Sunday, October 23, 2011

Hello, My Name Is?

This weekend marked the advent of my life as a woman in her 40s. I find myself in need of a label. Let me stop you. I need a label. I'm a labeler. In my perfect world I would be allowed to walk around with a huge stack of those "Hello My Name Is" stickers and just fill them out and slap them on everyone I encounter. You might be "Tends to Go On About Not Needing Labels". Or, "Doesn't Vaccinate". Or "Thinks I Don't Know She's Getting Botox". Or, "Gave Birth To Me". Whatever. Just something on which I can hang the rest of my interaction.

In my quest for a label, I actually did a google search for "forty year old woman". Don't do that. That was worse than the time I wanted to have a Dick and Jane themed birthday for my one-year old. *Shudder*

There are a lot of way to describe a woman in her 40s but I'm not in love with any of them. There's "mature". I actually like that but in the past week I've told at least four jokes involving the word, "balls". I'm pretty sure that disqualifies me from this category. There's "cougar". I don't really care for this one although turning 40 does usher in a newly bewhiskered phase of life that makes it accurate on some level. That's all I'm going to say about that.

There's "matronly". I do wear a lot of grey but very few of my shoes are truly sensible. Well, there are the clogs but they are all lamé or animal print. There's "40 and fabulous". This is popular mostly because of the aliteration. But it's too gimmicky and the hard sell smacks of desperation. There's "of a certain age" which isn't bad but suggests that I could be much older than I already am. There's "premenopausal" but that feels a little too personal and directs the eye in a downward direction in a way that makes me a little squeamish.

"Past Her Prime", "Over the Hill", "Commercially Irrelevant" and "Almost Dead" are out for obvious reasons.

So, I'm still looking.

I've already written about embracing turning 40. I knew it was coming. I had time to prepare. I wasn't anticipating any problems. I popped a calcium chew, was retinoled up and felt ready to cross that bridge but as I put a foot on the first board I paused. In my anticipation of saying hello to 40 I had forgoten about saying good-bye to my 30s.

And I had a moment.

My 30s were good to me. In my 30s, my face lost its youthful moony roundness and I finally got some flat planes and stopped looking like an infant. People stopped dismissing everything I said right away and actually listened to me before dismissing it. I was nursing for nearly the entire decade which gave me a functional quality that I certainly didn't possess in my 20s, when my primary purpose was decorative in nature. I was pregnant a lot which provided me with lots of opportunities to be forgivably imperious - and eat ice cream by the quart - that was fun. I had a houseful of babies and teetered on the edge of madness most days making it not entirely different from my twenties in that way, actually, only with much better furniture and much better hair.

I was leaving the gym when it hit me. I had just finished my work-out and had tossed on my jacket and headed to the stairs that lead out of the club. I thought, "This is my last work-out of my 30s." And as my foot hit the first step, my 30s ran before my eyes like a movie reel that had been hooked up to a jet engine. I saw anew each slimy, pink newborn placed on my chest. One screaming, brown toddler pushing me away in terror. A realization that Life is Beautiful wasn't just an adequate movie but a succinct summation of all the everything. That time I threw a carafe of coffee across the family room in the kind of rage I find it much too tiring to muster these days. The time shortly after that when I had to clean it up (now I remembered why we got rid of those white slipcovers). 9/11. My grandfather. My father-in-law. My sister-in-law. My great-grandmother. My brother's wedding. The arrival of his children. My husband turning 40. My father turning 60. The movie stopped as I pushed open the door and stepped into the crisp morning air.

I probably looked like it was just any other day as I walked to my car in the post-dawn mist that morning. Not like I was leaving behind a entire decade's worth of events and friends and family. I let the sudden heaviness I was feeling drop away with each stride. By the time I got to the car I had recovered. I mean, my hair still didn't look great but I was feeling better.

I was ready to start a new decade that will be characterized by my changing role as my family gets older and we shift away from babies and toddlers to whatever comes after that. It will contain its own joys and losses (don't worry, I'm sure it won't be you) and will (hopefully) be looked back upon nostalgically by a future version of me. And I hope I can say for my 40s what I can say most emphatically about my 30s and not at all about my teens and 20s...I would do that all over again. Every minute.


  1. Oh, man. I'm pretty sure my label reads "Cries at everything."
    And I want the backstory on the carafe-throwing incident.

  2. Lisa, you are "Lisa", with a smiley face.