Redefining 40

A friend’s Facebook status recently complained about the unflattering lighting in a department store making the experience of bathing suit shopping even worse than normal. I agreed wholeheartedly with this status. However, the status also included the statement that “women over 40 have enough problems.” This touched a nerve for me as a woman over 40. I am not defined by my age and feel just as attractive now as I did in my twenties and have been told I am actually prettier now. I also work hard to stay in shape and not  let gravity take over.

Most women’s bodies are flawed whether or not they have reached 40 years old, and bathing suits accentuate all flaws: cellulite, varicose veins, extra flab, lack of curves, flat chest etc. it’s not mutually exclusive to the over 40 set. I feel like the addition of this statement by my friend helps perpetuate the belief that turning 40 is something to dread. Like a woman loses her appeal once she hits that age. If we are lucky, we are all going to age. But letting ourselves be defined by our age and how society expects us to look, using the excuse, “I’m over 40. Of course I’m out of shape”; “I can’t be sexy, I’m a mom over 40!”, can lead to a self-fulfilling prophesy where we become “old” when we say goodbye to our 30s. Instead, I propose we focus on some positives:

So our faces don’t have a youthful innocence, instead they have the sophistication and sexiness of a woman who knows where she’s been, who she is and where she’s going. And seriously, moisturizer, sun block and sometimes plain old good genes go a long way to keeping ones face from aging before its time. So does a youthful spirit and a great sense of humor!

So we don’t have the metabolism of a girl under 30 who might be able to eat anything she wants, not exercise, and not gain weight. We know the importance of eating healthy and exercising for health and maintaining our shape into our 50s and beyond. We know the importance of moisturizing our skin and limiting exposure to the sun to keep our skin as wrinkle free as possible.

We don’t get old as soon as we hit 40 nor must we look it. Yes, we might start to experience changes in our bodies but not necessarily at that age. Regardless, if we complain about being a certain age, we are inviting others to feel like we are somehow less than someone younger. If we embrace getting older without giving in to stereotypes associated with it, we will give our younger sisters something to look forward to. Perhaps “looking forward” is too optimistic, but at least we can give them less to fear/dread.

I choose to be a positive example of how 40 can look!

My 4th novel focuses on a single woman as she lives through the last year in her 30s. She’s concerned with the stigma associated with turning 40 and fearful that she will be seen differently at that age and that she will wake up matronly and dried up on her 40th birthday.  I’m excited to publish this novel because it portrays women of this age in a more positive, and in my experience, realistic light than many books out there. My character is youthful, attractive and fun loving, she hasn’t been married yet,  and she is inspired by me and my friends and every bit “real.” Although the book is about a 39 year old woman, the story is relatable to women of all ages – anyone who has wondered if she’s wasted time, if she’s where she hoped she’d be in life by a certain age, if her life is moving in the desired direction. The book won’t be published until late 2014 or early 2015 but if you are looking for a novel featuring a “young” 40 year old in the meantime, I recommend the following:

Thank You for Flying Air Zoe by Erik Atwell

What Nora Knew by Linda Yellin

What the Dog Ate by Jackie Bouchard

Life’s a Beach by Claire Cook

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Comments

  1. Oh Meredith, your post really hits home with me. As a woman more than a few years over 40, (OK, I’m 49) I find myself getting upset lately when my friends talk about how their bodies are going to hell and all that. Because age is just age. It happens to everyone–we’re all getting older by the second. And sure, that can be depressing if we think about “the end” and all that, but that’s a whole different topic. In the meantime, I think it’d be better if we could all embrace the bodies we have and be thankful we have them. Of course, eating well and exercising are all important–who wants to feel unhealthy?–but there are certain things we just can’t control, so hey. Extra weight, wrinkles, varicose veins, cellulite, whatever. They’re part of the package, and what’s important is what’s inside. Thanks for this post! I’m looking forward to your new novel!

    • That is all true and I’m so happy the post spoke to you. My point is that it’s not as if 40 is a magical age at which time the shit hits the fan so to speak. I know many women over 40 who look significantly better than women under 30 in bathing suits! The stigma associated with women even over 35 bothers me because it’s not necessarily accurate – it depends on the person.

      • Absolutely, Meredith! That is true, although it can also be argued that all women are beautiful at all ages. But I know many women who are healthier and more fit after 40 than they were in their 20s and 30s.

      • Absolutely! Women are beautiful – period. And I’m certainly not knocking women under 40 or women who aren’t in shape etc. I am just sensitive to the generalizations made about women as they age not being as sexy/appealing on the outside when it’s simply not true and I feel like women who succumb to these generalizations make it harder for others to keep positive and happy about themselves as they age.

