My husband comfortably residing in his 30’s after I turned 40 was never funny to me, the cougar jokes being unimaginative at best. What self-respecting cougar chooses a boy-toy only 3 and a half years her junior? I resisted the urge to lash out at jokesters by reminding myself that he does possess many of the desirable traits of young hotties in the movies, as evidenced by the double-takes he gets when we are out and about. At one of his office parties a mature female who had rid herself of inhibitions with her tenth drink told me, “Your husband is the guy we all fantasize about”. I responded that fantasies are best kept private. I owe her my gratitude, though, for gifting me with something to tease him about for the remainder of our days, especially when he does not feel like a hottie.
I secretly enjoyed his angst over turning 40, but made up for it by not giving him over-the-hill presents, mainly because I knew he would point out that I will always be older.
Using his preoccupation with getting old, I easily convinced him that this landmark birthday demanded a physical examination. Our doctor told him that he is still young
and in great shape, so my partner may get his next physical when he turns 50 if he can get past the fear of a prostate exam. He tells me he will need a female physician for that, preferably one with very small hands. I wonder why the doctor insisted on testing my cholesterol at 35, but told my husband he doesn’t need to be tested now. Looking like a boy-toy may not work to his advantage in the health arena.
Ten days into his 5th decade my husband has not changed much, although like most women I wonder what is going on in his head while he is staring off into space. Is
he now considering politics, the economy, or perhaps the Christmas symphony that I
told him about? His wet towel on the bedroom doorknob tells me that at heart he is still the 23-year-old Marine that revved up my libido all those years ago and is likely thinking about microbrews, football, or and sex.
Is the world actually changing with disorienting acceleration or is my perception of break-neck speed merely a product of getting older? My knowledge of physics is rudimentary at best, yet it makes sense that life’s velocity is picking up
speed for me because I am slowing down. I did not choose change, at least not consciously. I resided in a comfort zone where so many people in their 40’s live, a zone of familiar responsibility and paychecks.
My scope of responsibility has changed dramatically since I lost my job two months ago. I am confused when asked if I am bored not working. Not working? I am working my ass off adjusting to this change and worn out at the end of every day from the learning curve. Entertaining that my exhaustion is due to my age does not help me get back on the treadmill tomorrow; it makes no difference why my mind is tired, only that I keep learning the new rules of our tech-savvy and untrustworthy world. And all of this needs to be accomplished while nurturing my wounded spirit. I am not a natural nurturer, so this is my greatest challenge. I am more of a kick-it-in-the-ass kind of woman, having always believed that my choices impact my reality more than anything else. If you do not like something, change it! The toddler inside me is stomping her feet and yelling, “I want!” and I am so frustrated with trying to convince her that my efforts will pay off eventually that I just want to tell her to shut up, be quiet. See what I mean about not being a nurturer?
I cannot deny the excitement of learning new things, both practical and existential.
From matching coupons to grocery sales in order to save money to practicing mindfulness, it is all new ground. I thought I needed to break the mold of who I was two months ago, but find myself more comfortable blending who I am with new skills, yet there is no money in it. Perhaps this is how college students feel. How do you place a value on skills and lessons learned during times of change and who determines the value? This is where my true nature kicks in. I, and only I, can assess my cost for forced change because I am the one paying.
“I looked up the road I was going and back the way I come, and since I wasn’t satisfied, I decided to step off the road and cut me a new path.” – Annie Johnson from Maya Angelou’s Wouldn’t Take Nothing for my Journey Now
The inconveniences of womanhood are enhanced in the 5th decade. A few are familiar from a long time ago. The hard painful cramping that accompanies my period reminds me of when I was 15 years old, yet now there is an end in sight. Perhaps this is designed so that I will not miss it when menopause arrives, like the post-menopausal women who smile when they say, “I don’t have to deal with that anymore”. Another similarity is that it always arrives at an inopportune moment, usually when I am wearing light-colored pants, busy, and away from home. The difference is that it can arrive anytime, even if it was just here a few days ago. Thanks to the excessive flow, I know how my Mom felt when she had to wash my sheets several times within a week. I am stoic at this age however, and no longer believe that I may die from the pain as I did when I was a woman-child. A few years ago I listened to an emergency room nurse chuckling as she talked about a young woman who rated her menstrual cramps as 10 on the 1-10 pain scale. I felt sympahty for that girl because I remember feeling the same.
The drama queen of my younger years re-emerges the week before, but now I am embarrassed and guilty when I have acted like an out-of-control hormonal teenager. If you read through a month of my blog postings, I bet you can pick out which week it
is. I have tried taking birth control pills to regulate my crazy perimenopausal hormones, but they just made me more emotional, so I figure I will save the hormones for when I go truly mad. In the meantime I try to be aware in order to control my emotional state and apologize often because being aware does not mean I am in control.
I was famous in my teens for my ability to pee quickly or more accurately for my penchant to pee in places that you should not, so I had to go quickly. In a public bathroom with my daughter recently I could not help but notice that I was still peeing while she had finished, washed her hands, and left. It dawned on me that this is something else that has slowed down over the past few years. Fortunately Cosmopolitan magazine schooled my teenage friends and me on the mechanics of Kegel exercises, although the reasons we learned them had nothing to do with avoiding incontinence later in life. Whatever my initial motivation was, I am a pro after 25 years of working those pelvic muscles. Yet it still takes me a few minutes, so peeing on the side of the road is out of the question now.
I will save some of the other changes I am experiencing in my 40’s for other postings because some are so special they deserve their very own post. It feels as though the past 30 years of being a woman have been sort of like boot camp for this – the most challenging decade yet.
In the rearview mirror of hindsight I wish I would have allowed my loved ones to make a big deal of my 40th birthday. Black decorations, a cane with a horn, and a tombstone cake would have set the stage for humorous acceptance of the inevitable life changes coming my way.
Instead, I adopted the popular idea that by denying and fighting said changes I would age “gracefully”, which to me meant very slowly. I quickly discovered that physiology and culture trump denial and that it is a damn expensive effort to not look 40. My joy diminished as my ass started to fall and Continue reading