I was out with a group of married couples recently, old friends, all of us of the same vintage i.e. 40-something - I have long since swallowed the pill and own no qualms about admitting where I am in life when it comes to years.
Anyway, the topic came up on what decade of life was viewed as the best (and though no one said it, I silently added the adage of "so far" because I am just a born optimist).
The men in our company did not hesitate – the twenties they said and I could see immediately from their faces that they were already back there. However, there was one lone soldier who highlighted 19 as his particular year although he stopped short of elaborating further. Nonetheless, in general, it was the twenties for the guys. But they went further. They admitted to wishing they had done things differently. The assortment of reactionary expressions that crossed the faces of the female company at this point could fill an album two inches thick. To explain themselves, they alluded to wishing that they had lived more freely, they said they were regretful of the seriousness with which they had taken life back then and, most dangerously, they professed to lamenting their haste in committing to mortgages and "the like". The "like" in the group were shifting visibly now and the temperature of the evening's mood dropped as low as our current May values.
But then they redeemed themselves. And what they said married with something I recently read in respect of women over forty. They insisted that they prized women over forty above women from any other decade because for one thing, the quintessentially female question of "what are you thinking?" no longer crops up. Of course, from the look of same said female company, it was silently clear that they have long since given up caring what they think. One earnest fellow maintained that women in their forties were more generous in their praise, but in truth this might be a virtue born more from the fact that women over 40 know more than anyone else what it's like to be under-appreciated. The accompanying guilt to this misplaced tribute prompted another bout of shifting amongst the ladies.
Then the men turned the tables on us and asked us to do the same - name the best decade. The general consensus amongst the womenfolk was that the 40s were it and that in fact the annoying age-old maxim of "Life beginning at 40" really did own more than a grain of truth. We no longer sweated the small stuff, we told them. We no longer suffered fools, we told them. And we knew who our friends were, we told each other. However, there was one exception that deviated from the female accord. Curiously she highlighted 19 as being her particular moment in time. Funny that. We said no more. But everyone was shifting uncomfortably by now.