Fuck. This is it; the big 4-0. I am definitely not ready. Up until now I haven’t worried all that much about the number on my card. This year it all feels rather scary.
Forty is different. It’s just so huge. I have this sense of it being a before & after year. There’s the obvious sinking of youth. I’ve noticed a few changes on my face. In themselves they aren’t a problem, what they signify certainly gives me pause. I’m beginning to wonder how my body will stack up against the ageing process. Are my dodgy joints going to pack in altogether? Will my hair go white? Is menopause on the way?
40 feels like the nail in the coffin of fertility. I know that hope is already all but extinguished. Hitting my fifth decade seems symbolic; a final snuffing. There are so many unattained goals. I expected to be living a different life by now. Time is whizzing by faster than ever. Getting through the ultimate to do list is increasingly daunting.
It’s not all black. I have built a life I’m proud of. I’ve filled it with bloody lovely buggers. All my people have made beautiful babies for me to adore. I’m doing the work I’ve always wanted to do. I feel loved. So, this is 40. Terrifying, but I’ve conquered the fear before. Why stop now?
I think it’s universally acknowledged that getting older is a wee bit scary. As one approaches those big milestone ages it is hard not to ponder the big questions. 39 is frightening mainly because of its proximity to 40 & all that entails.
I remember being worried in the run up to the big 30 too. Mainly because I felt like I wasn’t where I had imagined I would be at that stage of my life. That little measure of fear probably helped in the long run. It helped me make some needed changes. My thirties have been far happier than the preceding years. I believe what made that possible was time. I had time to think and plan and manoeuvre.
Ultimately, though, I’m approaching 40 still missing the crucial piece of my puzzle. However, this time I am very nearly out of time. My options are ever shrinking. That is frightening on a whole other level.
I sometimes feel like the proverbial guilty feminist when I have this conversation. Fear of ageing is often assumed to be about vanity. It’s thought silly to worry about grey hairs or crows feet. It’s assumed the desire to stay young is about adherence to sexist beauty standards. Or if it runs deeper the biological clock is referenced in demeaning tones. Ageing childless and/or single women are often perceived as desperate or pathetic. I suspect much of this is internalised, but I had to get these messages somewhere!
Where am I going with this? I suppose I just want to say it is ok. Things become a cliche for a reason. Ageing is scary. Whether that is because you are worried about physical changes, not achieving goals, your own mortality or all of the above. It’s ok. Most folk struggle a little with change. It’s perfectly understandable to feel uncomfortable with the alterations you see in the mirror. It’s fine to be concerned about the irrevocable biological changes that age brings. Knowing that some opportunities have passed you by can be hard to accept. The unstoppable nature of the passage of time is alarming.
In many ways age is just a number. Nevertheless, ageing does have concrete ramifications. It isn’t anti feminist to accept or care about them. A big part of the significance of our appearances is routed in living in a patriarchal society. It isn’t merely a shallow obsession with attractiveness; women’s ageing is not viewed sympathetically. There are real life implications beyond aesthetics. Career prospects, financial considerations, medical and fertility issues are a big deal. Even if you just really lovely your hair and don’t want it to go grey, you’re allowed to have a wobble about that.
In the end the thing that makes it so worrisome is also what helps me deal. You can’t stop time. It is entirely out with our control. Feel whatever you feel. Talk it out. Then carry right on living because it is always later than you think.