June 2005

Fearless at 40

By Suzanne Strazza

I remember when my father turned 40. I remember all the buildup to the day, the party preparations, the excitement. My mom and all of their friends made such a big deal out of it – 40 was a huge birthday, filled with angst, practical jokes and well-wishers. No one wanted to turn 40 – it was REALLY old.

Well, personally, I don’t think it’s all that old. I mean, what’s the big deal, it’s just a year past 39, after all. Guess who’s turning 40 this month… yep, me.

Do I feel old? Do I feel panicked? Am I having a midlife crisis? Should I be?

You know, as I look at 40 (and back over all of the past 39+ years) I realize that I have so much more than I ever thought I would at this point in my life — more wrinkles, more gray hairs and more age spots, too.

I never thought that I would be looking in the mirror pulling on the skin under my chin (chicken flab), or plucking those renegade white hairs out of my head (yeah, you know, the ones that refuse to lie down, making sure that everyone sees them). The backs of my hands, which used to be my pride and joy because they were so strong, now have funny brown splotches that I can’t write off as freckles or climbing dings any more (liver spots). I have more Granny Flab under my arms, too.

I have more aches and pains – my back, my neck, my feet. I average one doctor visit per week at this point.

I have more pairs of bifocals than any one person deserves.

I spend more time with my friends beginning sentences with, “Do you remember?...”

I have more memory lapses.

I get more mammograms, I have regular visits to the skin doctor and I hear the word menopause a lot more.

I read “Revenge of the Middle-Aged Housewife” and related to it.

When I read greeting cards in the store, I automatically grab for the ones depicting white-haired old ladies talking about their breasts tucking into their belts.

I had a conversation today about liking Olivia Newton-John.

I have more debt, more bills, more boxes of useless memorabilia in the attic.

I also have more friends and more joy than I ever thought possible. I have more love in my life than I could have dreamed of. I have two woundup and totally lovable boys, plus a husband who is just the same. I live in a place that I love, a place that feeds my soul.

I have happiness.

Really, the teenage years were absolute misery — zits, braces, bad sweaters and making out behind the gym with some pimply, stubbly boy.

Twenty-something wasn’t all that great either — 53 job changes, bad Lycra, too much booze and making out in the back seat of some random car.

The 30 years got better, but they still had their downside too; the pregnant months, the “no-sleep” years, baby spitup on all of my bad baggy overalls and never having time or energy to make out at all.

Forty is all about peace and acceptance. I’m past the braces, the boozing and the baby spitup. I don’t care any more if I wear bad clothes ( I do draw the line at Lycra and leg warmers), the only braces in my life will be my children’s and I suddenly find myself wanting to make out again.

So, even thought my breasts, stomach and butt are all heading quickly in the direction of the floor…

Even though I can’t see across the street without squinting…

Even though I can’t remember my own husband’s name (although I do remember that I love him)…

Even though I feel like the old fart at work…

Even though hearing of friends staying out until midnight makes me shake my head in disbelief… Even though I often say, “I used to…”

And even though there are many things that I know now will probably not happen in this lifetime (like climbing an 8,000-meter peak or becoming a Hollywood sex symbol)… I am happy.

I wouldn’t trade 40 for any other age in the world.

Suzanne Strazza, who still has a few good years left in her, writes from Mancos.