For your sins, you’ll turn 40
I turned 40 on Yom Kippur, Jewish Day of Atonement. For your sins, you’ll turn 40.
I had quite a time with the idea of turning 40. I’m not sure it was as much the idea of aging as the fact that I’d had so little enjoyment of my youth – in fact, to some extent, I didn’t have one. Between the anguished childhood, time on the streets, time in the juvenile institution, constant throes of self-hatred and depression, my shut-down response to the fat bigotry, the poverty – then term “carefree youth” was an ugly travesty of a description of my youth. I was feeling like I had wasted all that time and now, here was absolute evidence that I didn’t have that much time left.
At the time, we were using a local church because our temple just wasn’t big enough for the High Holy Days crowd. In the midst of the throng sat my friend Jess Spielholz. I’d met Jess and his angel of a wife Hannah 21 years ago, when I was attending The Evergreen State College, taking a quarter called “Wisdom of the Elderly.” Jess and Hannah were in their 60s or early 70s at the time – at 19, that looked ancient. He was a retired doctor, a beaming sprite of a man. He and Hannah sat together like bookends, leaning in. I was nearly ready to deliver my daughter and he jokingly came after me when I went down a playground slide “to be there if I went into labor.”
Now, Jess was nearly 100 and Hannah was gone, but he was still Jess. Caught in my own drama, I had the audacity to whine to him that I was turning 40 (I still blush to confess).
Jess looked up at me and took my hand in his warm, soft, spotted, shaking paws. Beaming his sweet, elfin grin at me, he said “Oh, but my dear, women in their 40s are at their most juicy!”
Any other man on earth said that, I would’ve smacked into next Tuesday. But I had just whined about turning 40 to a man pushing his century mark – he was allowed to say pretty much anything he liked.
And because this was Jess, I began to turn this idea over in my head. Really? Hmmmm… At their most juicy? Hmmmmm…
One week later, I got my “woman over 40” attitude and the hounds were officially released. Since the day I turned 40, I have had more fun than I did in the entire previous 40!
Suddenly, if people didn’t like the size of my tush or my opinions – pffft!
If I wanted to try something, I did. If I looked foolish while trying – so?
I felt perfectly at home giving young people advice since I was now old enough to be their mother.
I no longer cared about the rules imposed on young women. Loud? Raucous? Opinionated? Obnoxious? Round? Men won’t like me? Who gives a rip?
The time of tyranny was over. I had been set free.
Since that time, I’ve learned two more languages, gotten my red belt in martial arts, become a columnist and copy editor for iPinion, had a gastric bypass, lost nearly 100 lbs, cut my hair (but reserve the right to have it to my waist, gray or no), gotten several more tattoos and four chihuahuas.
I don’t put up with nearly as much crap and have begun to work my way through an awful lot of my past traumas. I laugh more – at myself and the vagaries of life – and anguish less over my mistakes.
I may not have nearly as much time left as I used to. In fact, I remember Bill Clinton saying one day that he’d realized that he had more yesterdays than he did tomorrows. At 58, it would be something pretty amazing if I lived to be 116.
It’s less important though, because I waste less time, enjoy the time I have more, and have a much better idea of what my priorities should be. I haven’t physically become molten slag – in fact, I feel better than I have since my 20s. Given all that, there’s a good chance that, as my doctor told me some years back – “You’ll probably live a long time and you won’t be sorry you’ve done so.”
Sounds like a plan.
So, youngsters, if you are looking ahead to 40 and beyond with trepidation – or even outright panic – I’m here to tell you that this is something to embrace, not fear.
Trust me. Dive right in. The water’s fine.
This is dedicated to April C., who is even now discovering that over 40 rocks.