How to be 40 is a question, not an answer.  If you’re looking for answers, you came to the wrong place.  I’m not sure either.  But I plan to find out.   You see, I’m turning 40 this year (April 30, 2008) and it occurred to me that I have absolutely no idea how to do that. 

Aging has always been tricky.  As a baby, I couldn’t wait to be a kid.  I reveled in the art of being a kid – skinned knees, pigtails, freckled and fearless.  Just about the time I had the world by the tail, I was 13 and my body started changing in some very inconvenient ways.  How am I supposed to run wild like a banshee with these boobs?  After a rough transition, I got really good at being a teenager.  Honor student, hellraiser, heartbreaker and still fearless.  And just about the time I knew everything, I dove headfirst into the real world.  And landed smack on my head.

From what I remember, the 20s were fun, but full of growing pains.  When 30 arrived, I wasn’t ready for that either but figured I could get away with 10 more years of acting like I was in my 20s.  And I did.  Now that I’m 40, I don’t feel any different but can I get away with another 10 years in my 20s? 

What’s so special about 40?  To sum it up in one word: it’s ominous.  It’s as if I should feel different and I should be different, but dangit I’m not different at all.  Like those crazy pubescent nightmares I still have where I show up in algebra class, totally unprepared for the big exam.  And I’m usually topless in the dream, which might be another issue altogether.

Undoubtedly, the ominousness is only perceived.  Our culture has certain expectations for the 40 year old woman.  If movies, TV shows and literature are any indication, I should be a desperate housewife or desperate to become one.  I should be wearing spanx and lying about my age.  My biological clock should be ticking like a smart bomb.  My head should be firmly pressed against the glass ceiling.    

How does a chick who is not married, not in therapy, not bitter, not bored and blissfully child-free reconcile herself with being a 40 year old?  What does 40 look like in the new millenium?  Is 40 the new 30?  Am I “middle aged?”  Where are my role models?  Am I a pioneer, blazing a new trail?

Primarily, I’m interested in how women like me turn 40 – single, child-free, successful, stable and well, happy.  Before you get your panties in a wad, this is not to say that being a wife or mother is unimportant.  The whole point of liberating women was not to keep us from traditional roles, but to make those OPTIONS rather than obligations.  Frankly, I’m not convinced we’re 100% there yet.  While I respect women who consciously, thoughtfully and responsibly make those choices, I’m painfully aware of the palpable pressures to do what is expected.  

This is also not to say that the male experience is unimportant.  It’s just that dudes seem to have more freedom to age or not age without pressure.  A 40 year old single man with no kids is a maverick, a bachelor, a distinguished gentleman.  He’s George Clooney or Cary Grant.  A 40 year old single woman is a spinster. 

This is also not an effort to reach out and network with other women like me.  I’m also blissfully anti-social and misanthropic.  I have created this blog as a shamelessly public navel-gazing exercise.  (Aren’t most blogs?)  For the month of April 2008, I’ll be counting down to my birthday with a new, brilliantly insightful post every day.  After that, in addition to stories of interest and my own musings, I’ll be posting input from other people who have turned 40.  When my year is over, I hope to pass this blog off to someone else who is turning 40 and keep the confusion alive.


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