Turning 40

Posted on | December 13, 2017 | 1 Comment

Yesterday, I had a cardiologist appointment.

Luckily, everything is fine and I can continue living in blissful ignorance of whether or not my heart is beating. But as I sat in the waiting room, populated with people who seemed much older than me, one thing loomed over me like a black cloud.

There on the paper in front of me, in stark black and white, it requested that I list my age, and for the first time in my whole entire life, I had to write in the number “40.”

As if it weren’t bad enough that I was at a cardiologist. As if it weren’t hard enough to be running on no sleep thanks to a habitually sick baby. As if it just weren’t tough enough being alive and forty… I had to see in on paper.

The thing is, I know it’s just a number. I don’t feel any different than I did last week when I was still in my thirties. I don’t really feel any different than I did ten years ago when I left my twenties. It’s just a number.

Only… it isn’t.

We prize youth so much in our culture. We put it up on a pedestal and celebrate it with advertisements and cosmetics and everything geared toward making most especially women look younger. Sporting wrinkles, showing spare tires, feeling the brush of thigh against thigh, placing reading glasses in pockets? These things are hidden. Tucked and pulled and pressed and injected to disappear, to be eliminated, to be covered up with “Anti-Aging creams and lotions.”

Know who doesn’t slather on anti-aging cream?

Men.

But somehow growing old as a woman is like growing obsolete. It’s like being told to move to the back and let the 20 year olds shine. Our beauty is not celebrated unless it is celebrated for looking younger than we are. No one looks at a woman over 40 and says “Oh you look gorgeous!” unless they follow it up with “You don’t look 40 at all!” Or 50. Or 60. Or 70. Or whatever age we are that is past the point of society’s acceptance of beauty.

Turning 40 as a woman in America feels like the end of being beautiful. It feels like the end of being accepted into a particular club of women you never knew you wanted to join.

I don’t feel older, make no mistake. I feel the same as I did twenty years ago.

What I feel is somehow…. disenfranchised from being a woman. Like I’ve graduated into being just old… not female… not a woman… just… old.

And it stings.

Especially when I stare at 40 on the intake sheet at a cardiologist.

Comments

One Response to “Turning 40”

  1. Lola M.
    December 31st, 2017 @ 3:25 pm

    I want to reassure you about a couple of things: 1. At about 45 you will inexplicably cease to care about what others think and will even find yourself telling them so in no uncertain terms. 2.You will greet 50 with a fist pump and a second wind. 🙂 I am now officially on the other side of 50 and I am loving it so much more. As you traverse your 40s, the only person you may find yourself making comparisons with is your future self … and she rocks! 🙂 So, the next time you fill out a form with your new fantastically elegant age, write it in and put a big, fat smiley face next to it! And when someone says with surprise that you don’t look your age, say thanks while trying to wipe the smirk off your wickedly sweet young face.

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