Here's what I learned last week on my 40th birthday: you can dread that particular milestone all you want, but it's going to happen whether you like it or not. Assuming you're lucky enough to live that long, that is.
There was a time when 40 seemed absolutely ancient to me, and it's still a number that holds a non-trivial amount of weight. I mean, Justin Bieber, a legal adult, has a mother who is three years younger than me. Nixon was president when I was born, and gas cost $0.53 a gallon. I've been too old to apply to be on The Real World for TWO DECADES.
Aside from my reluctance to permanently retire my spring-chicken status, I thought I had a pretty good idea about what life would be like when I hit the big 4-0. As it turns out -- at least so far, one week into my fortieth year -- I was wrong about almost everything.
I'll feel old. Ehh, not really. Sometimes I feel a little lame, in that I lead a very non-rockstar lifestyle and I'm often trundling off to bed at 9:30, but physically I feel great. Thanks to a relatively late-in-life fitness interest, I'm in way better shape than I was 20 years ago -- even if my knees do make a freaky Pop Rocks sound whenever I bend them.
I'll definitely look old. Well, not quite in the way I had assumed. I definitely have more wrinkles than I used to, and my skin is slowly but surely losing its elasticity, but what I really notice is that the older I get, the more tired I appear to be. My entire makeup routine these days is less about glamour and more about restoring my face to a look that doesn't scream, "SPEAK SLOWLY FOR I HAVE JUST BEEN ROUSED FROM A MEDICAL COMA."
I totally won't do that thing where you talk about how everyone is so goddamned young, bunch of whippersnappers. Except when I meet a new pediatrician and I swear she must have graduated last year and the TV is blatting about how Bode Miller is the oldest alpine skier to ever win an Olympic medal and I'm like wait what do they mean oldest ever isn't he in his 30s? and I can't deal with that Lorde song because come on what does she know about Grey Goose she's practically a fetus.
I'll have written a book.
I'll wear those super high-waisted pleated mom jeans, like in the SNL skit. Shit no. Although I can't do the ultra-ultra-low-rise style anymore. Because of reasons.
I won't get zits anymore. Au contraire, Pierre.
I'll be attracted to the same type of guys I always was. Not at all. For instance, somewhere along the line, graying beards became the hottest things on the planet to me. It's not like I don't appreciate, say, that hunky Chiclet-toothed young dude who plays Four in Divergent, but give me Christoph Waltz and Eric Bana any day.
Mmmmff. Mama likey.
I'll feel, once and for all, like a grownup. Oh god no. You know that weird feeling you had when you left the hospital with your newborn baby and you were like, Holy fuck I cannot even believe they're just letting me take this tiny helpless infant home with me? I feel like that ALL THE TIME. Not that I'm out stealing random babies or whatever, but I can't wrap my head around the idea that I'm a real adult who participates in parent-teacher conferences and takes multivitamins and pays into two different college funds and has an actual no-shit legal tender last will and testament.
I'll have a traditionally successful career, thanks to years of honing my skills and experience. I pictured that I'd have spent all this time climbing the corporate ladder to a high-paying senior position of some kind. Corner office, swanky perks, the full deal. In reality, I work from home where I scrape together a variety of freelance jobs to earn about the same salary I was paid in 2002. It's not quite what I imagined I'd be doing ... but as a parent of two young school-age kids, it's truly the best work situation I could possibly hope for.
I'll have finally matured past the socially awkward stage.
Have you hit 40 yet? Is it different than you imagined?
Image via Linda Sharps