Turning 40 isn’t as bad as they say

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Much press and sitcom angst is given to turning 30. Popular expression would have us believe turning 30 is the social and personal equivalent of having one foot in the grave, your best years behind you, and no hope of ever looking cute again. To this I say, drivel.

Stages. While my 20s were a time of great memories, great times and great personal growth, I can’t say I mourned their passing. I said goodbye to my 20s with my sights set firmly on the future.

I was married at 27, had our first child at 28. I turned 30 as we welcomed our second child. I had little time for introspection or obsessing about age spots. My 30s seemed to last about 15, maybe 20, years. This is not because they were bad, dull or overstayed their welcome; just that so much is accomplished during those years I find it hard to believe that was all packed into one decade.

In our 30s we had children and pets and appliances and safe, practical vehicles that didn’t feature turbo chargers or T-tops (but did feature five-point safety harnesses and an alarming number of cheese crackers under the seat).

We had homes that required care and maintenance and, if we were really fortunate, decor that was perhaps slightly above the milk crate, bean bag chairs and anything-cast-off-by-our parents-and-grandparents school of design that had characterized our 20s.

Changes

I started my 30s packing diaper bags and finished them packing lunch boxes. I became a soccer mom, embraced the minivan and figured out I really would rather spend a Friday night on the bleachers than in a nightclub.

Now we reach our 40s. If 30 is supposed to drive a woman to wrinkle cream, I think 40 is supposed to drive her to drink (and possibly, plastic surgery).

Strangely enough I find, more often than not, once we get done saying what we think we are supposed to — that we are bereft as our youth slips away — in truth we are far more excited than we might otherwise let on.

The 40s are a fluid time. Some of us have toddlers, and some of us have grandchildren. A few brave souls have both. Our homes may be nicer, larger, or at the very least, closer to being paid off (knock wood), but we’ve also come to the startling conclusion that we will probably never not be paying for something.

Myth

I’ve decided debt free is more myth than fact. Death and taxes and all that. Some of us have just paid off our own college loans just in time to start paying for the kids. If you’re really fortunate, you are in a higher tax bracket, but then there’s that to complain about.

You may have been able to trade in the wholly responsible kid-hauling vehicle for a cooler car once again. If you are a careful driver you can finally almost afford the insurance on that flashy model too. Ah, maturity, how you save me money.

By our 40s many of us have pretty much resigned ourselves to believing what we were going to be “when I grow up” is pretty much whatever we are now. There is always the potential to reinvent ourselves, but by now we hope it is by choice and not by chance — or force of divorce.

Scare

The 40s are, of course, a time of medical scares and outright issues too. It is the first time many of us face our own mortality — and the need to be more vigilant so our “middle age” doesn’t turn out to have been somewhere around age 22.

As daunting as this can be, it also provides a sense of perspective. There are worse things than not having the waistline, work life or wedding of your dreams. I now know the answer to “does this make my butt look big?” is “yes, definitely.” Somehow I care a whole lot less than I did 10 years ago.

I’m not advocating letting yourself go so much as letting go of the need to obsess about things that are fluid and changeable. When you have seen friends through infertility and cancer — suddenly obsessing about your weight seems not only silly — but selfish.

So far I can honestly say 40 is, overall, fun. I can only speak for myself but in my 40s I am more … confident. As for the drink, there may be some small truth to that. In my 40s I find myself greatly enjoying a better class of wine.

What I most appreciate, however, is less worrying about the state of my skin — and more feeling comfortable in it.

About the Author

Warm, witty and just a wee bit warped, Kymberly Foster Seabolt is a native of Kent, Ohio, who survived childhood exposure to disco and grew up to marry and move to the country. Her column weaves her special brand of humor with poignant, entertaining, and honest portrayals of parenting, marriage, and real life. She currently lives in northeastern Ohio with her husband, two children, two dogs, two cats, and numerous dust bunnies who wish to remain nameless. More Stories by Kymberly Foster Seabolt

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