This week I turned 45 — on Monday, January 20th, to be exact. I’ve known for a long time that I share the birthday with George Burns and Federico Fellini, which is an interesting combination. It’s also nice that over the course of my life, I have often been able to share the date with Martin Luther King Day (benefitting from the Uniform Monday Holiday Act in this regard since MLK was actually born on January 15th) and Inauguration Day (often a dubious honor, starting with the actual day of my birth in 1969, the day on which we inaugurated Richard Nixon).
This year, perhaps because it ends in a “five” and because I am writing this blog, I’ve been thinking about what it means to turn this particular birthday. Luckily, we have the Internet.
The first thing I found was that, according to distinguished sources like Wikipedia and famousbirthdays.com, there are other notable figures with whom I share the birthdate of January 20th, just not many that most people would care much about. Some of the names on the list that you might recognize are Lead Belly (1888), Eva Jessye (1895), DeForest Kelley aka Star Trek’s Bones McCoy (1920), Slim Whitman (1923), Patricia Neal (1926), Arte Johnson (1929), Buzz Aldrin (1930), David Lynch (1946), Paul Stanley of KISS (1952), Bill Maher (1956), Lorenzo Lamas (1958), Rainn Wilson (1966), and Melissa Rivers (1968). Other than them, it seems to have been a good day for not particularly exciting royals (including Roman Emperor Gordian III [b. 225], Elisabeth I of Bohemia , Eleanor of Aragon , Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa , King Sebastian of Portugal , King Carlos/Charles III of Naples/Spain , Johan BJFS, Archduke of Austria , Elizabeth Diana Percy, Duchess of Northumberland , and Queen Mathilde of Belgium ), obscure hyphenated-name composers (Joseph-Hector Fiocco , Jerome-Joseph de Momigny , Amedee-Ernest Chausson ) and writers I’ve also never heard of (Susanna van Baerle , Giovanni Vincenzo Gravina , Jean-Jacques Barthélemy , Eugène Sue  and Abraham P. Merritt , a sci-fi author whose works include Creep, Shadow!, which is at least a cool name for a book that is fun to say out loud), and a lot of professional sports figures who I won’t go into because I don’t really care.
It’s also a popular death day for those same groups of people, probably because there are so many of each that any day in history is somehow attached to at least one or two or five. Among the semi-celebrities who died on this day are Pope Fabian (250), Johnny Weissmuller aka Tarzan (1984), Barbara Stanwyck (1990), Audrey Hepburn (1993), Al Hirschfeld (2003) and Etta James (2102).
Then we find that January 20th is also Armed Forced Day in Mali; Martyr’s Day in Azerbaijan, commemorating the day in 1990 when Soviet troops entered the city of Baku and killed more than 130 civilians; and “National Good Day Day,” for the day in 1992 about which Ice Cube wrote the song “It Was a Good Day” (ranked as the 81st greatest rap song by About.com). It’s also Christian Feast Day for all of the saints lucky enough to be martyred on that day — otherwise known as the day they were “born into heaven,” haha — and this list includes Abadios, Euthymius the Great, Sebastian, Manchan of Lemanghan, and, as previously mentioned, Fabian (the Pope, not the singer, who has not achieved sainthood as far as I know). Other things that happened include the founding of the Mexican city of Leon in 1576; the signing of the treaty between Great Britain, France and Spain that ended the American Revolutionary War in 1783; the ceding of Hong Kong to Great Britain in 1841; the founding of the ACLU in 1920; the launch of Pakistan’s nuclear program in 1972; Iran’s release of the American hostages after 444 days in 1981 (coinciding, infamously, with the inauguration of President Reagan); and, oh yeah, according to the New York Times, the arrival at the “final solution” by the Nazis during a conference at Lake Wannsee in Berlin in 1942. WTF?? They actually pinpointed a day when that happened — and it’s my birthday? Great.
Moving on, quickly, I decided to look up “45.” The very first thing I found was an article about how a major study in Britain has shown that our brains start deteriorating not at 60, as previously thought, but at age 45. That’s apparently when we start to lose sharpness of memory and powers of reasoning (which at least explains, maybe, why I thought looking up this kind of information was a good idea in the first place).
Among the celebrities who are 45 are Jay-Z, Kenny Chesney, Kylie Minogue, Will Smith, Lucy Liu, Marilyn Manson, Stephanie Seymour, Celine Dion, Daniel Craig, Lisa Marie Presley, Gillian Anderson, Lucy Lawless, Hugh Jackman, Naomi Watts, Owen Wilson, Christy Turlington, Thom Yorke, Dave Grohl, Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall, Guy Ritchie, Jason Bateman, Damon Albarn, Tony Hawk, Robert Rodriguez, Lisa Loeb, Verne Troyer (aka Mini Me), Chynna Phillips, and like a ton of porn stars, apparently (maybe this is a side effect of having looked up this list on a site called whosdatedwho.com). Also listed were Nat King Cole, Freddy Mercury, Montgomery Clift, and Natasha Richardson, all of whom, I guess you could say, are “permanently 45.” While not a person, the computer mouse is also 45, as of December.
