“But it’s there. It’s just sitting there, like some big dead end.”
With this now famous line, Meg Ryan lamented her inevitable 40th birthday in a scene from When Harry Met Sally.
Forty is the literal fork in the road of aging.
If you are anything like me (weak and delusional) the denial path calls to you like the chocolate in your kid’s Halloween stash. As a coping mechanism, I devised an aging system to ensure I never left my 20’s.
When I turned 30, I was merely 20/10 which was much more palatable to my single, childless self. Hitting 40 meant I was 20/20 and 50 became a jaunty 20/30 and so on and so on until I succumb to the lure of dentures and Depends. Others take a different route and embrace this milestone birthday with optimism and joy; sure that the best is yet to come. I’m not confident I could be friends with any of these people what with wanting to constantly throat punch that unbridled enthusiasm and all. But no matter your outlook, there are some realities of the Big 4-0 that are universal:
1). The word “Ma’am” will be a dagger, slicing what is left of your pride into pieces.
2). Leaking pee will be neither unexpected nor optional. You will cross your legs whenever necessary like you’re doing the Cha-Cha Slide at a wedding.
3). Trying to get carded will be your J-O-B every time you go out to buy liquor or enter a bar.
4). Not being able to locate your favorite tweezers is a Def Con situation. Chin hair cannot win. Period.
5). Speaking of period, yours will become fickle and difficult to predict. Like a toddler but with cramps.
6). Your skin will mock you. Your search history will include “wrinkles,” “adult acne,” “wrinkle cream for adult acne” and “hiding the effects of Botox from friends.”
7). Doing shots is no longer an option. The reasons are complicated and all sciency, taking into account the effects of gravity on aging bodies and thin blood. You know, the same way astronauts are forbidden from chugging alcohol in space.
8). And if you do spend an evening drinking, be aware that alcohol in your 40’s has a dog-like quality. Each drink affects your body like you had seven and it takes you at least seven times longer to recover.#hangovermath
9). A bucket list becomes priority one. But you hem and haw over the items that put you in harm’s way–say jumping out of a plane—and end up settling for a road race that serves alcohol at the finish and new bangs.
10). Size matters! Font size that is. Near vision becomes a distant memory so you sacrifice all privacy as texts and emails become billboard-sized.
11). Like living in some creepy Sci-Fi movie, you will awake one day and discover that the skin on your hands has been removed and your mother’s skin left in its place. This is irreversible and emotionally scarring.
12). And since we’re talking about mom, beware the onset of BYM or Becoming Your Mother. You will shake your head at people in their 20’s, obsess over the skin on your neck, forget why you walked into a room and require your children’s help with any post-2k technology. BYM is a degenerative condition with no known cure.
13). Doctor’s appointments will increase 200% as compared to previous decades, the results of which will occupy all conversation with girlfriends and strangers alike.
14). You will find yourself constantly asking, “Why is that music so loud? I mean it is loud right, or is it just me?” It is you. You and everyone else over 40.
15). Clothes with buttons and zippers have a short life expectancy.After only a few hours in non-elasticized clothing you will count down the minutes until you can free yourself of this fabric prison and go to your happy place in yoga pants and no bra.
And there you have it. But take heart ladies, forty may be over the hill but there are legions waiting to catch you when you land–wrinkled and confused—on the other side of youth.
Maureen Stiles writes at her blog, Magnificence in the Mundane, where she chronicles the beauty within the chaos of raising three boys and a dog with her husband, given that the dog is the only one that really understands her. You can also follow Maureen on Facebook and Twitter.