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Aging: The final frontier

A scene from Special Exits

When Miles Morales was revealed as the new Spider-Man this week, David Betancourt had a visceral reaction to the news:

My friendly neighborhood Spider-Man was … just like me?

Like Betancourt, Morales is half black, half Hispanic, but there’s more to diversity than ethnicity. Everyone talks about how superheroes are all white, but nobody talks about how they are all young. A middle-aged superhero is usually the butt of a joke, but outside the capes-and-tights realm, there is a growing category of comics about the trials and joys of middle age.

When I was young, I looked upon aging as a horror show—your looks deteriorate, your parents get sick and die, your kids get snottier and snottier and then move away, and every visit to the doctor carries the potential of a nasty test or a bit of bad news. Instead of daydreaming about accepting the Nobel Prize, you spend your days thinking about boring things like health insurance, car maintenance, and college tuition. The cheery nihilism of youth gives way to the humdrum of necessity and responsibility. What I am learning, though, is that as difficult as all this can be, there are also moments of grace and even humor. You don’t stop living and growing and changing once you turn 40. Every stage of life is full of stories.

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