BY THE TIME you read this, I will have turned 40, and in the age-old vernacular of the 'hood, I will be an "old head."

Not that the old head label was suddenly thrust upon me this week. The signs of old headedness have been dogging me for years.

When I hit 30, my hair started to go. Having watched others slide into the dark world of combovers, I spent an afternoon staring sadly into the mirror at the remnants of my fading 'fro. Then I walked into a barber shop, and told the man to do the unthinkable.

"Take it off," I said soberly. "Take it all off." Bic has been my barber ever since.

At 35, I lost the ability to speak slang. I could no longer use terms like, "I was real salty," without feeling real stupid.

I stopped - temporarily.

At 38, I tried to race my then-14-year-old daughter Adrianne in the driveway. I was wearing $160 designer shoes with Nike Air soles. I fell. It hurt.

At 39, I forgot my no-slang policy, and tried to use the term, "You should rock that" while conversing with one of my former students.

She was half my age. I felt half my size. It was awkward.

Now that I'm 40, things have changed. I know I'm an old head, and there are some things I honestly don't care about anymore.

Here are a few.

New school hip-hop

I grew up on Public Enemy, Run-DMC, Eric B. and Rakim.

Back when I was 19, I even made a rap record. But I can't listen to most of today's hip-hop.

As a guy with a career, a wife and three kids, I can't relate. To tell you the truth, I don't want to.

I don't know the latest Li'l Wayne song. I'm not down with Soulja Boy. I don't like 50 Cent. But I would like $50. In a birthday card. From you. Now.

My gut

For years, I have tried to rid myself of the small paunch that rises and falls in direct proportion to my McDonald's intake.

Now that I'm 40, I am no longer fighting my mini-gut. I'm embracing it. The way I figure it, I don't drink, so my gut can only get so big.

Of course, that's a ridiculous theory, but I'm 40. I've earned the right to tell myself outrageous lies. Now get outta my face, pass me a Quarter Pounder, and stop looking at my gut!

Dad clothes

In my 20s, I could dress with the best of them.

I owned leather sweaters, leather pants, leather jackets, gold jewelry and suede shoes.

I didn't have a house, though. Or a car, insurance payments, taxes, three kids and a wife.

Guys who have those things don't wear fancy clothes. They dress in a style I like to call, Dad-chic. It consists of two shirts, two pairs of jeans, and some dirty sneakers.

These outfits are usually worn so much that they are virtually trained to run into dad's arms as soon as he gets home from work. Sort of like pets.

Opinions

Funny thing happens when you become an old head. Your opinions are no longer based on theory. They're based on experience.

That fact alone means that the opinions of others suddenly carry less weight. What others think of you doesn't matter anymore, because you are who you are, and it's not going to change a whole lot, despite what anyone else says, does, thinks,or feels.

That's why, when I get home today, I'm going to do what an old head does - put on my Dad clothes, rub my growing gut, listen to my old school hip-hop and scarf down a Quarter Pounder.

Then I'm going to wait for my mail carrier to come. That $50 birthday card sure will come in handy. *

Solomon Jones can be reached at