  2. Oh, and BTW, you set a great example for woman over 40!

  3. Thank you for this post, Meredith!!! I couldn’t agree more with everything you said. I feel better than ever at 45! I have a great role model too. My mom is 66 and yeah, she has a few wrinkles, but she’s gorgeous. I think it’s because she loves life. She’s always happy, doesn’t let little things bother her, is fun, kind, enjoys exercising, and finds great fulfillment in her job as a nurse, which she has no immediate plans to retire from. I want to be her when I grow up… but that’s a long way off! 😉

    • Thanks so much for commenting, Patricia. So happy you liked my post. Your mom certainly does sound like an inspiration and a terrific role model for all women! XOXO.

  4. Meredith, I hope my comments don’t come across as argumentative, and I’m not trying to hijack your blog either. I agree with everything you say about 40 not meaning that the shit will hit the fan or anything like that. If anything, I’m hyper sensitive to anything that relates to age and body image these days–could that be because of my ED history and the fact that I’m turning 50 soon? :) So I’m sorry if I seem to be disagreeing with you. Lately I’m trying to embrace the expression, “Want a bikini body? Then put a bikini on your body.” Because that’s the way I think it should be, for women of all ages. But I’ve got tons of baggage from adolescence and all that, so it’s not always easy for me to practice what I preach. Your post makes some great points, and I believe all the things you say about 40 also relate to 50, and 60, and every other decade.

    • Absolutely no worries, Mary! I didn’t think that at all. I’m also super sensitive, particularly about stereotypes about aging – most likely because I haven’t found “the one” yet and don’t like the idea that people might not see me as a “catch” for no other reason except that I have crossed over my 30s. So, believe me, I understand. I do love your philosophy and hope to practice it as well. XOXO.

  5. Ooh, I’m with you on this! I’m 48 but about 18 in the membrane. Okay, 28, let’s say. (I was stupid at 18.) I don’t know one woman in her 40s who doesn’t feel stronger, better, happier, and more confident than she did in her 20s–we really come into our own in our fifth decade. As for writing, all my characters are in their mid- to late 30s, and I make no apologies for that. Lately I’ve been having a problem reading books with main characters who think their life is over at 29. I’m looking forward to writing a book with a main character in her 40s! Soon…

    • I will have to read one of your books – I still enjoy books with younger characters but, yeah, I snort when they complain about being spinsters because they aren’t married at the ripe old age of 28. Thanks for commenting!

  6. Loved the post, Meredith! I look forward to reading your upcoming book. With all the New Adult fiction that’s raging right now, I think we could use more stories about women in their forties and above. I aspire to address that as well. :)

    • Thanks Shelly! My new novel is still about a girl in her 30s but she does turn 40 at the end – and, *gasp*, she is still the same person at 40 that she was at 39 only a tiny bit wiser :)

  7. This is everything that I want to say!! Just because I’m 43 doesn’t mean I’m old…I think I’m enjoying my 40’s more than I did my 20’s quite honestly. I have it together now and life is beautiful!

    • I had no idea that you were even 40, Michelle, not that it matters. But I can see how much you enjoy life and it’s inspiring. Glad that my post said what you would have wanted to say :)

  8. Great post! I’m turning 40 in less than a month and couldn’t be more happy. I could never relate to women who not only dread turning “The Big 4-0″ but also don’t like admitting their age. I think I look better and know I feel better than I did in my 20s. With everything in life, you have to balance things. You can’t eat junk all day and then blame your weight on your age. You can’t neglect your skin and then blame all of your wrinkles on age. The moral of this story is … treat your body well and it will reflect that.

  9. Such a fab post, Meredith! I’m not yet 40, but will be there soon, but even still, I can relate to this post so much. I was just talking to my best friend about those pesky negative thoughts and we agreed that positive affirming texts were in order! It’s hard not to get caught up in what the media and people in general view we should be/look like/feel/etc. This post reminds us to be ourselves – because really, what could be more beautiful! :-)

    • Thanks, Heather. I have to purposely avoid certain aspects of the media to avoid the negativity and agree that positive affirmations in any form are very helpful. I’m glad you liked my post!

  10. Love this post and can’t wait to read this post.. I know I will so relate. I turned 40 in November. I was a wreck leading up to my birthday. Friends who were over 40 told me that I was approaching the best time of my life. Now I am starting to believe them. But I still think in November I will opt to celebrate the 1st anniversary of my 40th ;)

    • Haha! Yeah, it’s a hard number to swallow no matter how good you feel/look. I have to consciously remain positive about it and remind myself that age really is just a number. It’s not easy.

