Such pervasive messages about aging can really warp us. Even I, my dear and loyal readers, succumb to doubts. Then I think about where other people happen to have been in their lives at 40. It turns out that for many people life really did begin at forty. Well, except for the ones who were already dead. Their lives were never quite the same. . .
Whatever the case, as we all know, I use my birthday as a time to take stock of my life by making comparisons to others’ life journeys, real or imagined, at the same age. It is a little ritual that we have at CoG. Just play along and it will be fine.
If I were Oscar Wilde at age 40, I would write both An Ideal Husband and The Importance of Being Earnest this year.
If I were Zebulon Pike at age 40, I would be dead. It would have been nine years since I published my journals about being captured by Spanish authorities in New Mexico. It would have been six years since I was blown to bits in the War of 1812 at the Battle of York.
If I were Rosalind Russell, I would make the film Mourning Becomes Electra this year. It would be another ten years before I would play Auntie Mame on Broadway.
Should I have been born George Blanda, I would play professional football another eight years before retiring.
If I were Malcom X, I would have died last year.
Had I been Billie Holiday at age 40, I would be working with ghostwriter William Dufty on my autobiography Lady Sings the Blues.
If I were Paul Walker at age 40, I would die unexpectedly in a fiery car crash.
Mae West, at age 40, made her first two major movies She Done Him Wrong and I’m No Angel this year, both with Carey Grant.
If I were Carey Grant at age 40, I would be starring in Arsenic and Old Lace.
If I were Miguel A. Otero, I would be governor of New Mexico.
If I were Will Rogers, I would be in the midst of a three-year contract with Samuel Goldwyn. It would be another three years before my syndicated column started appearing in The New York Times.
If I were The New York Times, my headlines would include a public feud between Rear Admiral Bancroft Gerardi and Acting Rear Admiral John G. Walker in the U.S. Navy.
If I were Pearl Bailey, I would release my album Gems by Pearl Bailey this year.
If I were Cabeza de Vaca, I would land at Tampa Bay, Florida with the doomed Narváez expedition. Only three others of the original 600 would survive with me.
If I were Tecumseh, this is the year that I would establish Prophetstown, My charismatic leadership would make this town into an early base for a confederation of tribes committed to challenging U.S. incursions into the Great Lakes region.
If I were Stella Payne, this is the year that I would get my groove back.
If I were Lorraine Hansberry, I would be dead.
If I were the nation of Mexico, Queen Isabella II, Queen Victoria, and Napoleon III would all have signed an agreement to force me to resume my loan payments. This would start the time in my life that we would later refer to as the Second Mexican Empire.
If I were George Eliot, I would publish my first novel, Adam Bede, this year.
If I were Myrna Loy, this is the year that I would film The Thin Man Goes Home.
If I were either Nick or Nora Charles, I should seriously be considering joining Alcoholics Anonymous.
If I were Frances Drake, I would reach Sierra Leone this year.
If I were Captain James Cook, I would be making my first voyage across the Pacific Ocean.
If I were James T. Kirk, I would be the youngest admiral in Starfleet and the Chief of Starfleet Operations. Apparently, though, that just wouldn't be good enough for me. This is also the year that I would use the V’Ger incident as an excuse to displace William Decker as Captain of the Enterprise in a futile effort to reclaim my youth.
If I were Eusebio Kino, I would abandon the Misión San Bruno in Baja California and return to Mexico City. Many indigenous people likely spent the year hosting parties as a result.
If I were Freddie Mercury, this is the year that I would play my final live performance with Queen in Knebworth Park.
If I were Popé, it would be five years before I would be one of 47 religious leaders arrested by Spanish authorities for “witchcraft.” It would be another ten years before I became a key leader in the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.
If I were Huey Long, I would break with FDR and oppose the National Recovery Act on the grounds that it catered too much to business interests.
If I were Álvaro Obregón, this is the year that I would become president of Mexico.
If I were Ellen DeGeneres, my sitcom would be cancelled this year.
If I were Emiliano Zapata, I would be dead.
Were I to have been Mark Twain at age 40, then I would publish The Adventures of Tom Sawyer this year.
