Excuse Me, Age 40, What Did You Just Say to Me?

The original bait and switch

So answer me this, Age 40: How are you supposed to know when you’re a kid that one day you’re going to replace the old people you see around you? And that you’ll someday be the same you but in a very used package?

The part where you right when you start to figure out your life’s work but then get a used, worn-out package to carry out your remaining years is the original bait and switch. I call bullshit on this.

At the ripe old age of 25

I was living in Boston after college (back in the ’80s, cough-cough) with a college friend when she turned 25 a year before I did. She was kind of freaked out by it and looked in the mirror a lot. I really didn’t get that. At the time, that is.

Years went by before I realized I was getting older, but sometime after 40, I was surprised to catch myself in the mirror and notice that my face had changed, damn it all to hell. I’d looked younger than my years for so long that each passing year did little to remind me that another year had passed.

I realize now that I was receiving preferential treatment from the universe.

And like each and every “young” person, I squandered this divine favor. And even though my grandmother assured me at age 19 when I was complaining about looking 15, I did not adequately appreciate that looking young was going to pay off.

Then it snuck up on me

And then it all snuck up on me anyway, and and now that I’m in my 40s, I’m pissed.

I will spare you and me both my sad tale of getting wrinkles, because at the least, I’m glad I’m smarter than I used to be, so that part’s been worth paying for.

I mean, I’m a lot smarter. And that’s a big relief because I was starting to think that there was an inside joke going on around me. The fact is, I just couldn’t get the hang of a few of life’s basics for way too long.

But hey, maybe that’s what was keeping me young, now that I think about it.

While aging continues to have its way with me, I nevertheless manage to forget how old I am (which sometimes explains my behavior, I’m sure). And the thing is, I’ve noticed others who are over 40 do the same thing—they forget their own age.

I’m not the first to say, “Wait, how old am I now?”

Because after 40, just getting the decade right is gracious plenty. It no longer matters where in your 40s you are- you’re just headed to 50 and then, well, for 10 more years it won’t matter much then either because you’re simply in your 50s and can ignore the filler years.

Taking it a decade at a time simplifies the math

Celebrate those birthdays along the decade, have a good time the whole ten years, and voilá, there you are celebrating what you get to call “The Big One” every time a new decade rolls in.

And seriously, if someone really needs your exact age, just hand ’em your driver’s license and let them do the math. It’s just irrelevant until the next “Big One.”

Because knowing exactly how old you are will not help you find your car in a parking lot, but remembering to remember where you parked will help you. And that’s the kind of wisdom that aging brings you. Not always deep, but practical.

Seriously: poof, one day you’re in your 40s

For real, it’s that simple and that sneaky.

You look in the mirror one day and realize you’re using old equipment.

And that the people with the new equipment don’t appreciate it and are running it into the ground.

And that there’s not enough RAM left in your early model brain to remember both how many candles go on your cake…

and what you walked into the kitchen for.

Hey, by the way, here’s the ten-years-later version of this very same tale of aging, which evidently gives a girl a lot to think about every ten years or so.

And what’s more, here’s some wild aging stuff, too, in which I take up pole dancing in my late 50s. Who’d have guessed that about a nice, well mannered, Jane-Austen-reading girl?



20 thoughts on “Excuse Me, Age 40, What Did You Just Say to Me?”

  1. ha ha – that was me 25 years ago! but I don’t remember freaking out/looking in said mirror because next week I turn 50 and I have no memory left! I am definately not delighted in any way about it. And damn it, I’m not even sure I’m any smarter!

    • Cathy— Well, my memory’s a little iffy, too, but I remember wondering then when it was all going to hit me like 25 hit you. Gave me something to think about for the next 15+ years…

      • But Su, I love when my son is talking about somebody and I ask him what age that person is and he responds completely seriously, “I’m not sure, maybe 25 or 40 or 60”.

        • Cathy— That’s funny! My daughter gave me a birthday card this year that said, “At last you’re 29!!” and I laughed my head off and thought, “That girl cracks me up.” Turns out that she really thought that I was 29—what an innocent little sweetheart.

  2. Yes, at some time you lose your card-ability. Hurts the first time you buy booze and no one questions your ability to do so!

    • Beth— I’ve heard that the 50s are a great decade and I am honestly relieved because the 40s have been all over the road. Completely irrational, completely unpredictable, ridiculous emotions, random changes. I could use a more respectful decade, that’s for sure.

  3. Wonders if you ever find yourself deeply and irrevocably possessed of the urge to throttle all those 20-somethings who, with the best of intentions, as if laying diamonds at the feet of the decrepit, believe they speak with authority when lavishing the ever-trite, “I totally thought you were, like, 30!”

    • Kate— Yeah, that’s what my son’s friends say. They can see that I’m a “grown-up” but seem to max out at, like, 30. I think the middle years are lost on them—you’re either in your 20s or the age of their grandparents—as if they’re blind to the road just around the corner.

    • Dawn— When I was around 20, I was blabbering on about looking so young (I was passed off as “12 and under” till I was almost 18), and how my grandmother did it, I don’t know, but she managed to convince me right then that looking young would pay off, to appreciate it, that it was a blessing. Be assured that you likely still look young. Even with the universe and its trickery, you can be glad you’re not the sort who’s always looked older than you are—now that would be cruel in the later years!

  4. You will find that your interest in preserving the function of that old equipment increases with each decade and, like savings, needs to be done regularly. Also, more “Aha!” moments appear, but I’ll let you find them. 🙂

    • Sharon— You know I do my best to keep the equipment well-oiled! And it seems to me that at some point, it surpasses “old” and becomes “vintage,” which is way cooler.

  5. UGH…It’s been over 20 years since I fought through my 40th year. I’m all good now, old is old and wrinkles are wrinkles, but I do try not to look in those ridiculous mirrors any more than necessary and never with glasses on!

    Wonderfully done…I love it.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.