Sunday, January 27, 2013

40 Is the New Awesome

I have a younger male friend who has recently (and graciously) been acting you know, maybe just a tad crushy on me.  He just broke up with his 20 year old girlfriend, and I think he’s doing a little compare-and-contrast business and has come to the conclusion that I’m kinda awesome.

(Yes, you can read by the radioactive glow of my ego.)
But honestly? I’d better be.

I’ve been around for literally twice as long as she has.  If I haven’t done something with that time to make myself more interesting, more generally awesome, then shame on me.

Twenty years ago, I graduated from college.  Since then, I have moved nine times.  Travelled abroad.  Worked abroad.  Learned, forgotten, and re-learned a foreign language. Started four—no, five?—graduate programs.  Finished one.  Changed careers really, honestly, too many times to count.  Had two children.  Also two marriages, two divorces, and a handful of lovers in between.  Buried pets, grandparents, and hatchets.  Gained, lost, gained, and lost more weight than I care to think about.  Survived (barely) one nightmarish fugue of post-partum depression and years of paralyzing anxiety and panic.  Learned to scuba dive.  Developed a pathological fear of scuba diving.  And heights, closed spaces, and bridges.  Got over a pathological fear of spiders.   Learned to knit, garden, make my own soap, teach yoga, say I’m sorry, stand up for myself, control (mostly) my temper, and allow myself to be happy.

One thing I have not done is gotten my nose pierced (navel, yes, at 25).  I have wanted to pierce my nose since high school, but there’s always been some compelling reason not to (a series of prohibitive jobs, followed by a series of young children who could not be trusted not to rip it out, plus, my ex-husband was decidedly anti-nose-ring).
The other day, I realized that those reasons no longer exist.  The husband, as I’ve mentioned, has assumed a different role in my life.  The children are old enough that they no longer probe my nostrils as I try to rock them to sleep (trust me, all ye doubtful parents in the throes of toddler-raising—one day you will miss that).  And my job is relaxed enough that a nose ring wouldn’t really cause any trouble.

I decided to ask my kids what they thought about it.  Not because I need their approval, but because they’ve been through a lot recently with the divorce, and I try to minimize the upheaval. 
My older daughter said, “Mom, you’re not 18 anymore, so you should really stop trying to act like it.”

All I could do was laugh.
“Eighteen?  You couldn’t pay me enough to go back to 18.”

This was not the reaction she was hoping for.
A good friend of mine (who is also 40) told me I needed to read the Twilight series.  “It’s amazing,” she said, “The author really makes you remember what it felt like to be 17.”

“So it’s a horror story?”  I asked.
Don’t get me wrong—do I wish I had the gravity-defying ass I did 20 years ago?  Hell, yes.  I wish my belly were more ab, less flab.  I wish my boobs were perky.  I wish my hair weren’t 80% grey and I didn’t have that hideous crease in my brow that my ex so accurately termed the Goddamnit it, kids! wrinkle.  I wish that my memory were...wait, what was I saying?  I wish the first thing I notice when I wake up wasn’t the pain in my back.  I wish I had the energy of a 20 year old (I’ll keep the libido of a 35 year old, though, thank you very much).  I wish I wore 40 even half as well as the oddly Dorian Gray-ish Courtney Cox.

I suppose the ideal would be to have both--the dewy flower of youth as well as the fruits of age.  But sparkly vampires and airbrushed cougars aside, that simply isn't possible.  And no amount of younger-hotter-sharper-quicker would be worth the trade if I had to give up two decades’ worth of experience, compassion, and wisdom.

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