I recently hit my milestone birthday of 40. People generally take a bit to reflect on life when they hit milestone birthdays. I certainly have. I’m several months in, and I have to say that being 40 is both really weird and truly wonderful.
I thought I’d be less awkward by now.
I thought by 40, I would be effortlessly elegant. Able to navigate social situations and unspoken dress-codes with ease. Turns out birthdays are not a substitute for charm school.
And the pressure to look amazing at 40 is crazy! The bar for 40 used to be closer to Ma Walton, and now you’re expected to look more like Gwen Stefani.
Speaking of Gwen Stefani – how are you supposed to dress as a 40 year old? It’s a fine line between trying too hard to look young and veering into frumpy matronly territory. Especially when your 40-year-old feet will only tolerate flats and even 2 inch heels are impossible to manage for a whole day.
The beauty of 40 is that I tend to worry a lot less about what I look like. I try to buy quality clothing that flatters me and is easy to put together (with flats) and do my best to check for coffee stains before leaving the house. There are times when I think maybe I should make more of an effort, but I’m pretty comfortable that I know what works for my body, my profession, and my life stage.
A little bit of everything
One of the stranger things about 40 is that my peers are in every life stage. I’m late to the parenthood game and have a 3 year old. The fact that she will be 13 when I turn 50 terrifies me.
Some people I graduated high school with are entering grandparenthood. Some will be empty-nesters before I get preschool figured out. And some friends have decided against having children, for many, many different reasons.
Our parents are of all different ages and health, if they are still alive. Some of our parents are in fantastic health and pursuing adventures all over the world. Some of us are helping parents navigate end-of-life decisions. Asking friends about how their parents are doing is a very loaded question. Answers range from, “Great! Mom’s traveling to Machu Picchu in the spring!” to “Dad’s Parkinson’s is getting so bad—I’m not sure what we’re going to do.”
Zits and crows feet
Pregnancy does weird things to the body. So does 40. Who knew zits and crows feet would both exist on the same face! Just like I thought I would possess grace by now, I also thought I’d have my skincare routine figured out, so I wouldn’t have pimples. I didn’t know that I’d be shopping for products that promised to reduce redness, eliminate puffy eyes, smooth wrinkles, and deep-cleanse my pores.
And the less said about a slowed down metabolism, the better. You are allowed to eat ice cream for dinner, but should you?
At 40, it’s time to consider things like mammograms, colonoscopies, and regular dermatologist appointments to look at weird moles cropping up. You start questioning whether you losing keys is a sign of diminishing cognitive function, or just a product of trying to be everything to everyone, including yourself.
It is wonderful, really!
Forty isn’t anything like I thought it would be when I was half this age. At 20, I pictured myself with a couple of children, in a light-filled house, with a thriving career, and amazing husband. And in a sense, I wasn’t too far off.
What I couldn’t possibly have imagined was how rich my relationships with other would be, the grief I would have to work through, the challenges that come with marriage, family, career, and the light-filled home. I couldn’t have fathomed the confidence I feel in being myself. Of knowing that there are plenty of ways that I can be better, but that in general, I am a person worth knowing.