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The New 40

“40 is the new 30,” said a friend of mine the other day.

That would totally and completely suck, I just realized.

Yes, my hair was blonder.

Me and my first, Dec. 2003, Tucson
Me and my first, Dec. 2003, Tucson

Yes, my breasts were firmer.

Yes, I had ten years ahead of me still ‘ til 40.

But …

wow. 30. 2004. Mom of one very restless baby. Up to my eyeballs in change … not bad change but the kind that causes upheaval that equals frequent upset. Orange vomit on my shoulder a lot. Not a lot of friends nearby. Unrealistic expectations of marriage, parenthood, community, work, friendship, life.

It’s not that I’m BRILLIANT now.

But I am now aware enough to know how dumb I am. And how age brings a wisdom born of experience that in some ways is better than firm breasts.

The more I speak about and write about 40, the more people (read “women”) say to me:

I loved my 40s

The 40s have been the best years of my life

I really found myself in my 40s

These kind of comments, from real people, are uplifting and have actually started to ignite in me a desired anticipation — the kind I remember feeling in the months leading up to 13. When was the last time we were truly excited for a birthday … not because we had a crazy evening planned or a vacation, but because it was appropriate to celebrate our advance? What happens to our birthday joy as we age?

I have a summer birthday and so I used to be very familiar with anticipation in advance of birthdays. My friends often reached milestones ahead of me : 13, 17 (driving age in NJ), 18, 21, etc. Those last few months before it was my turn were always killer. The summer I was 12, waiting for 13, I remember telling boys when they asked at the camp social, “how old are you?” that I was 13. That my birthday had been in April. For some reason, that mattered then. As if they wouldn’t ask me to dance unless I was old enough to have boobs. (The boobs wouldn’t come for 4 more summers.)

Last summer, when I turned 39, I remember feeling a sense of dread.  It didn’t help that last summer I also suffered from a bunch of moderate health issues, serious enough to impact my daily life . (It’s likely that at least half of them were stress-related, and maybe 1/4 “pre-40” related.)

My 39th birthday, spent with family by the Jersey shore was lovely, but undercut by a constant heartburn. The antacids didn’t help. The gluten-free diet didn’t help. The technology detox didn’t help. I understand now it’s because the heartburn was only partly physical. Much of it was existential. Prilosec can’t help with that. Not even the Wild Berry flavor.

This summer, I am determined to drop the burn. Be all heart. Feel 12 again. I am determined to want 40.  So badly that I pretend like I already am.

Boobs, or not.

 

 

 

 

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