Musings of a forty-something

Until recently, I was loath to confess I was a “forty-something.” I preferred that people make their own assumptions of how old I was based on how old I looked which, I’ve been told enough to believe, is probably a decade younger than I am. Perhaps this email is an example of that “go-with-the-flow” and “I don’t-care-what-people-think” attitude those who’ve gone before me promised was one of the benefits of entering this decade.

In many respects, my life is more similar to younger women in that I am unmarried with no children. This means I can take vacations whenever I want, spend my money how I please, sleep in on the weekends or stay out all night, date anyone I want or no one at all etc. and it’s no one’s decision but my own. But while my life might resemble a twenty-somethings on the outside, below are a few issues with which I never concerned myself back then, but do now Ad Nauseum:

The impending “change of life”

In my twenties and thirties, “menopause” never entered into conversation unless we were talking about our mothers. My mother was in her fifties when she went through it, and my older sister is a couple years shy of fifty and still gets her period. Since I generally have regular cycles myself and am still closer to my thirties than my fifties, menopause was one of the few things I didn’t fret over when I turned forty. Yet, women only a year or two older (and even younger) than me talk about “the change” as if it’s going to happen next month. They throw around the phrase “perimenopause” (another word I never heard until turning forty) around the way we said “happy hour” in our twenties. Now, if my cycle is a couple of days early or my PMS worse/better than the month before, I freak out, wondering if it’s perimenopause. These same fluctuations never bothered me before.

Fifty-year-old men

In my early-mid-twenties, I had a flirtation with a thirty-year-old man and remember thinking he was so old—way too old for me. And in my late twenties, when one of my friends dated a guy who was pushing forty, we thought she was crazy. I remember thinking “no way!” when “older men” sent me emails on dating sites. Even now, my first impulse when a man of fifty approaches me is to grimace and think, “He’s too old!” I’m struggling with the realization that fifty is not too old because I’m not as young as I used to be! Part of it is that I look younger than my age while most of the available single men I’ve met of fifty look fifty (or older). It makes me feel like I’m dating my dad. (None look as good as the cute guy on the Our Time commercial or Fitz on Scandal!) But another part of it is denial that I’m actually not in my twenties or thirties anymore. Being in my forties doesn’t mean I can’t date men in their thirties, but it probably means I should at least be open to meeting a man in his early fifties, too.

Health

I used to blow off small ailments on the assumption they would pass quickly. When I told my hair stylist I had to stop for a snack on my way to my appointment because I was experiencing hypoglycemia, he urged me to check it out with a doctor because as we get older, we can’t take minor things lightly anymore. I told him I’d been experiencing occasional episodes of hypoglycemia for years so it wasn’t age. “Still,” he said. ”We’re no spring chickens anymore!” (He’s a few years older than me.) I replied defensively, “I’m not old either!” But it did strike a nerve. Between my many friends, someone is almost always experiencing some sort of health ailment. When we’re out to dinner, sharing great food and wine, the conversation will often turn to health problems and I’ll think, “There is no way we’d be having this conversation ten years ago!”

Spinsterhood

I was inspired to write my fourth novel How Do You Know? as a result of my own feelings and fears about turning forty. I wanted to show it from the perspective of a single, never-been-married woman rather than the usual married, separated, or divorced standpoint. Most people loved the book, but several commented (rather passionately) that at thirty-nine (“almost forty!”), Maggie was way too old to be having such insecurities about her relationship and should be more mature and settled. They said they didn’t know anyone who would act that way at thirty-nine (“almost forty!”). Well, despite the fact that most of my friends found me very similar in personality to Stephanie from Just Friends With Benefits, the character of Maggie was closer to me in mindset than any other character I’ve ever written and I was about her age when I wrote the book. I know I’m not supposed to take it personally, but I did feel judged for not being more settled, for wanting to find my own happy ever after, and for choosing my happiness over settling with someone because it better fit societal norms. This kind of judgment is not something I experienced in my twenties or most of my thirties. I want to believe my five nieces and nephews think I’m “cool Aunt Meri” but I do fear they think of me as their spinster aunt even though I have a great social life, including relationships with men, and I don’t own a cat. I could absolutely be in a serious relationship if I wanted it badly enough (I get offers…), but at this point in my life, I hold my happiness above all other things and unless I’m more content with the guy I’m dating than I am without him, I’d rather keep enjoying the freedom. I do hope I meet someone who fits the above criteria and I haven’t given up hope of it happening, but in the meantime, I’m okay.

I’m sure I can come up with additional subject matter that clogs my brain space now that never even entered it ten to fifteen years ago, but I don’t want to depress anyone! Rest assured, some aspects of this decade are actually better. And while I often yearn for my thirties (my favorite decade so far), I actually look better now than I did in my twenties, and am a more interesting and strong person by far.

Maybe for next time, I’ll list things I used to think about in my twenties that no longer cross my mind at all. I’m sure there are plenty and I’m not so old or far removed that I can’t remember them 🙂

Thanks for reading! To return to the FICTION WRITERS BLOG HOP on Julie Valerie’s website, click here: http://www.julievalerie.com/fiction-writers-blog-hop-feb-2016

Advertisements

Comments

  1. Oh, I feel your pain. On the 20th of January, I turned 60 years old. How did I get this old? The 50s was bad enough but when you hit that next number, it’s depressing. All I keep thinking about is the t-shirt I had that said never trust anyone over 30! God almighty, I am now double that! How did that happen? 😦

  2. RedHeadedBookLover says:

    Hi there! I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed this blog post of yours… Not just this one but all of them because they are all equally great.

