In the closing moments of the movie Boyhood, the teary-eyed mother played by Patricia Arquette frets that the departure of her youngest child to pursue a post-secondary education represents the final milestone in her life, save for her funeral.
This, of course, is patently untrue. There are a number of exciting milestones that await the empty nesters of the world. Let’s walk through just 10 of the life highlights we can expect to enjoy after the kids move out and leave for college:
1. The kids graduate from college and move back in. It took a month for you to come to terms with them being gone. You’ll never come to terms with them being back. BUT I JUST TURNED YOUR BEDROOM INTO MY SCRAPBOOKING STUDIO!
2. The acquisition and maintenance of various aches and pains. I recently came back from a golf weekend with a bunch of guys, most of whom are in their early 50s. We spent pretty much the entire time comparing chronic maladies and nagging afflictions. At one point, eight of us stood near the first tee for 15 minutes and not once did the conversation stray from balms and ointments. An Advil vs. Aleve debate that began on Friday night was still going strong the following afternoon. Wayward shots were blamed on stiff hips, wonky knees and, on one occasion, “the gout.” By my calculations, the care of—and commentary describing—assorted twinges and discomfort will become a full-time job for these men by the time they turn 63. They will be awesome at it.
3. Growing dismissive and fearful of new technologies. This is the milestone I’m most looking forward to. I can already feel the hesitancy creeping in. Each time I buy a new smartphone I use fewer of its features and get more frustrated by the effort required to sync it with my desktop, my laptop and, of course, the cloud—or as I like to call it: Satan’s billow. Wait, so the music is on my phone but it’s NOT on my phone?? Give me 15 years and I’ll be back to using a landline while my grandkids futilely attempt to contact me using Apple’s new iThought brainstem interface.
4. Being downsized from your job. Here’s one way to get through it: Think of it as being hired in Opposite World.
5. Being awakened sexually as a woman. This doesn’t apply to me directly, but I’ve seen enough French movies to know that this milestone awaits every 50-something lady with a cold, distant husband and a doe-eyed, bi-curious yoga instructor.
6. Retiring. So you avoid the downsizing? Then who among us doesn’t look forward to a supermarket slab cake and a dozen minutes of awkward banter before your work colleagues of 25 years strip mine your cubicle of Scotch tape and thumb tacks?
7. Finding a new, minimum-wage job. In the olden days, one’s golden years were a time for leisure, hobbies and—if my late Grandma is any gauge—the stalking by mail of Mr. Bob Barker. Nowadays, it’s all about the non-stop thrill ride of supplementing your minimal income so you can do fun things, like pay for gas to drive to your other fast-food job.
8. Assorted “big” birthdays. Generally celebrated in five-year increments, these larger celebrations provide opportunity for family and friends to come together and bestow upon you an array of cheap novelty greeting cards that treat your dwindling mortality as cause for puns, fart jokes and impotence gags. Fun!
9. Forgetfulness. This one has real potential. If you forget just enough things in just the right way, each and every day can be ﬁlled with exciting new milestones. Have we eaten at this restaurant before? Is this the first time I’ve ever tried sushi? Who are you?? It doesn’t stop there. Learning how to drive is a defining milestone of the teen years—but it’s not nearly as exciting as the milestone of continuing to drive a car when you can no longer remember how.
10. Becoming a burden to your family. “Son, thank you for driving an hour to come see me here at the seniors’ home. You’re probably wondering about the ‘emergency’ I spoke of. I am chilly and my sweater is slightly over there.”