  11. YES!
    I feel I’ve found a soul sister. Yes. I feel the same way.
    You nailed it when you used the word “define” because that’s what it’s all about. We can’t stop time, but we can absolutely choose to be positive about it.

    I ignore people who have rules about what is age appropriate. Think about it. That’s exactly how trends occur in the first place. Someone has the balls to be inappropriate, to go against the critics. Then others follow, and then more until it’s the norm. Critics then have to re-evaluate. There was a time it was once scandalous for women to color their hair. To wear pants.

    Yesterday I posted a pic of a 91-year-old woman who had run a marathon. She looks 60, tops. I am am taking extra good care of myself because I, too, plan on redefining what it means to be 43, 50, 60, 70 and on. We may not even be middle aged yet. I work out a lot. I watch what I eat. Is my body perfect? Of course not, but at my age…I don’t care. Talk about freedom. So many women in their 20s haven’t come to realize their own power yet.

    From a sexual perspective, look at all of the sultry stars in their 40s, 50s and beyond. Gwyneth Paltrow (healthy cooking yoga queen) looks amazing. Halle Berry still rocks a bikini harder than 90 percent of American women in their 20s. How sexy is Diane Lane? Smokin’ hot without looking like she’s even trying.

    The list goes on. Jennifer Aniston, Naomi Watts, Julia Roberts, Salma Hayek, Sandra Bullock, Julianne Moore is in her 50s. Jane Fonda now? Sure, this women can afford personal trainers, but still. They can’t pay people to exercise for them. They sweat like everybody else.

    Didn’t mean to soap-box you there. True sign of a powerful blog post, right? You’ve got me going now. ;-)

  12. I can’t wait to read this book, Meredith! I know you’re going to capture this milestone age in a refreshing, reflective way. Your readers are going to love this.

  13. Great post, Meredith, with some much needed reminders. And I must add, you don’t look over forty! Gotta be the healthy attitude. :)

  14. Surprise! Here I am again in your comment section – this time to thank you for adding this link to the Hump Day Blog Hop. Don’t you just love Wednesdays? :)

  15. Sixty is the new forty . . . isn’t that what they say.( Please say yes). I loved your post. The good news for me is that I’ve never been in the greatest of shape – always extra pounds – so getting older the plus is a few pounds keep the wrinkles off your face. At forty I was just a few years into my relationship with my true love. It was a wonderful time for me. But every year, every decade is grand. Turning sixty and having just become a widow I felt really old. Then I refused to let it define me. Your post is what we need at any age – thanks for writing it!

    • You’re so welcome – I’m glad you liked the post. I’m so sorry you lost your husband so young. I agree that having a few extra pounds is much better on the skin as we age. I’ve always tried so hard to stay thin, but at this point, I’d rather put on an extra 5 pounds and keep my youthful skin than fight to get “skinny” and have a saggy face! And, yes, sixty is the new forty :)

  16. I also write romances and women’s fiction about women at that transitional age between youth and middle age because – well, I write what I know ;) The fact is, there are certain advantages to being forty, just as I’m sure that the fifties, sixties, and so on have their own charms. And once you get there, you realize it isn’t as big of a deal as you thought because everyone else is getting old right along with you.

    • You’re so right, Lori – every decade has its own charms. Aging is inevitable if you want to live a long life and, of course, things change and not always for the better, but I get very upset when I hear people only emphasize the negatives.

      • Yeah, I mean, I wouldn’t want to go back to my twenties even if I could. Weren’t we all idiots then, or was that just me? But the real problem, of course, is that we’re women, and we spend our whole lives being told that we must be young and beautiful to have worth. I seriously doubt that men are spending so much time worrying themselves about the downsides of being middle-aged.

      • I was absolutely an idiot too! And, honestly, I was less attractive in my 20s than I am now because I didn’t know how to dress/apply makeup. In hindsight, I should have skipped the makeup since I didn’t need any then…And, no, men probably don’t worry about this stuff as much. Probably because they can date twenty-something woman without being called a “cougar” unlike females…

      • I am totally prepared to slap in the face anyone who ever even dreams of calling me a cougar! I hate that term – the predatory implications of it are simply disgusting. I’ve certainly discovered that there are plenty of young men who are into older women, so why should we get the blame if they want to date us?

      • I agree. Each time I’ve dated someone younger than me, it was because he pursued me; not the other way around. I dated a man 9 years older than me and no one said a word. I dated a man 6 years younger than me and was getting high-fives. It really pissed me off. Six years is nothing when two people are grown-ups. It bothers me still!

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