I dreaded turning 40. In my recent memory, I haven’t actually reacted to a number so violently and with such trepidation! All those stupid tombstone cake toppers, all those black shirts with pathetic hills on them–was that really going to be me, me who still feels like she did when she was “young and alive” (and presumably all those adjectives 40-somethings DON’T feel anymore?!
Elvis and I share a birthday. That has usually come in handy for me–free stuff at Chuy’s restaurants, funny comments about him all my life, even friends remembering it’s my birthday when they hear on the radio (back when we all listened to it) that they were celebrating Elvis’ whatever-age since “today was his birthday” (which means it’s Katie’s, too!)!!
This is what’s happened just before and right after January 8, 2020:
My hair started falling out. Like for real. In clumps. So that….wait for it. The end result looks something like a witch on a broom. Stringy, thin and brittle. And, there it is. My mother’s voice in my head: “Wear your hair long, Katie until you turn 40. Then, cut it. No one’s hair looks pretty after 40.”
Random (young) people start saying “yes ma’am.” Grocery store checkers. Target employees. Gas station attendants selling me gum and a Diet Coke. I’d look back at them, confused. But, saddest part: they didn’t look confused. They looked proud to be giving me deference, respect, having nice manners. Sheesh. It’s me, not them. Damn.
“No need to see your ID, thanks…[ma’am].” As I’m reaching into my purse for my driver’s license, this is what I hear. More than once. Now, just a mere few months into this 40s game, I’ve stopped reaching for it altogether.
Cardigans have started looking super cute. You know, the kind your grandmother wears. The soft, cashmere, button-up style that I used to LOATHE. Oh no, I find myself stuck to them in catalogs, on mannequins, wondering if “maybe that would look cute with a little white shirt and some sneakers.” Oh. My. Lord.
My grandmother-when we were all very little, like sprites in a fairy forest-would tell us to that “beauty must suffer.” In other words, remember girls, when you age. Looking good takes effort, takes real, of the earth, suffering. Bras. Spanx. Control-top everythings. Botox. Implants. Heels…high ones. Lots of makeup, good overnight creams. Exercise, sit-ups, squats, kegels, planks for hours, no real dairy anymore, no sugar, cut back on the dinner rolls (“Or you’ll have a bakery of rolls right over your jeans.”), cut the fat, and for sure, for the love of all that’s holy, you must cut back on the alcohol. WHAT IN THE HELL.
There’s an interior furnace that starts firing. It comes from deep within my bones and makes my entire body, my whole being, feel like it’s burning to cinders. This is pre-menopause, I’m told. Yep. That’s joined the fun, too. You start to sweat (not glow or perspire, like I was taught “real ladies” do). I’m talking pouring salty sweat, soaking the bra kind of heat. It’s a wave of heat that buckles your knees and makes your pretty eyeliner you worked so damn hard on to NOT run, slide down your face like Goth lava. And then, just like that, just like it was a terrible 32 second dream…it’s over. Normal. Everyone else is exactly as they were before this horrible heat flash. Except for me. I’m a sopping mess who’s now (believe it or not) actually COLD from all the wet clothes and feeling quite like a drowned rat with bad makeup on.
And then. Icing on the cake. Y’all, seriously. Two weeks TO THE DAY of turning 40. Two weeks, Katie. Not much practice at being 40-something, I get it. But, honestly? I couldn’t have given it a running shot, at least? This happens (in order, so follow it closely):
Have I really just gone up and over that god-forsaken hill? Am I really “over it” and now officially “old?” It sure feels that way. It’s daunting and embarrassing and frustrating and laughable. But my health and my one-and-only body are important to me, and they’re vital to my family’s happiness and normalcy. The whole picture has been shaken and turned upside down and reworked simply because I hurt my knee and can’t walk. My prayers for people who are really suffering, who are terminally ill, who are forever paralyzed, who are shattered and broken and hurting and alone–my prayers and heart felt blessings on them have increased in quantity and quality because of this new appreciation for Ability and Limitless Energy.
Winston Churchill is one of my all time favorites. For lots of things, really. But especially for his very quotable quotes. I have a fridge covered in those silly magnets. Like many moments in life, I find myself thinking of something he said. And it makes me laugh (as many of his quotes do) but it also makes me pause. That, yep, 40 is feeling differently than 35, but I’m alive and I’m blessed and dammit, 41 is BOUND TO BE AWESOME.
“Never give up on something that you can’t go a day without thinking about.” ―Winston Churchill