But turning 40 threw me for a loop.
Who cares, really? Its just a number. A few months before my 40th, as I stood in front of two sales clerks in their 20's (or younger?!) asking for shoe advice, it hit me like it never has before. The looks on their youthful faces spoke volumes.
As we get older, our age horizon expands, no longer pigeon-holing each person we come across into their stereotypical age bracket: when we are teenagers, everyone over 20 is simply old and therefore un-cool. In our 20's, anyone over 30 must be stiff and conservative. In our 30's, well, we start to figure out that age doesn't necessarily define a person. In my early 30's, I found myself spending my lunch hour working out with a friend in her 50's. We enjoyed each other's company, and the age differential was simply fuel for our introspective discussions. She had a son entering college; I hadn't yet meandered into the world of parenthood. She is one of the reasons I became a mother.
But I had forgotten that to those young sales clerks, I am an alien. I am, perhaps, the same age as their own mothers, which puts me in a different category, and certainly not one to chat with about trends in footwear.
I thought about it as I drove home, and felt ashamed at even worrying about it. I should be proud and grateful of my 40+ years on this earth. I had childhood adventures that molded me into a well-rounded person. I embraced high school with all its delicate social nuances. In my late teens and early 20's, I dipped my toes in the craziness of unencumbered youth. I successfully navigated college life and got my degree from a well respected school. I experienced the broken heart that is a requisite for successful future relationships. I traveled to a variety of places around the world and gained perspective that cannot come from TV or books. I was swept away by the love of my life and got married. I have a career that I love. I have two happy, healthy little girls. I've got 14 years of a solid, happy marriage under my belt. I have truly good friends and a supportive, loving family.
Unlike most of my friends that opted to throw big parties or go on elaborate trips to celebrate, I spent my 40th birthday quietly, with my mom and my daughters. I decided to commemorate the day with a ride on the Giant Dipper, one of the oldest wooden roller coasters in the world. Something that someone youthful would do! Apropos of my age, I grumbled at the cost, $6 per person, enjoyed seeing my daughters' excitement at being tall enough to ride the BIG coaster, but definitely felt my age at the 55 mph trip on the jarring, uneven wooden tracks...
|taken before the ride|
Of course, I don't feel any different being 40. But the awareness is there, and sometimes I am reminded of my age. Like when I took the girls roller skating and while skating circles on the wooden floor with them, it occurred to me that I was the only person over 35 not sitting on the sidelines.
Today, grabbing a few groceries at Target, a gaggle of teenage girls stood talking loudly in front of the milk cooler. A woman a few years older than me and I stood patiently waiting for them to move on. One of them told their friends, "these ladies are waiting!" I looked over at my comrade in age and whispered, "we're the ladies". We both laughed and I said, "I'd rather be that than a teenager". And I meant it.