|Me, at a restaurant with good friends|
eating 2 desserts because this is 40, bitches.
So, I turned 40 a couple of weeks ago. A few things happened, and a few things didn’t.
I did not plunge immediately into a primordial soup of self-loathing, regret, acute admission of my own mortality, or any other sort of age-related depression.
I also did not sign up for a gym, a marathon, a weight-loss program, a reality show, a master’s degree, or a divorce.
Here’s what I did: I acknowledged my birthday with a momentary crisis of the existential variety; I temporarily and passive-aggressively punished my husband for following my wishes and not making a bigger deal out of my birthday; I ate Chinese food, and I surrounded myself with people who know, love, accept me, and think I’m smart and/or funny.
Smart and/or funny has been my go-to ever since my second pregnancy at age 32, when my days of playing the ingénue were absolutely and permanently taken off the table. You may be surprised to know that people will still accept your (perhaps delusional) role as ingénue even after you’ve had your first baby, so long as you can fit back into your skinny jeans. But by time the second baby comes around, you are simply a fat, old, tired mother. Enjoy the ingénue stage, Millennials; it’s fantastic, and fleeting.
It was fortuitous that the last book I read in my thirties (alav ha’shalom) was Yes Please by Amy Poehler, because it taught me how to be 40. It taught me that the most important words, for me, are No Thanks. Amy has a chapter about No Thanks as well. She includes a quote attributed to somebody whom I am too lazy to go fact-check, that says (and I paraphrase, I think):
‘No’ should be the end of the discussion, not the beginning of the negotiation.
This was a revelation to me. Now, it may come in most handy in my role as a mother, but the simple fact that I have the permission – the right – to say no and mean it – well, that’s what I want to be my guiding principle of the next decade.
I’ll use it judiciously, but with conviction. And without guilt or much thought, really, to how that might make you feel. If I say no, it’s because I have considered it, and I truly cannot do it. It won’t work for me, and I won’t be bullied/coerced/guilted into saying yes.
That’s the kind of thing I want being 40 to be about. There are a few other things I want 40 to be about as well, and I thought I would list them here, because the law says you can’t have a blog post without a list.
TOP 10 THINGS I WOULD LIKE AGE 40 TO BE ABOUT
1. No thank you (see above)
2. You do you and I’ll do me. You would never spend two hours steam-cleaning the kitchen even thought it is the most satisfying thing EVER, and I would never wear those fucking ugly pants. But we can laugh about both over a coffee.
3. I don’t have to agree with you to like or respect you. I saw this on Pinterest, attributed to Anthony Bourdain. It’s pretty pedestrian as far as attributable quotes go, so I’m not sure if Anthony Bourdain should get credit for it in a free printable wall-hanging that uses as many fonts as it has words, but nevertheless, good sentiment. I’m not going to write-off a friend because our views on Israel, or the Paleo diet, or Chris Pratt, differ. (I may draw the line at tomato juice. That shit is nasty, and having to smell it while you drink could be a deal breaker.) (And seriously, how do you not like Chris Pratt?)
4. I don’t have to make my energy level match your energy level. I absolutely love boisterous, bombastic, funny, clever, quick people. Their energy is like an elixir to me, and if you can make me laugh, I’m yours for life. But I have spent way too many evenings trying to match wits and dance moves with people like this, and I just can’t anymore. It’s exhausting. I would hardly say that Eeyore is my spirit animal, but I’m just going to trust that if I love who you are and we are having fun, you’re ok with who I am, even if you are way, way cooler than me.
5. Not my circus, not my monkeys. Maybe it’s that my kids are a little bit older now and I have survived the baby days, when you are so unbelievably hormonal and a righteous asshole about every tiny detail of your and every other baby’s upbringing, but there is very little I am willing to concern myself with now when it comes to how somebody else parents their children. I am the ringleader (sometimes the clown) in my own circus, and my monkeys are doing just fine. I'm sure yours are too, even if you feed them non-organic dairy products.
6. Do I want to be happy, or do I want to be right? I want to punch myself in the face for quoting Dr. Phil, but on this, I’ll give it to him. And I want to be right. I mean, happy! I want to be happy. So yes, husband, I guess it was me who left MY keys in YOUR pocket. And yes, fellow parent council member, I guess the meeting minutes are wrong, and you never actually said you would call about the price of whole-wheat buns for hot dog day. Happy!
7. No more guilty pleasures. I don’t mean that I’m going to stop listening to the Frozen soundtrack even after I’ve dropped my kids off, or that I’ll never watch another episode of My Teenage Wedding; I just mean that I will no longer feel guilty about doing these things. (I'm sticking my tongue out at you as I write this.)
8. No more acting like my life is a consolation prize. I like my life. I like the way I live it. I’m no longer doing this “because” or “instead of” or “well, if we hadn’t…” I’ve been in the cornfield for nearly 3 ½ years, and it’s not better or worse than living in Toronto. It’s different. I love it, even if you can’t understand why I do.
9. I don’t have to finish Top Ten lists if I’ve run out of things to list.