I went through mandatory HR training for work this week and learned about the Age Discrimination Employment Act (ADEA). It forbids discrimination against people aged 40 or older. I’m sorry, what did I just read? Now that I am in my 40’s, I actually have a law protecting me from my age? I still laugh at fart jokes for fuck’s sake, how can I be ‘old’? For better or worse, I have been thrust into ‘middle age’ without so much as a second glance.
Certainly, physical changes are imminent. A rational brain knows this. However, several of my changes have outpaced Bruce Jenner in the 1976 Olympics, before his vaginoplasty. It all started with chin hairs. I awoke one day and the single, adorable chin hair I’ve had since college multiplied like gremlins. I look like a billygoat. Have you any idea the amount of time I spend a week on chin hair maintenance? Every time my husband walks into the bathroom I am sitting propped on the counter, magnifying mirror in one hand and tweezers in the other. Or as we like to call it: foreplay.
I have also noticed an alarming proliferation of neck wrinkles forming. How does this happen? Is this the force of gravity literally trying to strangle me? Did my head suddenly gain weight and cause strain on my neck? Does Richard Simmons address this troubled spot in any of his DVD’s? Or do women age like trees and eventually you just count the rings hanging off their necks?
It seems my hair is beginning to jump ship as well. I used to have long, thick, luxurious hair. Now it seems to be the only part of me that is thinning. I have resorted to taking prenatal vitamins to reverse the damage. This is a great solution if you want to be constipated all the time. Perhaps, my hair has decided to move South for the winter. My chin is that South.
I used to get offended when people would say “Oh, you look so good for having three kids; you must work out.” This is called a compliment sandwich. You are actually insulting me but lining it with nice words so I am uncertain if I should be offended. How about I just “look good,” regardless of child birth? The same rule applies with age. Don’t say “Oh, you look so good for 41” unless you want me to punch you in your smooth, pubescent throat.
Fortunately for me, the benefits outweigh the wrinkle cream. I used to care so deeply what others thought of me. I would agonize over an unreturned voicemail, a snide remark. OH NOOO, did I offend that person? Do they like me? Please like me, LIKE ME! With age, I have become comfortable with who I am and the value I bring to a relationship. I no longer care what others think. In fact, with the exception of friends and family, I give zero shits about anyone’s opinion of me. It is immensely liberating.
I celebrate my quirks now. I like that I am an open book, brutally honest; an over sharer. I believe this is why my friends turn to me for advice. There will never be judgment. Every Tinder text exchange, rash, odd bodily fluid, and embarrassing sex story (So, we were doing it from behind and it accidentally went in the wrong hole) will be dissected and celebrated. Always with tears of laughter and a good Pinot.
I apologized for everything in my youth. God forbid anyone was mad at me ever, for anything. The middle-aged me does not apologize unless I have been an asshole. I will not apologize that I have an unhealthy obsession with Nicolas Cage. I will not be sorry about reading the left page of any book to my toddler so our bedtime routine is over sooner. Nor will I say sorry for spending time and money to take a trip with my best friends every year until I die. Or until our spouses die and we all move back in together like the Golden Girls. And I will be Blanche. And I will not apologize for getting my cowgirl on with men in nursing homes. All of the men.
I take more risks now. Playing it safe does not work for me anymore. I have started writing. I signed up for my first marathon. Even if, at a race last summer, a man in his 60’s passed me as I was running (wearing an ‘Ask me about Race Walking’ shirt). I will NOT be deterred.
Now, I walk around naked in front of my husband. In my youth, this was rare, like a pygmy hippo sighting. I would have been so worried what he was thinking, can he see that dimple on my ass, and do I look fat? Do you want to know what he is thinking? THERE IS A NAKED WOMAN IN THE ROOM. LET’S HAVE SEX. So we do. And neither of us is thinking about that dimple.
I have also become more selfish and protective of my time. I know its worth. An exchange with my 11 year old daughter last week defines my fabulous, 41 year old self.
Her: “Mommy, I need you to make a dessert for my class party.”
Me: “I will gladly pick something up from the grocery store in the morning.”
Her: “But…but mom, all of the other moms are making a dessert.”
Me: “That’s awesome; I work full time and have three kids. I don’t have time right now.”
Her: “REALLY MOTHER, you are watching TV.”
Me: “Excellent observation. And my hope for you is that someday you recognize what is really important in life. For me at this moment, it is The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Also, please go get me a glass of wine.”
Finally, I take things less seriously. I have been around this Earth long enough to have seen horrible tragedies happen to good people. I have sat with people my age who have lost a spouse, fought cancer, and buried their child. This heartbreak gives you laser focus on what is really important. Last week, my 9 year old son shouts to me, “Moooooom, Gavin pooped on the kitchen floor.” Sigh, potty training fail. But then, “Never mind, the dog just ate it.”
Problem solved. And I didn’t even need to put down my wine glass.