Age vs. Perception: Turning 39
Today, I turn 39 years old.
I certainly do not feel 39 years old, however.
In fact, I still think of myself as a twenty-something, ultra-cool, disenchanted, “fight-the-power,” feminist badass. I mean, I have a nose ring! I love rock n roll! I’m outspoken! Confident! Heck, sometimes, I’m even witty!
I am also almost a full decade removed from my twenties. Napping is now my preferred “wind-down” activity, rather than partying. I work for “The Man” (this is literally true, being a public school teacher). I often have no idea who half the people on the pages of my People or Entertainment magazines are any longer (leading to me canceling my subscriptions recently). My current car is of the sensible sort, complete with a carseat in the back and a cheerleading bumper sticker on the hatch. I dye my hair now not to “experiment,” but out of gray-covering necessity. I have barely any knowledge of post-1995 popular music. Last year, one of my students was surprised that my third-grade class photo that I brought in for a lesson was printed in color. Good Lord.
To completely obliterate any cool points still hanging out in my queue, I’ll also admit to uttering the following sentences with neither snark nor sarcasm on more than one occasion:
“Music ain’t what it used to be.”
“Kids these days (insert complaint here).”
“It was a different time back when I was a kid.”
“When I was your age, if I (insert annoying action here), I would have gotten in BIG trouble.”
“In MY day, you couldn’t (use a cell phone, talk back to a teacher, etc). That’s just how it was.”
Yeah, I ain’t cool, that’s a fact. But I’ll still go on pretending.
I’ve never read the book I Feel Bad About My Neck: and Other Thoughts on Being a Woman by the late, great Nora Ephron, though it is on my current to-read list. Although I haven’t read it yet, the title of Ephron’s book has resonated with me for quite a while now. Even though Ephron was writing from the perspective of a woman in her sixties, I have heard from a variety of different sources that no matter how youthful a woman appears, the state of her neck can give her age away almost instantly, usually starting in her-gasp-forties. (Sidenote: though seldom brought up, I’m pretty sure this applies to men too. Men do get wrinkly neck, I’ve SEEN it.)
Since I (stupidly) smoked cigarettes for almost 20 years (finally quitting for good in December 2011), I’m pretty sure that my 39-year old skin carries at least some damage from my nicotine-addicted days, as well as from both my carefree, no-sunscreen-outside-in-the-summer lazy days of childhood and a borderline-cruel, über-awkward adolescence. Thus with each passing birthday, as age 40 creeps closer and closer, out of habit, I have begun annually checking my neck to see if like Nora, I feel bad about it yet. This year, I can still breathe easily. So far, still good.
Happy Birthday To Me
Today marks the first day of the last year of my thirties, and what a great fourth decade it has been! (yes, the thirties are a person’s fourth decade, not third. It’s math, peeps!) While the past 9 years have definitely not been perfect, my biggest struggles have, thankfully, ended up being worth the initial suffering.
For instance, Mike and I dealt with a very painful secondary infertility journey for five years of the last nine. The journey itself? Yeah, it sucked. In the end, however, our struggle ended joyfully with the arrival of our second daughter, S2, in 2014. I was 36, and Mike, 38. Now that S2 is here, I wouldn’t change any part of our struggle- the IVF, the frozen transfer, my children’s 8-year age gap, etc. Not for all the fertility in the whole damn world.
Another difficult-experience-with-a-happy-ending I dealt with over the last 9 years was when Mike and I separated, back in January, 2010. I was 32 and he, 33. Thankfully, after a year and a half, we defied the odds and ended up getting back together, without any legalities needing to be filed. We were both able to make significant personality changes that the other needed in order to be able to stay in the marriage, and 6 years later, we are still going strong. Our short martial break definitely helped us strengthen our union, while simultaneously getting the somewhat common “marital mid-life crisis” crap over and done with early on.
So, as I reflect on the past 9 years, admittedly yes, I’m a bit sad to be leaving my 30s in a year’s time. I have grown tremendously as a mother, wife, and person in recent years and exiting this decade of my life will almost be like losing a part of my identity. No longer will I be a “thirty-something,” but instead, a newly-minted “forty-something,” which, to me, is a label that sounds more than just a little terrifying. Unfortunately, as Cher once sang, a person cannot “turn back time.” Therefore, I have exactly one year from today to come to terms with the fact that sooner than later, I’ll be officially, well, “old.”
(And don’t tell me I won’t be old in a year. Ask anyone under 40 if 40 is old, and I guarantee 95% will answer with a rousing “yes.” Including me!)
BUT, as my wise septuagenarian mother-in-law has stated, the alternative of not growing older is worse than just dealing with yet another birthday. So basically, put on your big-girl panties, accept the age that you are, and be happy you’re not dead (She didn’t use those exact words, but the message was similar). And that’s my current plan. What other choice do I have?
But for today, I am still a somewhat-youthful thirty-something, and will remain so for one more trip ’round the sun. For that, I am grateful. Truly.
Happy Birthday to me! My wish this year is that this final year of my thirties ends up being the best year of my thirties. I also wish to continue to feel good about my neck….. for many more years to come (cue the blowing out of 40 candles- that’s 39 for my age, and 1 extra for good luck).