It was a different era when our parents turned 40. It was full of the color black and over-the-hill jokes. But I’ve noticed something has shifted in our generation as we approach the older ages. New cliches have arose; we say things like, ’40 is the new 30,’ ‘Age is just a number,’ ‘Life begins at 40,’ etc.
When 2019 rolled into 2020 and the rest of the world contemplated a new decade, I was coming to grips with a new decade for myself. As my 40th birthday drew closer, I began to have heart palpitations and anxiety. Last year I thought 39 was hard…perhaps because my family put more of a stigma on 39 with that old Jack Benny joke growing up. Whatever the reason, I never expected 40 to be a big deal. Then I got my first gray hair. More face wrinkles appeared, and I started noticing in pictures I was getting that old lady saggy neck waddle.
I’m starting to feel my age in other areas as well. I tire a lot sooner, and even though I’m still incredibly active, it’s so much harder to lose weight and bounce back from injuries these days. Gone are the stay-out-all-night-long evenings, and I’m past the baby and toddler stage with my kids. I have preteens now and grieve not being very cool in their eyes anymore.
How did this happen when I still feel like a kid, myself? Sure, music from my childhood is now playing on the “oldies” station, fashion from back then is coming full-circle again, and my kids are now teaching me how to use the newest tech. But I still remember like it was yesterday the nerves I felt on the first day of a new school year. My stomach still does a little flip-flop when I see an old crush from college pop up on my social feed. And I still feel giddy when my favorite TV show has a new episode, or I buy a brand new outfit, or we plan a fun family vacation.
Did our parents feel this same dichotomy while they were throwing each other “over-the-hill is better than being under it” parties with black balloons and black party favors? Did they wrestle with feeling like they still had one foot in their youth while the rest of the world pronounced them as old? I remember them romanticizing and longing for their teenage years, having mid-life crises, and making crazy rash decisions and purchases. But I don’t get that impression as much from our generation.
As I approached my 40th birthday in January, I polled a bunch of friends who have already gone before me, and literally every single one reverberated the same message: 40 is GREAT! It’s way better than our teens, 20’s, and even our 30’s. At this age, we are feeling settled in our own skin and content with ourselves for who we are. We are not as self-conscious, sensitive, or worried. We do what we want, and don’t compete with others like we used to. We’ve grown out of the expectations that used to bind us down. We are much more easy-going, we laugh a lot more, and we love with total abandon.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not making a blanket statement here about the Baby Boomers vs. Gen X (or Gen Y…whichever side of that argument you’re on). I’m not saying all of us turning 40 have it all together, that we don’t still have weight loss goals, want to go back to school, change our career, get divorced/remarried, etc. But I have yet to attend one “over the hill” party. In fact, when I was shopping for my 40th birthday bash, I didn’t see any black at all in the party stores! I like to think I celebrated 40 completely opposite of that. No matter my trepidation about turning 40, I decided to enter it with a bang; my besties and I rented a limo, dressed up and decked ourselves out in shimmers and sparkles, and pretended we were celebrities all around Portland for a night!
So what do you think? Does our generation embrace 40 and aging better than our parents did? How do you feel about getting older?