NEXT WEEK I'll be 43, and I will undoubtedly receive Christmas-birthday combo gifts. I'll accept it without complaint, though, and I won't demand reparations. That's how I know I'm getting older: I'm willing to accept the inevitable.

Unfortunately, acceptance isn't the only indication that I'm getting older. There are other signs, as well. Perhaps

you've experienced some of these same signs. For the benefit of those of you who may be oblivious to age indicators, I've decided to share what I've learned.

You know you're getting older when . . .

Your joints talk back. I initially noticed this change in my own body a couple of years ago. When my brain would tell my knees to run more than a mile- and-a-half, my knees would yell, "No!" I figured this was an aberration until my brain started telling my elbows to do pushups and my elbows made cracking noises in protest. I did the pushups anyway. In fact, I still do them. My elbows curse me out every time.

You know you're getting older when . . .

Your new clothes look just like your old ones. I just bought a new coat. It's really nice. The only reason I bought it was that my old coat's lining was pretty much ripped to shreds. Were it not for that little defect, I'd still be wearing my old coat. Perhaps subconsciously, I still wish I could wear my old coat. Maybe that's why I returned to the same store and bought the same brand and color as the old one. I now understand why every older man I know has 15 Members Only jackets. They came out right when those guys were in their early 40s. That's the time in a man's life when he gets stuck in a clothing time warp.

You know you're getting older when . . .

People call your house at 9 p.m. and ask, "Did I wake you?" I don't know when it happened. I don't know why it happened. But at some point in the last few years, 9 o'clock became the cutoff time for weeknight activity in the Jones household. During the days, when I'm not writing, I'm pretty much in chill mode after 9 o'clock, and if you call, I will immediately adopt the fake sleep voice. You know the one. It's groggy. It's dry. It's fake. It says to the caller, "You know I'm old, you know it's late, now go get me my sweater. It's cold in here."

You know you're getting older when . . .

Gray hairs attack. I thought the whole hair thing was settled when my hairline began to recede and I abandoned the barber in favor of the baldy. Unfortunately, age had other ideas, and I am now battling gray hair on a fairly consistent basis. My goatee is decidedly salt-and-pepper, and I'm strongly considering shaving 10 years off my appearance by taking a Bic to my chin. A year ago, my wife spotted a single gray hair, bold and defiant, sitting on my back and daring us to pluck it. We did, and that hair sent in reinforcements. They showed up in areas I'm too modest to talk about here. Suffice it to say, in the battle against the gray, I'm losing miserably.

You know you're getting older when . . .

You wear pajamas around the house, and you're not Hugh Hefner. I'm not talking about a smoking jacket here. Nor am I talking about slipping into something a little more comfortable. I'm talking about mismatch pajamas with lint balls and holes in embarrassing places. I'm talking about night clothes you'd never wear out of the house. I'm talking about being comfortable in your own skin. I'm talking about getting older.

Happy birthday to me. I know I'm getting older and I'm cool with it.

Solomon Jones will sign his new novel, "The Last Confession," at the Penn Bookstore, 3601 Walnut St., on Thursday from noon to 2 p.m. For info, call 215-898-7595.

Solomon Jones' column appears every Saturday. He can be reached at