiring what I read and simultaneously looking back 13 years to me at your age.

    The most important thing I’d figured out about my 40s, at 44, is that I didn’t need to spend any more time trying to fix or “do over” things I’d screwed up in my 30s. I didn’t even want the things I’d tried and failed to have, in my 30s. Not any more.

    I was lucky. In my 50s, many of my contemporaries seem to be just catching up on the “I don’t actually want anything I used to want and didn’t get” thing.

    • PamelaD October 1, 2014 at 12:27 pm #

      Love this, Jeff. Thank you.

  5. Madame Von Bee March 19, 2014 at 7:52 pm #

    I enjoyed this piece so much that I got the book “French Children Don’t Throw Food” and really enjoyed that too. As an anglophone married to another anglophone living in France for no particular reason with 3 kids, I found you put your finger on so many differences that I was aware of but had never really investigated. I agree very much with the conclusions you reached and admire the level of investigating you must have undertaken to get to the bottom of it all (as far as one can in a structure as complex and unknowable as the French system). My kids are a bit older than yours and I have no doubt that between activities, college and lycée you will find material for more books. I hope you do and I will be looking forward to reading them and wishing they’d come out a few years sooner so I could learn from them myself.

  6. Nicole July 7, 2014 at 10:38 pm #

    I just turned 40 in June, and I just wanted to say “Thank You for sharing these thoughts.” I found my head nodding several times. Maybe 40 won’t be so bad after all.

    And totally jealous that you are living in Paris! That’s one of my biggest dreams. :)

  7. Jean-Marc August 9, 2014 at 6:04 pm #

    Exquisite piece: The comment on the 70 y.o. preview is right out of a Cioran essay.
    ” What I know now, I already knew at 18: 40 years of futile verification work. ” Indeed.

    We must be the same age. But not the same gender, hence my interest in the read.
    The absence of 1980s financial feminism and independence, encouraged me to proceed.
    I was expecting the usual eat pray love I’m a grown woman who went to Tuscany
    and I know about the things of the world now since I’m wise, but it’s much more refreshing.
    Your piece reads like a cool Orangina in the hot French summer of 1976.

    At 46, and a Parisian exile to South Florida, I am having the time of my life. Coming of age.
    And I need neither a yellow Lamborghini, nor an 18 year old Russian blonde, to feel the way I do.
    Peter Frampton solos, a warm August swim off the shores of Ft Lauderdale,
    a humble, good hearted French woman born in 1966, and endless sets of tennis in the twilight
    will suffice. With the new strings on the market and a little cardio, there are magical nights when I can still feel the NCAA mind, body, and soul flying on court. Sure I’ve got the 50+ doubles crowd inviting me for a friendly game, but it’s ok to hold out for now, and crush the ball with Van Halen music, and the fury of middle age athletic desperation.

    How long can we extend the pure joy of living without the assistance of Boca Raton plastic surgeons ? As a romantic French couple in exile, for the both of us, the answer is a resounding ” forever “. Love keeps us young. Along with summer lunches in the French country.

    Love is the solution. Not plastic surgery or Lamborghinis.
    Materialistic error in the American psyche, extreme individualism, or simple naiveté ? Who knows.
    It is, from a French standpoint, quite a simple proposition.
    But the last page of the Great Gatsby enlightened me as to how incredibly tragic it can be in an American context. Looking for it, and that race against time.
    ” Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. ”
    When I graduate. When I get married. When I have children. When I divorce. When I retire.

    The passage of time is not necessarily a diploma of personal emancipation.
    I feel as free in my mind as I did in my teens. And so does Madonna, who’s pushing 56.
    She didn’t have to wait 40 years for that. How many 48 year old divorced women have I met
    who’ve told me: ” It’s my time now. The kids are grown, and I’m finally divorced.”
    So much for the 1972 ” Joy of Sex “. You better catch up on that in a hurry, lady.
    I wasted my entire 30s with those kinds of conversations.
    Then I realized that 40 years of ideological fraud would not stand a chance against
    200,000 years of homo sapiens evolution. Chassez le naturel, il revient au galop.

    You will concur that the return of modern masculinity, whether in U.S. rap videos,
    their sordid French copycats, or reality television, is much more offensive than the kinder
    and gentler world of 70s porn. But this shall pass also, once current youth turns 40 too.
    So, not to worry. Patience is a virtue.

    We may indeed live busy, and for some, lonely lives, but the 40s are a formidable intersection
    of maturity of spirit and physical fitness. Enjoy it while it last. Whether it is a gift from God,
    or the random collision of atoms, immensely depreciated from a theoretical standpoint yet
    illuminating from an empirical one, life now is well worth living.

    My 21 year old son was born in 1993, the year my father passed at the age of 59.
    And since I’m not looking forward to the beep beep of the geriatric intensive care unit circa 2050,
    ” acharnement medical ” I think they call it back home, I’d rather thank you now for a great read.

    It really made my day !

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