Today is my 40th birthday – OK, not really, it is really 41 – but last year around this time I was just two weeks postpartum so I didn’t count it. This is my real 40th birthday. So, after 40 years of not being 40 – I am giving it a shot. In general. I am really loving 40. It has a grace about it – a period of wisdom and enthusiasm, of reflection and acceptance. It is a time when we realize that maybe we are not going to be a ballerina or an astronaut – but there are still plenty of opportunities for us if we are willing to grab life by the balls. And, at 40, we are still able to grab things without it arthritis flaring up, so that is good.
I know women like to complain about how their bodies have betrayed them and I get that, I really do. I have had my share of pulling on my skin and waiting for what seemed like eternity for it to snap back into place or the horrific moment when you have to ask yourself "What is a hair doing there?" It is humbling at best. Luckily, I was not born with ethereal, Hollywood-perfect looks so I understand the whole picture is the best focus. I am also smart enough to realize that my 60 year-old self will look back at my current self and think “Oooohhhh girl, you one fine looking woman! Now go get yourself into a little black dress and work it like you ain’t gonna have it forever.” Because my 60 year-old self, although decidedly more “street” than my current self, knows it won’t last forever. She also knows the best thing about turning 40 is being at a point where you don't really care so much what people think about how you look.
OK, so you don't really care - but you still care a little. OK, I care just a little that two months ago my husband wet his finger and tried to wipe something off my forehead. When he was unsuccessful his eyes got really big and he stammered: "Nothing. There is nothing there. What? Nothing at all. Hey look over there! Something shiny!" When I got home I attempted to confirm his story in the mirror and that is when I saw it. Right there, on my face, for the first time ever. Something that can only be called "an age spot". Seriously,a little area of discoloration appeared on my face as if to say "Hello there Karen, you are 40. I know you still think you are 16 - but you're not and I just wanted to remind you of that. On your face. That is all." An age spot – really. I had, like a six month grace period between the end of breaking out and the beginning of breaking out in age spots. I am not happy about this. Not happy at all. It is on my face, I need that thing like every day.
This is tough for me because it is my first real, difficult to ignore, clue that I am probably the same age now that my third grade teacher was when I looked at her and thought her life was sad and lonely because she was so old - but that she would be dead soon, so at least she had that. I have been able to deny the age thing a bit because I don't really have any wrinkles - that is the beauty of having a few extra pounds on you - diet commercials don't really focus on that but take a look next time at the Xenadrine before and after pictures and the face of the before is usually much cuter and less Skeletor-like than the after. It is the big tradeoff. All of those med-spas that can suck all the fat off your body can also inject fat into your face once you become the emaciated waif you are striving to be. Either way, they have you. And, apparently, either way, your skin starts to protest after 40 years of use.
So, I am a little pissed about the age spot, but I would honestly take 10 more today in exchange for never having to be 20 again. My husband and I often fantasize about how great it would have been if we met when we were 20, but in truth, it would have been awful. My husband edits this blog and if he had attempted to do something like that when I was 20 it probably would have been the end of our relationship. I would have been deeply wounded if he even suggested that every word I professed was anything less than sheer brilliance. Of course, I would not have said that to him, because if he loved me he would just know. Now, he can wipe out a whole paragraph and say "That was kind of bullshit" and I will usually consider it and agree - or not. Either way my sense of self worth no longer depends solely on the feedback of others. Thank you 40.
My husband regularly compliments other women in front of me and I think it is great, especially when the woman uncomfortably looks at me to gauge my level of anger. Compliments are fun and free - I think putting positive feelings out into the world can only be good. However in my 20s if my man said something nice about another woman, or even noticed her, I would consider it the ultimate betrayal. I would ask "How could you? You are making me feel so terrible!" Now I know I am the only one who can make myself feel terrible. Thank you 40. Also, because I know what I want and genuinely care about what my husband wants and have a deep connection, strength, and confidence - sex is so much better than at 20. Thank you, thank you thank you 40!
So, I am pretty happy with things just as they are and I am just going to put on a little black dress and be in the moment. And the age spot? I am pretty sure it is here to stay - but with age comes wisdom and resourcefulness, and in my case, bangs.
More from Karen:
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The Tao of Boo – Part 1
Happy Father’s Day