Thursday, September 18, 2008

40 is the New Me

Ask me how old I am. Go ahead, ask me. Forget all those etiquette rules that say to never ask a lady her age. I never claimed to be a lady anyway. I'm 40. Yup, 4-0. I think I just sat up a bit straighter when I said that. I have no shame. Age does not scare me. I am wary and afraid of what time robs from us, but aging in and of itself does not intimidate me. Bring. It. On. I embrace my future, and hey, turning 40 sure beats the alternative. I'll take my little 85-year old brick house to a pine box (or urn, as the case may be) any day.

I'm not one of those people who hates their birthday. To the contrary, I cherish mine. I even celebrate my half birthday. Oddly enough, everyone dons green and toasts the luck of the Irish on my half birthday. Come on, what's not to like about your birthday? I've been showered with emails, cards, flowers, coconut cakes, cheesecake, high fives, phone calls, shout outs, Tweets. It's wonderful to hear from all the people I love. And it's even more wonderful to know that I am loved.

There is something so freeing about being 40. Really, it is license to be ME. Marlo Thomas had it right with "Free to Be You and Me." It's a lesson that comes easily as a child, and then we wait a lifetime to get find our way back to that magical freedom. The agonizing years in between are torturous but necessary. I do not sulk over lost youth and time misspent. Instead I raise a toast to life lived.

I celebrated turning 40 with some girlfriends at the beach last weekend. That's us in the photo up there. I'm the hottie with black hair and the grey dress. Notice all the empty glasses and bottles. All necessary rehydration after a day spent on the beach with nothing but canned beer and celebrity rags. Oh, and cookies. How magnificent to be at the beach and actually sit lazily on a chair and not worry about anyone drowning or getting caught in the undertow. How unsandy my luggage was with no buckets, shovels, rakes, trucks, and life vests tucked in there. How relaxing to be for a while, not a mother, not a wife, just me. Rejuventation at its best.

Oh, and it doesn't hurt that boys in their 20s (young enough to be my children if you think about it, but let’s not) were glombing onto us, downright trying to mash on the dance floor. Yeah, still got it. Insert strut here. And don't go mentioning the dim light, fog machine, thrashy loud music, and excess of $2 domestic bottles. This is my day and my fantasy, OK?

There were a gaggle of 20-something girls in the bars that weekend. They were the Stepford Girls. All wearing the same tiny minidress cut down just so. The same high wedges that left them teetering on the dance floor. The same pack of Marlboro Lights (DON’T GET ME STARTED.). The same bottle of beer, picking at the label with idle fingers. The same bored come hither look. The same stare and lack of eye contact, noticing the scene instead of each other. The same lack of mindfulness and embracing the moment. The same ginormous purses fresh out of Lucky magazine. What’s in those bags, girls? Are you prepping for a booty call walk of shame with panties, toothbrush, and contact lens solution in there? Whadya need such a big purse for at a bar? Drones, all of them. Yawn. Oh, and been there done that, left the T-shirt at a boy's pad.

We 30-somethings, however (I was technically 39 at the time.), wore outfits that hid our badges of motherhood (I’m talkin’ to you, Back Fat!). Clothes that hugged our curves but masked our cottage cheese. Clothes that allowed ample room for copious consumption of crab dip at dinner (not for dinner, at dinner). Clothes that gave us room to groove without sucking in, tucking, taping, tugging, or squishing. And you know what? Not a purse among us. Yet we managed to carry cash, credit cards, a cell phone, ID, keys, and lip gloss (Thanks for humoring me, Nicole!).

We danced where there was no dance floor and we banged out the lyrics to Pour Some Sugar On Me. With aplomb. We talked our way out of paying cover charges and milked the big 4-0 for free drinks from cute bartenders. We laughed a bit too loud and sang way off key. We drank until we were happy, replenishing our abused systems with water time to time. We chatted up some 20-something fake mustachioed bachelor party-goers and danced with anyone who swayed into our path. We rocked.

You know what sent the pheromone detectors buzzing? Confidence.

Confidence gained only through experience, time, loves lost, lessons learned, hearts won, tests failed, life interrupted, varieties tasted, losses mourned, triumphs celebrated. It is now that I am confident, indeed free, to be the self I have invented. My days of trying to discern others’ visions of me and trying to squirm my roundness into that squareness are over. I walk a little taller in my own shoes. All 100 pairs of them and all five feet of me. Go with the metaphor here, people.

I have no desire to relive my youth. Would you return to the hormonal pubescent days of 17? Your la la la party girl days of 22? Your over worked, in debt, broken-hearted woman of 31? Nah, I didn’t think so. 40 finds me calm, content, confident, and comfortable. It was worth waiting for. Age is not a beast I wrestle. Yeah, I’m lucky to be virtually wrinkle free, nary a grey lock in sight. It’s easy to wax poetic about the gift of aging and life’s mumbo jumbo stew from my perspective. But you know what? 40 is all the more fantastic the more I hear from shocked, flattering souls, “You can’t possibly be 40? You look so young!” I’ll take it. And for now, I'm gonna buy it.

The high temperature today is 68. I was born today in 68. Metaphors are beautiful. See, it really is all about me.
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Anonymous said...

Today it should be all about you. Today was a perfect day (in my opinion) - not too hot or cold! It was all in your honor. Here's to another great 40 years!

The Over-Thinker said...

Oh how I love you----you are so fabulous. Happy 40th, you Obama Mama, you....whoa. I just had an epiphany. You need to be Obama's running mate. You would kick Sarah P.'s behind! All the way "from her house to Russia!" Well, even if you decide not to run, I'll still wish you the happiest of birthdays!!


Anonymous said...

You Rock!!!

Anonymous said...

I am standing over my computer giving you a round of applause. It is a RARE thing to find a woman, anyone really, who embraces her birthday anymore. Cheers to celebrating forty fabulously. (And your night sounded like so much fun.)

Anonymous said...

Happy Belated Birthday! I turn 43 tomorrow, and my 10 year old niece told me yesterday that I 'look like a teenager'. Since Lauren is now 22, and both Alex and Caroline ARE teenagers, I credit the crowd I run with.

Though the back may ache a little more, and night sweats are suddenly becoming a common occurence, I am with you. I wouldn't go back (OK, maybe for a couple days!).


3boys247 said...

Happy 40th! Mine is next year. It will be a huge party. Not a pity party. 40 will be great. I loved your post and plan to reread it often!