    I should mention that because of how much I loved this post of yours I had to check out your blog and I couldn’t help but follow you because your blog is both amazing and beautiful. I am so happy I came across your blog and found it because I do really love it and I truly can’t wait to read more from you, so keep it up (:

    P.s. This comment is towards all of your blog posts because they are all equally amazing and incredible, keep up the great work (:

  3. paulinewiles says:

    I identify most with what you said about Health here. Now I’m in my forties, I feel that minor, trifling things seem to take ages to clear up. I caught a cold in New Zealand and it lasted a month… a few years ago I tripped & fell while running, and oh my gosh, it was so different from those knees scrapes as an eight-year-old!
    As for fifty-year-old men, I’m more shocked by how young everyone around me seems, and yet they already have multiple kids and parental responsibilities! Inside, I’m sure I still feel twenty-eight, and that’s why I’m permanently surprised that there’s a whole new generation behind me.
    But, happily, for the change of life, as someone who’s childless by choice I’m basically not giving it another thought. Too busy having fun, or at least making lists about having fun 😉

    • I feel the same way about the generation behind me. It’s actually two generations. We’re X and then there was Y and the Millennials – sheesh – how did that happen? I hope the change of life takes as long as possible to get to me! I’m not looking to have kids either, but I like knowing I’m young enough to have them 🙂

  4. Oh, Meredith! I’m writing this comment on my birthday so I feel your pain! I’m trying to keep my head on straight today but the truth is: All I can think about is the many things I wish I’d have had done by now. (Oh, my! Look at the verbs in that last sentence. Present perfect past participle verbal phrasal something. Ask Sam.) Maybe that verb tense (whatever it actually is) describes US now that we’re getting older and not in our twenties anymore. We’re women who have had done things in our past and who’ve had since have done back then past participle. Something.

    Oh, I don’t know.

    Ask Sam!

  5. I hit “21 again” in a few weeks. I just try to look at it as “so much lived, so much learned”. There are things I hate about being in my forties (health!), but I wouldn’t be 18 again for quids.

    • I wouldn’t want to be 18 again either, but I would take 30 🙂 So far, so good with respect to health (fingers crossed) but I hate the fear of the other shoe dropping now that I’ve crossed the 40 threshold.

  6. It’s strange how fixating on our age can do a number on us. I don’t remember my fortieth birthday bothering me that much–maybe it’s just my poor memory. Haha! But I’ll be turning 48 in a couple more months, and being that close to 50 is really freaking me out! I’m trying not to let it. It’s just a number, after all. But I still have days when I think to myself, “My husband is 51! How the hell did that happen?” Just goes to show you no matter how old we get, we always feel like we’re a certain age in our minds. But yes, I can relate to the many issues you mentioned, especially the health issues, specifically the perimenopause stuff. Ugh. Just trying to go with the flow at this point. 😉 Great post, Meredith!

    • 30 didn’t bother me but 40 sure did – mostly because I’m not married yet and feel a stigma I didn’t notice at 30. I loved your “go with the flow” pun 🙂 I don’t have any real health issues yet and regular periods (knock wood) but I am so sick of people saying “any day now” just because I’ve hit my 40s and turning everything into an age thing. Sometimes it has nothing to do with age. It’s the generalization that bothers me the most, to be honest. Thanks for stopping by!

  7. Hi Meredith. It’s funny how we categorize people by age, marital status, if they have children (and if they don’t, what’s wrong with them), their looks, when we should be looking at their personality – are they funny, witty, morose, or whatever. We should be asking if they make me feel good when I’m around them and do I do the same for them,Aging is something we can’t control – whether it’s wrinkles, health issues, or whatever. All we can do is take the best care of ourselves that we can, and stop fretting about the inevitable. I will be 69 in a little over a month. I am a healthy, active senior and I’m fine with that. Would I like to go back to my 40’s? Well, I’d love to have my 40 year old body, but I’m happy with my 69 year old self. Turning 40 used to be “over-the- hill,” but now days as people are living longer, more people are thinking of 50 that way. I long ago decided that was a negative view of life, to think after an arbitrary age, you are on a downhill slide. I’ve chosen to think of each age as a badge I’ve earned as I continue the uphill road in life.

  8. I had a hard time when I hit 40 – somehow I had always felt like it was okay when I was in my 30’s cause I was still pretty close to my 20’s – but when I hit forty it was like ‘OMG next l’ll be 50!!!” But in the end, as long as we’re in good health that’s all that matters 🙂 Besides I’m still 20 in my head 😀

  9. Love this post, and your honesty. And trust me, 40 is still young. (I’m older than you and still run in the mountains all summer and act like a kid, hee, hee). Perceptions can be strange and outdated, as you mentioned in reaction to your almost-forty novel character. There’s this myth that older, unmarried women are hungry and desperate for a man (pleeeassee!). I lived in a very small town a few years ago, and whenever I chatted with a married man his wife would suddenly appear by his elbow, as if to snatch him back, and I always wanted to cry out, “Do you think I want your fat, balding, out-of-shape husband? Do you really think I’m that frigging desperate?”
    In my opinion, getting old is a luxury. We’ve all earned our age. We’ve worked and lived for it. So honey, enjoy your 40s. Trust me: It just keeps getting better and better.

  10. Excellent post 🙂 I never have an issue saying my age. I look younger than I am and find that people tend to think I’m naive because of it, so I would rather they know. Enjoy your 40s. You’ll rock it 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: