I turned forty today. My beard is visibly graying. My next pair of glasses will be bifocals. The top of my head has better use for sunscreen than for a comb. I am officially no longer "young" or "promising" for anything. Any year now, I may have to decide what I want to do when I grow up.
On the other hand, at 40 half my life still lies ahead of me - two-thirds, if you count just your adult life. That's statistically speaking of course; I could live to a hundred, or I could get run over by a bus tomorrow. Thirty, forty years of adulthood is a long time. It takes less than ten years to go from novice to proficient in most fields; in forty years you could have another two full careers.
The 40th birthday seems to create a lot of anxiety in many people; I don't really see why. Much worse, for me, was 25. That's when you're irrevocably an adult with adult responsibilities and expectations piling up. That's when you're expected to "go out in the world", "make your mark", "be all that you can be" and so on. You're supposed to build your career, start a family, become famous, become rich, seize the day...
"Be all that you can be" - well, by 40 you know what "you can be". You know what you'll be able to achieve and what you will not. Nobody expects you to do more than muddle through life, experience piling up and body gently falling apart. Which is great. With the pressure to succeed gone you're free to make you and your family happy instead. Do things because they're interesting, not because they benefit your career or your social status. And if you do decide to embark on something new you can do it quietly, with little fuss, and without expectations weighing you down.
No, 40 is not a problem. If anything this is the best time of my life so far. I have an interesting (if temporary) project to work on, fun hobbies, friends and acquaintances dotted around the world, and I'm happily married to a woman I love to distraction. I may finally be getting the hang of this whole "life" thing. I'll take 40 over 25 anytime.
Anyway, on our birthdays we always treat each other to dinner, preferably somewhere we would not normally go. Somewhere too expensive, too far away or too special for us to go on a normal weekend. On my birthday last year we had Kobe steak, and on Ritsuko's birthday we had traditional French cuisine. This year we ate dinner at "Rote Rose", a German restaurant and wine importer in Kobe.
The menu is very German, of course, with a fairly extensive wine list but only one beer (Löwenbräu). Ritsuko had today's fish and I had eisbein with sauerkraut. It was very good; the meat was savoury and very tender and the fat was not runny or bland. I have to say, though, that I'm no longer used to this kind of food; it was all I could do to finish the plate. Good food overall, if perhaps a bit overpriced. Not a restaurant for a beer lover but if you like German wines this seems a very good place to go.