Monday, June 11, 2007

On Turning Forty. Yes, I said it. Forty.

(Posted by Paula)

Saturday was the big day. A whole new decade of life. I'm no longer thirty-something. I've gone over the line. I've traveled over the hill.

On Saturday evening after the birthday celebration, my husband and I were driving in the car. It's a family car. A four door sedan. Yes. I own a sedan. And what's even's a Buick. Argh. Anyway, we were driving in the sedan, and we stopped at Sonic. For my birthday splurge (I'm on an eternal diet), I picked the meal of...sweet tea from McDonald's, french fries from Krystal's and a coney from Sonic. Sitting in the parking lot of Sonic, listening to eighties music on the "Golden Oldies" show, I was REALLY feeling my age. The music of my generation is now considered "golden oldies." I opened the sunroof and turned the music up louder. Michael looked at me out of the corner of his eye. He knew something was up. He's beginning to know when one of my moods are coming on. As I was listening to the music, I closed my eyes and tried to imagine myself being 17 again. We pulled out onto the road, and the breeze blew through my hair, and I was listening to something by Culture Club on the radio, and I almost could feel it....I was 17, I was skinny, I had big hair, I was young again! Michael braked hard for a traffic light, my eyes flew open, and there I sat. Middle aged woman at a traffic light with three bags of fast food on her over-abundant lap.

I could imagine the conversation the 17 year old me would have with the forty-year old me. It hurt to think about it.

"Yew...what happened to YOU!" said the 17 year old me.

"Life happened, you little twit!" Ha. Good comeback.

Well, you sure didn't age well, did you? And WHAT are you wearing?!"

"Hey, they were on sale at Lane Bryant. Give me a break!"

"Lane Bryant!!! No WAY! What SIZE are you wearing, anyway?!?!?! HOW could you let me get this way!!"

It got worse from there so, I stopped imagining. I glanced out the window at the Walmart parking lot. There were a bunch of teens standing by cars at the back of the lot. I thought to myself, I was cute once like them. I was young like that with the size 5 jeans and the cool hair cut and the designer clothes. I wanted to yell at them out the car window, "Hey, I was VERY cool in 1985!!!"

But it struck me as I watched them how unaware they were of anything other than themselves at that moment. I remember being like that. I thought my parents were complete dorks! And I just knew they were clueless about life and what it meant to be young and really awesome, which I was certain I was at that time. I suddenly realized that, when I was 17, my parents were 37 and 39. Younger than me right now. It was deflating to know that I could have a child old enough to be in college.

I remembered how I used to make fun of my my dad hiccuped when he drank diet coke, how my mom wore shoes that were totally uncool. I remember thinking to myself that I hope I never get old like my parents. I knew it would have to be a drag. Besides, my dad was way too concerned with how much money everything cost, and my mother was obsessed with how her dark hair was turning gray. Now, I have a gray streak of hair going up the right side of my forehead that would rival the Bride of Frankenstein's!! Isn't that always what happens??!!!? The very things over which I made fun of my parents are now the things that I live with every day. I get the hiccups when I drink diet coke, and I'm forced to wear shoes with the cushy soles so that my feet don't kill me after the first couple of hours. You have NO IDEA how difficult those things are to admit.

Anyway, back to our trip home on birthday night.

As we drove home that evening of my 40th birthday, I continued to compare my 40 year old self with my 17 year old self. It was quite the competition. And just when I thought my 17 year old self had won, we drove around the curve on Main & Bright streets and our house came into view. Nice house, I thought, as I saw the banners we'd hung out front of the historic home to celebrate Independence Day. Hey, the 17 year old me didn't even OWN a house I told myself, and a little bit of satisfaction in knowing that felt good. SHE had no idea how to work a job, pay bills, do laundry. In fact, she was kind of .... well... dumb when it comes to living in the real world. "Take THAT, you 17 year old brat!" Ha. That SO much felt better.

I took a lot of pleasure in walking into the house telling myself all the things I didn't know at 17 that I know now. How superficial I was at 17 and how I'm TOTALLY not that way now (did you catch the 80's word there?!?!). I'm a better person now, I believe. And I know how to grow my very own tomatoes. That 17 year old would have never even got her hands dirty.

At the end of the evening, after I'd surveyed my life the way it is now, after Michael and I had spent a lovely day together and came back to our home that we love so much, I decided that I'd done pretty well. Forty really isn't so bad. I've got a wonderful husband and a great job and a beautiful B&B. I've done a lot for my 40 years, and I'm actually kind of proud. I went to bed that night with a different feeling than I'd had when I had awakened that morning.

It was contentment in knowing what a lovely life I have and a feeling of satisfaction in knowing the type of person I've become.

And it was knowing that the next time I have a conversation with the 17 year old, it's going to go very differently.

(Photos: Top 3, me at 17 in 1984 & 1985. Bottom, me at 39.)


Tiff said...

Well Happy Late Birthday!

Sandy said...

Paula, I think you were beautiful then and you are beautiful now! Happy late birthday! I miss you! If it makes you feel better, I have gained 58 of my 60 pounds back! But, I am a fluffy, thirty-something with more to cherish in my life than a size 5 rear!!!!! We are blessed, beautiful and bodacious!

Janet M said...

I am living proof of the adage, "Life Begins at 40!" I'm now 45 and wouldn't be 17 again for a million dollars. Or even 27. Congratulations, both on your birthday and on realizing that the best is NOW!!!