I will be 40 very shortly.
I've noticed some things about being this age.
For instance, things have moved/are moving south. I have scars on my belly form a lap-chole (gallbladder removal for you non-medical readers) I had done 10 years ago. They used to be in my right upper quadrant, but now they're a good 2 inches lower than they were originally.
My skin in changing. When I look at myself in the mirror I see subtle signs of my age appearing....crow's feet and a more pronounced naso-labial fold. My lips are getting thinner, too. My skin isn't as elastic and resilient as it used to be; I'm getting crinkles in strange places....like right above my knees and on my butt. They're not there all the time, just when I move a certain way, but they're undeniably apparent.
I'm growing hair in some very strange places....I have a wiry hair that keeps appearing next to my belly button. I keep pulling it, but it keeps comng back. Hair is also migrating to odd places, instead of shaving just my pits I find that I'm having to shave the underside of my arms, too. That's true for other places as well, but I'm not going to talk about that because we'd be getting into 'too much information' territory, I think.
Every time I see a doctor I hear "it's your age". My shoulder hurts? It's my age. I have a headache? It's my age. Cut my thumb with a knife? That's due to my age too. Apparently I am now the right age for lots and lots of things: breast cancer, ovarian cancer, frozen shoulder syndrome, colon cancer....apparently cancer likes 40 year olds. Menopause has reared it's head: I'm the right age for that now and everything gets blamed on my hormones (or lack thereof). Itchy skin rash? Menopause. Doesn't matter that I've been in contact with strange plants in the woods, the first response is always "menopause". Foot pain? Menopause. No matter that I ran in shoes that don't support my arches properly, it's my hormones that are to blame. Hair going all dry and strange and falling out in the shower? Menopause, despite my having bleached it and colored it and teased it.
I now qualify for official cougarhood. I am a full fledged member of the MILF club (although I didn't think you had to be 40 to join that organization; I thought that you simply had to be a mom), much to my children's chagrin. They get really very upset when we're out and strange men check me out. I don't see it most of the time, but they do. It actually makes me feel pretty good about myself; if I'm still looking good enough to turn a head or two my age can't show that much. Of course, the guys that check me out are all 50 something knuckle-dragging southern Illinois mouth-breathers with beer guts, hair shoulders and infarcted synapses, but hey...I'm still getting looked at (it actually makes my skin crawl to catch guys like that looking at me). Then again, they could just be looking at me the way people look at freaks in a circus sideshow. I have that effect on people sometimes.
I've been asked when I'm going to grow up and start dressing my age. The answer is that I am not. I refuse to. I think it important to state that I'm not dressing the way I do as an act of rebellion, I do it because I want to. I'm just not going to fall into the deep pit of conformity; I haven't done it up until now and I'm not about to start. I won't conform because it's not in my nature.
I'm also asked when I'm going to start behaving in a manner appropriate for a woman my age. the answer to that is, again, I'm not. It's just not in my nature to. I am who I am, I like what I like and I do what I do, regardless of my age. Physically I may not be able to do the things I could when I was in my 20's (stay up all night drinking like it's no big deal. I can't do that without paying the price for a couple of days now), but that's more matter than it is mind.
I feel lucky to be this age. Yeah, I have a few dings here and there and have had to be repaired a few times, but I'm still here and I have all kinds of experience because of it (or in spite of it, however you want to look at it). I like who I am, who I'm becoming. I'm almost 40, and I'm cool with that.
In closing, I'd like to share a poem that accurately describes my view on aging:
'Growing Old The Willis Way'
The day my great-grandmother Willis turned sixty-five
she decided that she would spend the rest of her life
wearing fishnet stockings and red lipstick.
Her place of dwelling became Big Larry's sports pub
not because she liked to drink
but because she was simply aware of the fact
that the world's most interesting flocked to Big Larry's
like seagulls flock to the dump.
What she didn't know
is that is was she who compelled them.
That in the hearts located directly about Boston's
she took precedence over all things
bottled or draft.
It was she who taught the women of my family
how to grow old
the Willis way.
her daughter, my grandmother
and enrolling in ballroom roller skating classes.
She has become the old lady
she beats the Urkel-pants'd old men in the pool hall,
while discussing George W Bush
and how his presidency
will bring about the next apocalypse.
She is the old lady who paints pictures of Jesus on the cross
with money seeping out of his open wounds.
All the while fulfilling her lifelong dream
of becoming a fashion photographer.
She is the old lady who turned her one-bedroom apartment
into a homeless shelter.
And as my grandmother becomes a great-grandmother
to multiple great-grandchildren
my mother will grow old, remember her Willis roots
and get sudden urges to dye her hair fuschia
and buy a vintage Cadillac.
And as she reaches sixty-five
her vocabulary will consist soley of the phrase
"you go, girl!".
Around this time my doctor will tell me
because apparently it runs in my family.
And I'll buy myself a cake
and imagine myself on my sixty-fith birthday:
streaking across the White House lawn, yelling "Save the Whales!"
with organic red lipstick smeared across my shrivelled little face
as I pull a bottle of malt liquor from my fishnet stockings
and toast my great-grandmother Willis:
"you go, girl!"