On Becoming a 40-Year Old

It is the eve of my birthday. A big, fat milestone birthday and one I’m not afraid to brag about. I’m about to turn 40! Yep. The big 4-0. Sporty 40. The new 20.

I’m soooooo excited for my birthday it makes me excited for your birthday! That’s how much I love birthdays. I get this from my mom. She’s less of a birthday and more of a birthmonth celebrator. I couldn’t agree more.

When I was little my birthday was a great source of joy and sorrow because I loved it so much. So much to look forward to! Mom bringing cupcakes to my classroom, my lunchtime party with classmates, a big dinner with family. Presents! Cake! Wearing my favorite outfit! But then at some point during the festivities I began to realize the day was going on, hour by hour, until eventually all the minutes of my birthday would be used up. I’d wake up just another girl with a sugar hangover and chocolate frosting caked in the pleats of her skirt. Just like every other year. That realization made me sad. So sad that I would sometimes get a little pouty and sullen. And then my mom would become “mortified” and yell at me for being rude. And then I’d tell her she was ruining the few hours I had left of my birthday by yelling at me. And then someone would slide a piece of cake and mint chocolate chip ice cream under my nose and lead me away like Garfield with a lasagna. Works every time.

Celebrating your birth month helps with the whole “OMG there’s only 2 hours and 13 minutes left of my birthday” thing. Try it. You’ll see.

So this 40 thing…

Before I left work tonight I told a co-worker, I very likely sent out the last “work” email of my 30’s. (But then I promptly sent 4 more.)

She actually shushed me.

“What?” I asked.

“You want people to know you’re 40?”

“Umm…yeah. It’s kind of a milestone,” I said.

“But it’s…40.”

Yeah, it is 40. And it’s fabulous. I’m not hiding my age. And here’s why:

  1. I often think of the Shelly from 20 years ago. She was nice enough if not grossly out-of-shape, flabby, lazy, and a smoker who scheduled her college classes around All My Children. (It was really good back then!) The last thing the 20-year old Shelly ran for was Vice President in 7th grade. She was not a fan of “optional movement” and only did things like walk or stand up when absolutely necessary (like getting to those annoying parts of campus where cars were not permitted or helping herself to dining hall seconds when it was mashed potato day. She also had a perm judging by the photos I unearthed (and had the good sense NOT to put on Facebook) and a penchant for pegging her jeans. And she never wore heels. Wow,little Shelly. You have so much to learn. 20-year old Shelly had no idea what was in store for her. She loved writing and hoped to make a profession out of it. She drank beer like a champ and could even do a keg stand! She was spending a semester in London—the best thing she ever did and the impetus for that ridiculous plan she devised in Theater History class to move across the country world to Seattle from New York to work in the music business. Yes, the 20-year old Shelly was okay at some things, but could she do a push up? Or a pull up? Or run a 5K for fun? Did she have a bicep? Or triceps? Or the ability to open a stuck jar without banging the bejesus out of the lid with the back of a knife? Did she even own a sports bra? Nope. There is no doubt in my mind that if the Shelly of today ran into the punky, pugnacious Shelly from 20 years ago in a dark alley, today’s Shelly would kick her ass. At 40 I can officially say I’m in the best shape of my life. So bring it, 20-year old Shelly. I said put down the cigarettes and bring it!
  2. 20-year old Shelly published a really weird, mediocre story in a local literary magazine that had the distribution of about 23. But still, it was a dream come true. Sure there are lots of things I’d still like to accomplish, but you know what? Even on my worst day, I will always be able to say I have written and published two books. Books that can be found in bookstores. Books cataloged in the Library of Congress! Books with (amazing) editors and art directors and marketing plans behind them. I can’t help it—I geek out on that sometimes. Real honest to goodness strangers have read these books. And sometimes they hate them so much they have to blog about it! Yes, I even geek out on that.
  3. I never understood why people lie about their age. I mean, if you’re going to lie why not lie “up?” Wouldn’t you rather look great for 45 than weathered and crackled for 35? I would. In fact, let’s say I’m not turning 40. I’m 43. Thank you! I use Avon.
  4. Alright all you weirdos who don’t like your birthdays! I’m talking to you. Don’t you get what a birthday means? It means you’re still here! You made it another decade, another year, another day even! We should have cake and ice cream every, single morning when we wake up considering what a feat that seems like sometimes. Sadly I know of plenty of people who will never get to celebrate their 40th birthdays and you getting all uppity about turning a year older is like giving those poor people a big F.U. Not cool, birthday haters. Now go find something you can stick a candle in and make a wish for a clearer perspective the next time your big day rolls around.
  5. I have a cat and a dog, a job I love, a paid off car, my own condo, a super amazing husband who is my bestest friend, a wonderful family, a well-stamped passport, a staggering array of kitchen gadgets, and a tremendous group of friends. You think you can cultivate all that in a decade? Or 2? (Okay, the kitchen gadgets are due to the wedding but still. Staggering!) No way. You’re lucky to do that in 4. Just think what you can do in the next 4 decades. Can’t wait to find out.

So repeat after me. Embarrassed by your age? Hooey. That’s ridiculous! And hello! We all know you have a birthday and we all know what happens on that annual event. You get older. Big whoop. I loved my 30’s. All that stuff they say about coming into your own and knowing yourself and being comfortable with the person your 20’s practically vomited out, are all true. But I’m ready to embrace my new decade. In fact, I might even wait up for it. I already love you, 40.  All I have to say to you is thank you. Thank you for having me. Now where’s the cake?

Word.
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8 thoughts on “On Becoming a 40-Year Old

  1. Congrats and happy birthday!

    You look great for 40. Well, I guess those pictures were when you were in your 30s, but still, you look great for you age. (Okay, I just read that and it sounds creepy, sorry. Seriously, not a stalker.)

    I was going to say, live it up, enjoy the day, but it sounds like you already do.

    Congrats and say congrats to Judy as well.

  2. BEST post I’ve ever read… but you do know how much I love birthdays too, and I can’t wait for 40! You are the best, friendly. I love you for all of these reasons you list above, but SO much more. So happy for you, and all you’ve done. Tell Judy I’m sooooo glad you were born; you make everyone’s life around you light up! xoxoxox

  3. Dear Shelly,

    Amen, sister! What a great post. I have never understood caring about the number. These days its meaningless. It’s all about the Wii Fit age. Rock on!

  4. Dear Shelly,

    I hope you had a wonderful birthday. It is truly amazing and wonderful that you embrace your birthday’s with open arms. I myself am in the other boat. Though for many years (7 to be exact) I have looked forward yo my upcoming birthday, then it dawned on my that I’m going to be a whole quarter of a century old! Oh well! Time flies when your having fun (mostly). Happy (belated) 40th, and many more wonderful years to come!

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