So, 6 months on from turning 40, there is a lot to muse. I wasn’t dreading turning 40 at all. 30, yes -it was hideous and I felt it represented the end of my youth and the turning of the hourglass. But 40? No, 40 felt good. I was in a better place at 40 than I was at 30. More settled, more driven and more secure in who I was and where my life was going. At 30, I was still so unsure of life. I wanted more children (I had one); I wanted to feel fulfilled career-wise; I wanted security in my relationship. At 30, everything was teetering, dependent on so many other people and factors that seemed outwith my control.
10 years on and everything feels different. I feel different. But I have given it a lot of thought over the past six months and it has occurred to me that 40 is perhaps more significant that I originally thought. 40 is perhaps the most significant age there is. The age that everyone uses as a benchmark for fertility, marriage and success; for beauty, for fashion and for social acceptability. 40 is possibly the only age that actually becomes a reason in itself for not doing something, not wearing something: Because you’re 40…
So, despite the fact that I found forty not something to fear, but something freeing to embrace, I have come to the conclusion that there are lots of things I have to accept now that I am 40. And here they are:
- I will never be a bride. I always just thought that at some point it would be my turn, that I would have that day. As I got older, I realised that I would never have that day, but I started to think I might have an alternative day; I would compromise. A quiet, intimate day perhaps. But still a day. Now, at 40 (and a half), I accept that I will never be a wife. I will never wear the dress, squeeze my mum’s hand as the finishing touches are complete, or kiss my husband for the first time. I will always feel genuinely gleeful when someone I care about gets engaged because I truly love wedding chat, but I will always feel a pang of sadness that I will never have any of my own; no photos of my dad proudly giving me away and no opportunity to put my sister in peach taffeta…
- I will never look like anyone from a fitness DVD. No matter how much Insanity, T25 or any other Shaun T affiliated daily sweat-fest I partake in , I will never look like Tania ‘The Machine’ Baron – despite the fact that she is, in fact, 42. Why? Because I like potatoes, gin and nan bread.
- I will never look as good as I did when I passionately despised how I looked. Irony.
- Funerals of people you care about become more common than weddings of people you care about.
- I will always apologise for walking into rooms. Perhaps not every day…but fairly regularly. It is just who I am. And I will not apologise for who I am. Sorry.
- I will always go out of my way to avoid having a conversation that I know will cause some degree of upset or confrontation, despite the fact that I know that putting it off or avoiding it until it is entirely unavoidable will cause more upset and confrontation. I know this…and yet, I still avoid having conversations that will result in people being pissed off with me but, undoubtedly, they end up being even more pissed off with me because I avoid awkward conversations. (I accept that this makes me an idiot…)
- I will spend my life overthinking everything. I often seek people out days after an innocuous and irrelevant conversation because I’ve been awake for days thinking about something I said and how it could have been construed, misconstrued, or that I just realised I said something that I wished to take back. I accept that people will always look at me like I am a lunatic as I have to remind them of the entire conversation (because it was so irrelevant that they have entirely forgotten about it) and I’ve made it a big issue by making an agonising point about it.
- I will reminisce rose-tintedly about the past. I want to be friends with pretty much everyone I have ever met in the past 40 years and have a very sentimental outlook on life. I always want to ‘put things right’ and struggle to cope with bad feelings and unfinished business. I accept that this is juvenile and often results in me taking responsibility for things that are not always my fault but this is a choice I make and it helps me sleep at night. (Sometimes)
- See number 8…Secretly, I will allow things to knaw away at me and will cast things up years after the event, much to everyone’s confusion (including mine). I accept that I will probably cause all sorts of hell when I get older by casting up everything I quietly swore to forgive in my first 40 years.
- I accept that I should never wear a mini skirt on a night out. I am too aware of being 40…and, oh, how I wish I had more photographs of toned and tanned legs of my younger self in mini skirts and hot pants that I so self-consciously wore. But I accept that, even though some of my 18 year olds daughters clothes might fit me and provide some secret entertainment on an afternoon when I’m home-alone and defying my age, a holographic mini skirt is not appropriate apparel any more. (This is not a general rule, just a Jen/Arran rule)
- I am starting to show definite signs of growing older. I have thread veins, laughter lines, frown lines, ‘bleeding’ lips, a downward smile, a moustache, random whiskers, sad boobs and telling hands. Old age is coming.
- I will never rub a pregnant tummy, breastfeed a new life and name another child.
- I will *sigh* never own a Sausage dog.
- I will never ever regret the day that I became a teacher. Wherever and whenever my career ends, it was the most important decision I made as an adult.
- I will never be able to provide my children with the wonderful experience of childhood that my parents gave me.
- I will always feel like the stupidest person in every room I am in (because I usually am)
- Make up that makes you look amazing in a photograph often makes you look shit (and a little frightening) in the flesh…decisions, decisions, decisions…
- I am not going to get younger. I am 40 and the only way is up…
Things that I refuse to accept even though I’m 40:
- I will never be a bride. I’ll just keep visiting my wonderful friend with the bridal shop and forcing myself into wedding dresses for fun, making wishes on eyelashes and working on channelling my inner Charles Xavier.
- I will never look like anyone from a fitness DVD. I’ll just keep doing my daily thing with my work bff and enjoy my potatoes, my gin and my nan bread in the knowledge that Tania ‘The Machine’ Baron wishes she remembered what potatoes tasted like.
- I should never wear a mini skirt on a night out. Ha, watch this space.
- I will never own a Sausage dog. Ha, watch this space.
I am 40. And the only way is up.