On Turning 40

40th-birthday-cake

There are two types of people who will tell you that ‘Life Begins at 40’ or ’40 is the New 20’ or any of that other nonsense that people feel obligated to console you with as you approach a milestone which optimistically marks the middle of your life.

The first types are people older than you. They have watched 40 come and go and actually miss it, as they have progressed on to an even more withered and decrepit age than you. These are the same types of people who will tell you things like ‘Cherish each moment with your child because they are precious and fleeting’ as they watch you attempting to disentangle your toddler from a rack of scarves whilst having a meltdown in the Accessories aisle of Target or ‘On their deathbeds, nobody ever wishes they had put in more time at their job ’ as you gripe about changing your work schedule each week to accommodate various PTA meetings, play dates and afterschool activities, or even ‘You’ll know what I mean when you get to be MY age’, which is irritating on a number of levels mostly because you give the same advice to people younger than you.

These may also be the types of people who are eager to share horror stories about various medical procedures they’ve endured that begin to become more common after the age of 40. They can’t wait to relate every distasteful detail of their colonoscopies once they learn you’re due for one yourself. ‘It’s not the procedure that’s bad, it’s the 12 hours before!’ they will chuckle, attempting to be mysterious, as if you haven’t already combed through the online annals (pun intended) of Web MD’s colonoscopy message boards.  They are also constantly trying to one-up you – or one-down you – with their medical conditions. “Oh, got high cholesterol?  Not as high as mine, I bet.” If you have a hernia, they’ve had two; if your knee hurts after running, they are walking around with numbness in their leg on a regular basis.  Oddly, they seem to remain energetically argumentative despite the fact that most – per their physicians – are ‘lucky to be alive’.

The second types are people significantly younger than you. They are either in denial that they will ever reach the relatively advanced age that you are now, or they genuinely feel sorry for you that you are so old and want to express their condolences in a politically correct and socially acceptable manner. These are the same types of people who will call you ‘ma’am’ when they are waiting on you in a retail store or restaurant or ask you if you need help carrying your groceries to the car when all you’ve purchased is a pack of sponges and a copy of ‘People’ magazine or suggest you cut your hair in a more ‘age appropriate’ style with bangs and highlights which is code for ‘you probably want to cover those forehead wrinkles.’

These may or may not also be the types of people who, at an annoyingly young age, have discovered their life’s passion or calling or achieved financial, spiritual or emotional success (or all three) while you still ponder whether you should take that continuing education class on poetry or floral arranging. They may say things like ‘I was just in the right place at the right time’ or ‘I’ve always known exactly what I wanted to do with my life’ or ‘my father is well connected’. They will encourage you to continue to pursue your own dreams by reminding you that ‘age is just a number’ or some other factually incorrect statement and give you a signed copy of their latest book or CD or screenplay before they take off for some fabulous destination while you climb back in your mini-van and try to remember to buy coconut milk on the way home.

There are two types of responses that you can have once someone takes it upon themselves to be the merry messenger of your impending middle age.   You can invest in prunes and granola and Sleepytime tea. You can drop your hemline, raise your neckline and buy sensible shoes.  You can Google ‘hairstyles for people over 40’ or ‘age appropriate highlights’ or ‘pants suits with elastic waists’. You can put your dreams – be they writing, painting or learning to waltz – on a shelf and focus on being an adult, no matter how dull, disheartened or dreary it may make you.

Or, you can realize that today is the youngest you will ever be and whether you have 50 more years or 10, every minute worrying about what age you are is one more minute that you could use in a million other ways. The face in your mirror is the least wrinkled it will ever be. The hairs on your head are the least gray. Your legs are the least veiny and your boobs are the perkiest. And whether you say ‘thank you’ or ‘fuck you’, know that 40 is what you make it – so make it count.

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under Essays, humor, Ruminations, Writing

2 responses to “On Turning 40

  1. Haha. Fun post (especially for those of us on the 40 cusp). I certainly have those days where I feel my age. We recently went on vacation and I still feel like I haven’t recovered. 11 pm seems really late anymore to be turning out the light at night and that’s sort of sad. Luckily, I still get strange looks when I tell people how old I am. Despite the contributing factor of youthful genes, I blame it more on my perpetual immaturity. Fact is, despite the inevitable, I don’t want to “get older.” Things hurt that never did before and take longer to heal. Hair grows where hair shouldn’t. Hair disappears from where it’s always faithfully been. Twenty-year-olds walk past you like they do a worn chair. My wife pointed to a mark on my leg the other day. “Is that a scar?” Nope… stretch mark. And I get yelled at for noticing a chin hair! Can’t pluck a stretch mark! Anyway, I agree about not worrying about it. Can’t stop time. Roll with it and realize that you could always look like that guy from high school… unless you are that guy from high school. 😉

  2. Thanks for commenting and feeling my 40 pain! I completely agree – I want to continue to live and learn and grow, but gray hairs and aches and pains? I’d pass if I could. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s