On The Fence About 40


I’m a Libra. I don’t know a whole lot about astrological signs and I mostly think horoscopes are silly, but there’s one Libra personality trait that has always struck a chord with me. Libras are said to be indecisive, and I am quite possibly the most indecisive person I’ve ever met besides my husband, who also happens to be a Libra.

Many moons ago, when we lived in New York City, we’d roam the streets for hours at night deciding what to eat for dinner. Thai? That might work. How about Indian? Maybe. What about this place? I don’t know…

We always ended up somewhere, but I’m not sure if it was where we wanted to go or if it was just late and we were tired, frustrated, and starving. After 13 years of marriage, we still suck at planning ahead and we still wander the streets not deciding where to eat. The only difference now is that we pay a babysitter by the hour, which makes our collective indecision a costly proposition.

Today is my 40th birthday, and, not surprisingly, I’m undecided about how I feel about it. There’s the whole 40 is the new 30 thing, but I’m not exactly sipping the Kool-Aid. I mean, I feel pretty good and I’m relatively healthy, but I have cleavage wrinkles, eating pizza makes my stomach hurt, and I recently looked down instead of up at a mirror and saw neck sag. Neck sag! If I recall – and by the way, recalling is harder now than it was a few years back – neck sag wasn’t on my radar screen a decade ago. I’m starting to wonder if the expression, “Forty is the new 30,” was invented by someone who was 30.

Even if I do kinda sorta look 40 (whatevs), I don’t feel 40. Forty is for grown-ups, and I hardly ever feel like a grown-up. There was that one time when I did the math and realized one of the boys’ Kindergarten teachers graduated Kindergarten when I graduated college. Ugh, that was a moment. But mostly, whenever I’m forced to do grown-up things like attend parent-teacher conferences, sign mortgage documents, remove dead rats from the house, or compare car insurance quotes, I almost always look over my shoulder for the responsible adult in the room because surely it’s not me. Even motherhood hasn’t convinced that I’m in grown-up territory. I’ve birthed babies, for Pete’s sake, but I still feel like a kid.

I remember vividly when my mom turned 40. I was 12 years old, and now – in the blink of an eye – I’m standing in her shoes. At ages eight and six, my boys don’t seem concerned at all that I’m about to be over the hill. In fact, when I suggested that they think long and hard about what to do for me on this behemoth of a birthday, they decided – far too quickly if you ask me – to buy me socks. Obviously, they’re not Libras.

Let’s face it. Turning 40 is about more than looking or feeling the part. It’s also about the inescapable urge to draw a line in the sand and compare what we have and haven’t accomplished. Imagine the conflict this creates for an indecisive girl like me. Do I wallow in what I haven’t achieved or bask in my future potential?

I haven’t written a book… but I’m committed to a daily writing practice.

I haven’t run a marathon… but I run regularly. I ran a 10K last year at a faster pace than I did when I was 26.

I haven’t gone back to work… but what does back even mean after eight years of stay-at-home motherhood? Forward is where I’m headed.

I left my dance career too soon… but dance never left me. I recently took a ballet class, and it brought me great joy (and immense pain in my thighs).

I didn’t try for a girl… but I did! Her name is Gertrude Glenn (woof!).

I haven’t lost the baby weight… but don’t yo-yo diet anymore. I eat well and exercise regularly, and my body isn’t pissed off all the time.

I don’t have a lot of friends… but I have forever friends.

I haven’t conquered my anxiety… but my extreme worry has on occasion served me well. It was my anxiety that lead me to diagnose my boys’ sensory differences, discover the basal cell carcinoma on my face, and get a colonoscopy that uncovered a pre-cancerous polyp when I was just 35.

I haven’t traveled enough… but I’m only 40?

Is it possible to wallow and bask? Is it possible to accept neck sag and relish in a grand plié? Is it possible to fear car insurance quotes and boldly run up hills? Another common trait of Libras is the desire for balance. Maybe I don’t have to decide whether or not I’ve achieved enough, whether or not I’m qualified to be a grown-up, or whether or not my body is shriveling. Maybe the answer – the equilibrium – rests somewhere in the middle.

Today, I’m certain of a few things. I’m taking a yoga class (or taking a long walk…I haven’t decided yet), I’m getting a haircut, and I’m attending the kids’ back to school night because I can’t think of a better way to celebrate my 40th birthday than to squeeze my ass into a tiny elementary school desk and learn about the horrors of common core math. The real celebration will happen this weekend when my husband, who also celebrated his birthday this week, and I will hit the streets of New York City like the old days. Just don’t ask me what we’re doing for dinner because I haven’t decided.


Filed under birthday

2 responses to “On The Fence About 40

  1. Nice post, Jennifer! I also don’t feel like a grown-up. Happy birthday!!!


  2. I can relate to this too. Forty sneaks up before any of us are ready. Will we ever be ready for 40? Ugh! Have a great birthday weekend 🙂


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