I also found a link for “Guy Who Eats 45-Year-Old Candy And It Doesn’t End Well” at (where else?) Huffington Post. I do feel a certain kinship with this man because he’ll eat anything and all of his videos take place facing the seat of an old, comfy chair. Plus, as if he really needed to prove he was British, he actually says, “Oh Blimy!” But it’s not particularly uplifting when he says, “Despite what people say, tinned stuff doesn’t keep forever.” In other words, 45 is forever.
Another article was about NASA’s Curiosity Rover finding the footprints of Neil Armstrong and my birthday buddy, Buzz Aldrin, on the moon — a nice reminder that the moon landing happened during the year of my birth. The article points out to us that the prints “owe their longevity to the fact that they were made on a world with no wind, rain or other atmospheric forces to muss them even a little.” Perhaps we should all move to the moon.
Then there is the article, from October, “95-Year-Old Target Cashier Retires After 45 Years On the Job.” While, according to the article, “financial news website Consumerist.com said Brouillet’s story induced ‘warm fuzzies,’” the only thing it induced in me was the horrifying thought that this woman has worked as long as I’ve been alive at Target.
Next of interest was the page on 45 Year Old Life Expectancy and Mortality Rates at a site called FindTheBest.com, which purportedly teaches you to “Think like an expert.” I can see here that on average, my chance of dying this year is only .216%, that out of 100,000 female babies born alive, 96,880 are still alive at this age, and I most likely have 37.56 years left. So I apparently passed the most likely midpoint of my life when I was 41, but still, 37.56 years is nothing to sneeze at.
Additionally, I found: an episode of the Mary Tyler Moore Show called “The 45-Year-Old Man,” about how Ed Asner’s character, Lou Grant, gets laid off and cannot find a job at 45 (a pretty darn 2014 subject for a show that generally feels pretty dated); a website that apprised me that the company Mathmos, maker of the original Astro Lava Lamp, is 45 years old, having made these lamps by hand in England since 1963 — meaning that, oops, this site hasn’t been updated since 2008; that the Bible chapter and verse Numbers 1:45 says, “So all the numbered men of the sons of Israel by their fathers’ households, from twenty years old and upward, whoever was able to go out to war in Israel…” (I didn’t know that a Bible verse could be just a clause rather than a complete sentence, but there you have it); a pinterest page with the heading “Clothes for women 45-50 years old,” which you’d think would come in quite handy for me given my blog of two weeks ago, but to me looks like it’s trying too hard to look cougarish/faux hippy/like it’s not trying too hard (for instance, according to what’s pictured you can and in fact should wear jeans with holes at this age, a lot); a couple of health research studies for people aged 18 to 45 years old, reminding me that if I have any interest in doing one, I should do it now before I age out; a page for the Planning Division of the City of San Diego that lets you know that a building 45 years old or older needs requires a historical screening process before you can fix up, change, or demolish it; one page on 45-year-old birthday quotes which only seems to have 50-year-old birthday quotes and another which was clearly not written by a native English speaker (“All the best wishes for your 45th birthday. Science have found out that birthday are healthy because the more birthdays you can celebrate – the longer you are living.”); Department of Homeland Security Physical Efficiency Battery (PEB) test scores required for a woman 45 to 49 to achieve a Fitness Certificate (I would need to be able to run 1.5 miles in under 15:12 and have than 23.18% body fat, among other things); a mass.gov Health and Human Services page which tells me the top 5 cancers for women ages 45-64 between 2001 and 2005 (breast, bronchus and lung, uterus, colon/rectum, and melanoma of the skin); and a whole lot of articles about people getting 45 years in jail, mostly for murder or manslaughter.
So what’s all of this add up to other than many hours of fascinating procrastination? Here’s a list of my observations:
1) Everyone’s birthday has had a lot of bad shit happen on it. The same is true of good shit and mediocre shit. One is better off focusing on that latter two categories.
2) History doesn’t age well. It’s great that we have Wikipedia to remember those who were very important in their own lifetimes, but I doubt that King Sebastian ever thought he’d be included on the same list with someone name Slim who yodeled for a living.
3) There are people out there who want to drink 45-year-old beer.
4) Don’t let anyone else, not even Google, tell you what your age means. There are people my age who seem much younger than I do, and people my age who seem like they’re just biding their time until it’s all over. And people who are trying to use plastic surgery to hold back the hands of time, which just makes them look less and less like themselves and more like they’re members of the Cabbage Patch family (Melissa Rivers, I’m talking to you, the evidence is literally staring you in the face). Age is just a number, but it’s one you have to own for yourself.
5) 45 is really just a bump in the road on the way to 50.