If I were Muhammad, I would be visited by Gabriel and receive my first divine revelation.
If I were Divine, I would be starring in Lust in the Dust this year.
If I were Colonel Sanders, this is the year that I would start preparing fried chicken for folks who stopped at my service station in Corbin, Kentucky. It would be another few years before I perfected my herb-to-spice ratio. *cough*MSG*cough*
At age 40, I would decide to visit my brethren, the Israelites, if I were Moses.
If I were Andy Warhol, Valerie Solanas would shoot me.
If I were Stan Lee, this is the year that I would create Spiderman.
If I were Jame Michener, this is the year that I would publish Tales of the South Pacific which would inspire the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical.
If I were Captain Jean-Luc Picard, I would be in command of the USS Stargazer. It would be another nineteen years before I took command of the Enterprise.
If I were William T. Riker, nobody would care what I was doing at age 40. Poor Riker.
If I were Noël Coward, I would write This Happy Breed and Present Laughter this year.
If I were Pontiac, it would be another three years before I would attack Fort Detroit and start my eponymous war.
If I were Mary Richards, I would have been fired from WJM-TV three years ago.
If I were Walter Raleigh, this is the year that Elizabeth I would imprison me at the Tower of London.
If I were Mary Tyler Moore, I would win my fifth Emmy award this year for playing Mary Richards (and the third Emmy for that role).
If I were Harvey Milk, this is the year that I would be fired from my job as a financial analyst after protesting the U.S. invasion of Cambodia.
If I were either Jamey Carroll or Derek Jeter at 40, I would still be playing professional baseball.
If I were Meriwether Lewis at age 40, I would be dead. It would have been five years since I shot myself in the head . . . twice. Or somebody shot me in the head twice. We aren’t really sure what happened. My personal guess is that he suffered from an unrequited and totally gay love of Thomas Jefferson. I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’.
If I were fashionista, Alexander McQueen, I would die this year.
If I were GayProf, I would be starting a year sabbatical after two years of intense departmental service.
If I were Steve Carell, I would be appearing in Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s single-seasoned sitcom Watching Ellie. It would be another three years before I would make The 40-Year Old Virgin.
If I were astrophysicist Donald Clayton at age forty, this is the year that I would propose that the isotopic effects of condensed anomalous dust within supernovae could be found in meteorites. – Or something – I was never good at science.
If I were Vivian Leigh, I would suffer a major breakdown while filming Elephant Walk. I would be replaced by Elizabeth Taylor.
If I were James Baldwin, I would join marchers in Selma, Alabama demanding justice.
If I were Tennessee Williams, this is the year my play The Rose Tattoo would appear on Broadway.
If I were Marlo Thomas, I would star in It Happened One Christmas, a remake of It’s a Wonderful Life. I would make a subtle political statement by taking over the Jimmy Stewart role with Cloris Leachman taking up the task of being my guardian angel.
If I were Katherine Hepburn, I would make my fourth film with Spencer Tracey, the forgettable The Sea of Grass.
If I were either of my parents at age 40, I would have three children. The oldest, now twenty, would have moved out of the house. The youngest would be thirteen.
If I were Jaclyn Smith, I would star in the film Deja Vu.
If I were Dolly Parton, this is the year that I would purchase the obscure theme park Silver Dollar City and rename it Dollywood.
If I were Jesus, I would have been dead for seven years.
If I were Farrah Fawcett, I would star in Poor Little Rich Girl: The Barbara Hutton Story.
If I were Paul Lynde, this is the year I would first appear as the prankster warlock Uncle Arthur on Bewitched.
If I were Cher at age 40, this is the year that I would stun viewers of the Academy Awards with my Bob Mackie original. It would be another two years before I would win an Oscar for Moonstruck.
If I were Kate Jackson, I would star in the quickly cancelled sitcom Baby Boom this year.
If I were Jonathan Swift, I would be in London advocating for the government to provide the same subsidy to Church of Ireland clerics as it did for the Church of England. It would be another fifteen years before I would pen Gulliver’s Travels.
If I were Wonder Woman, I would age another 2,451 years before joining Patriarch’s world to fight crime.