Forty is not the new 30. Shut up, liars.
40 is 40.
I know this because I AM FORTY.
Last week, I turned 40 entirely against my will. I couldn't stop it, or avoid it, or ignore it, or bribe it to go away. 40 came at me like the Grim Reaper on a bullet train filled with “Over The Hill” mylar balloons and reading glasses. It sucks, too, because I really want to be the kind of woman who ages with dignity and grace. I want to be cool about it, easing into each new year with a sense of pride, welcoming the days that lay ahead. But I am soooo not cool about it. Instead, I am aging in more of a dumpy, clumsy sort of way, flopping around in a fight against the forces of time and nature as if those are things I can actually change.
Needless to say, 40 hit me hard.
As my 40th birthday approached, people kept trying to make me feel better about being almost dead. They kept saying encouraging things like “40 is the new 30!” or, even more ridiculous, “40 is the new 20!” And I just smiled back and nodded with a look that I hope said, “YOU ARE EFFING DELUSIONAL.” That's a damn dirty lie, that's what that is. And we need to talk about it, because A) You have been the victim of this lie, and you think something must be wrong with you because when you turned 40 you definitely DID NOT feel 30. Or B) You haven't turned 40 yet, but you think you might someday, and you're clinging to the hope that 40 is the new 30, or preferably the new 20.
Friends, Ladies, Countrywomen, lend me your ears...
40 is just 40.
You can act like you're 30 and dress like you're 20, but you will still be 40. And I just wish someone had been straight with me, so I could have been better prepared. I wish I had been told the truth, which is that I would have a 40 year old body and a 40 year old brain and that this is simultaneously the best and worst thing ever. So, because I love you, here are some important facts about 40:
- You will grow a lady-beard. This vampire facial hair sparkles like diamonds in the sun. Occasionally, a single hair on your neck or face will grow quite long, and when a loved one attempts to brush it off, you will both be horrified to find IT'S ATTACHED.
- The cottage cheese on the backs of your thighs spreads like a virus, and it's now on the fronts of your thighs. And your arms. The noonday sun is a 40 year old woman's Kryptonite.
- Something frightening happens to a woman's chestal region at 40. It's like flipping a switch. I mean, like, literally flipping a switch; things are pointed up, and then all of a sudden they're pointed down. This happens so fast, it's actually confusing. I'm serious. You hop out of the shower one day and catch a glimpse of your goodies in the mirror, and you're like, “Wait a minute. When did those melt?"
- Sometimes your hips make noises when you don't want them to make noises. Repetitive hip-popping? Not sexy.
- People say super nice things, like, “Wow. You look good...for your age.” Don't stab them. Forgive them. They know not what they do.
- Even when you look really good, you don't look that good. You can get dressed up and your makeup can be flawless and you can be having a great hair day and no one will even notice. The grocery store checker who would have flirted with you at 30, will call you “Ma'am” and ask you about the weather. It's almost like being invisible. But not.
- You become more than a pretty face. I know that's sexist and dated and old-fashioned, but as you are less often defined externally by your looks or your boobs or your sexuality, you discover the freedom to share the more significant parts of who you are and what you have to offer the world. Plus, as people stop looking your way, you stop caring if people are looking your way, and that's powerful.
- You really do look good for your age! Rock on, Lady. But don't forget you are smarter, and kinder, and more generous, and more capable, and wiser, and cooler and better because of your age. In fact, you almost feel like a real grown up.
- Your hips pop during sex and you don't even care because you know how to laugh during sex. And you know all the other sex stuff, too. YOU KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT SEX because 40 makes you THE QUEEN OF SEX. OR NOT! Does not matter.
- Your body is a wonderland...of lumps and bumps and wrinkles and stretch-marks and scars and depleted muscle mass and droopy tits and turkey skin and tufts of fur, and you are actually coming to grips with it. 'Coming to grips' is a very mature thing to do, and you can do that because you're 40 now. You can look at your body and feel proud of all it has accomplished, and also relieved that nobody else is really looking at your body. Because you're 40 now.
- Cottage cheese arms make you sad, but they don't make you put away your tank tops. You like tank tops, and dammit, you have the right to bare arms. Let your bingo wings fly free, my friends - 40 don't care.
- You can't stop the beard, but you do not have to take that shit laying down. I was with a group of women commiserating about our facial fuzz situations, when the oldest of us – the GORGEOUS, stylish, classy chick I want to be when I grow up – shrugged her shoulders and said cooly, “I shave.” And we all stopped talking and our mouths hung open and we stared at her, and she was like, “I shave my face once or twice a week.” This was the most liberating thing EVER. Shave, pluck, wax, peel, sand blast. Whatever, man. We're 40. We do what we want! So if you just want to go with it and let those chin hairs free? Shine on, sister! I support you.
In the interest of community and sisterhood and being on the same imperfect, shriveled up, squinty eyed, forgetful, granny panty team, can we please just let 40 be 40 from now on? Can we quit pretending that 40 should be something other than 40, and instead welcome the next 40 year old woman into our doughy arms, by putting a stubbly cheek against hers, and gently whispering something encouraging, like "I tweeze my chest hairs." or "I pee when I sneeze." or "I'm going gray down there."
Can we spill all of our not-so-old-lady secrets, and let the next woman in line know it's ok to be 40, and to look 40, and to act 40?
Because, honestly, I'm too damn tired to be 30 again.
I'm 40. All I want to do is watch Gilmore Girls and take a nap. And that's ok.
How do you feel about approaching 40?
How will you welcome the next woman into the 40 year old fold?