Jenna was having coffee with her friend Mary. They were noticing, as the years were passing, that the frequency of conversation related to medical issues was rising. Aches and pains. So and so’s recent diagnosis. Incontinence. Tummy troubles. Headaches. Hormones. Impotence. It was all being discussed at dinner, birthday parties, coffee shops and the like. Starting off slowly, it happened at an almost imperceptible pace. But, Mary noted, it almost always was preceded by the words, “once you turn 40.” Is this what they are headed for? The clutch of white-hairs huddled around in wheelchairs, all complaining about their doctors and upcoming surgeries? Jenna said, “I refuse to go down without a fight. Fuck once you turn 40.”
Jenna’s various doctors and friends had told her that once you turn 40, your libido declines, your waistline increases, you are more prone to fractures, you snore more and your ability to conceive takes a nosedive. What Mary had heard was far worse. Reduction in ability to recover from injuries, increased incidence of heart disease and cancer, weakened muscles, saggy boobs, slowed metabolism and low energy. When Jenna’s mom turned 40, Jenna was out of the house and nearly on her own. But now, at age 45, she had a pre-teen and a teenager under her roof. It seemed the ultimate bullshit that at the time when her body and mind began to break down, she had to deal with a teenager whose body and mind were, well, taking over. It used to be that once you turned 40, your kids weren’t as high maintenance. Thanks to delaying childbirth, we are now in the dubious position of reaping what we’ve sown at the precise time we want to be rolling out the red carpet for our golden years.
So Jenna and Mary decided it was time to make their own list. Their very own once you turn 40 list. Some of it they decided to make up for the hell of it. Some of it really is a thing. Here goes.
The Once You Turn 40 List…
- you can tell when people are lying way, way faster.
- you appreciate the small things more.
- you celebrate magazine articles telling you that you should cut back on coffee by drinking a cup of coffee.
- you do your kegels and maybe do the thing where you are spontaneous and meet your husband in a bar and pretend you don’t know him then go home and have great sex. Then, after a long week, you decide to just ask for what you want. And have great sex.
- you have to make lists all the time, but you love lists.
- your creativity soars.
- your need to nurture and take care of everyone all the time drops precipitously.
- you want more.
- your boobs look amazing!
- you realize that people are characters and you see them sculpting themselves into old people who are set in their ways. You vow not to do that shit.
- you notice who looks old and who looks young, but you always feel younger than you are.
- you know what needs to be done.
- you know a good book, a real conversation, a deep friendship or a chance encounter can change the world.
- your ass looks amazing!
- you light up when talking about your kids.
- you can be relied on to do things that you only inconsistently did in your twenties: pay your bills, use birth control, fix something that is broken, and get gas in your car.
- you know yourself better, or at least, you know you could if you really tried.
- your skin is radiant!
- you laugh without asking yourself if your laugh sounds silly. You just laugh.
- you think about retiring.
- you tinker.
- you think more deeply and profoundly, even if you can’t ever find your fucking keys.
- you eat whatever you want!
- you never get sore or hurt!
- your jokes are better because you know who to tell them to.
- you have more fun because you know who to have it with.
- you are loved beyond measure because you know who to love.
- your worth is not measured in a mirror or on a scale.
- you value your grandparents, even though it’s too late to tell them.
- your memory is perfect!
- your vacations get better.
- you can’t remember how old you are to key into the treadmill at the gym, but hell, you’re at the gym
- you are insightful and thoughtful about things you once could give a shit about.
- you could give a shit about things you were once insightful and thoughful about.
And then, Jenna and Mary resolve never to start the sentence once you turn 40 to anyone younger than 39. Because that is just wrong. Let them figure it out on their own. Which is what you did. When you turned 40.
photo by Barbara Paulsen at tandemechoes.com.