The Pushing Forty Faultline

10557248_10203679524805110_5869584766029470010_nFor most of my life, I was the youngest person in the room. Teaching middle school at 21. Attending conferences, writing papers, and presenting ideas to large groups. I often heard, “Oh, you’re just a baby!” or “You don’t seem like you’re 25!”

It was awesome.

I moved on to another school, with a mature staff, and had a pseudo-administrative position before entering my thirties. Still the baby. This all sounds very braggy, and maybe it is a bit. But it’s also the truth–I used to be very good at my job, and I was young.

When I had my babies, I self-selected my friends, and they were all around my age, or a little older. Really, I didn’t notice, because as a certifiable egomaniac, I just assumed everybody was the same age as me.

But over time, references started to creep into conversations. At library storytime, parents would let it slip that they loved Hanson in middle school. I did, too–but I was teaching middle school. A hairline fracture gradually became a crevasse, and one day I found myself on the other side of the Pushing Forty Faultline.

It wasn’t as awesome.

People come up to me discussing menopause, and hairs erupt from my neck–MY NECK! I I notice wrinkles and tags, and turn down bread more often.

I wonder if Spanish, or CrossFit, or standing upright would be easier ten years ago. I wonder if I would feel a little less invisible sometimes.

In Spain, middle aged women wear their hair long, and wear skinny jeans and knee-high boots. They dance and celebrate, and flirt shamelessly. They wear bikinis.

And me? I try to keep the wisdom in check with the dangly earrings and evening tinto de veranos. I try not to let something as petty as a number matter, especially when I’m lucky to have the numbers at all.

And I imagine myself as having slightly more grace, and slightly more poise than I actually do. I picture myself, someday gray-haired, hopefully wearing a bright red scarf and shoes that make me smile.

And someday, I will look in the mirror and see the deep, authentic beauty around my eyes. I will know that I used every bit of my skin, and lived in it, without pausing.

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4 thoughts on “The Pushing Forty Faultline

  1. Yes, yes, and AMEN! Amen to sometimes feeling invisible among a younger crowd, wrinkled knees, chin whiskers, and who the hell is One Direction? However, at almost 38 I can say that I am more at home in my own skin, and just maybe…40 will be fabulous.

  2. When I was 26, I was a Department Head for a city government. I wore my suit skirt short, my legs bare, and my heels high. I was the one to whom everyone went when they tried to understand the new technology or what musician was “hot”. Older co-workers came to me for ideas on what to buy their children for birthdays. On the weekends, I found myself doing shots at a bar while dancing flirtatiously with newly graduated college boys and slightly older firemen.

    Now I work in a place where I watch the 22-year-old teachers arrive for the first day of school and they are no different in my eyes than the high school students in their care. Their skirts are a little too short, they’re not wearing tights on their legs, and I don’t know how they walk in those shoes. I realize if I like a song, there’s a good chance it’s hopelessly uncool.

    I feel invisible. I wish I lived in Spain where I could wear knee high boots and skinny jeans and flirt outrageously. I’m turning 40 in 13 months and am not sure how I’m going to get past that crevice. American culture doesn’t approve of the middle aged woman with slightly too much around her middle. She’s a reminder of age and time in a place where youth is worshiped.

      1. Life begins at 40 may be a cliche, but you can decide to make it true. I’m more than halfway into “lapping” you at 40, and I see my mother who has doubled your 40 and raised you 10 enjoying life to the hilt. She still has adventures on her bucket list, including a serious down hill sled run. She enjoyed the local waterslide in her 80s and would still be doing it if there was an elevator instead of those darn stairs. Last month she almost took the pastor up on his dare to do the slipNslide at Bible School after church one Sunday.

        Don’t let the turning of a calendar limit you. In many ways the passing of the years frees you up. You don’t have to mind that the song you like may be uncool to someone else. You probably know lots more songs than they’ve heard. So what if American Culture doesn’t approve of your middle agedness, you don’t have to approve of American Culture’s short sightedness.. Learn to thumb your nose a bit. Let your saucy attitude develop and strut your way through life. You are not even half way though your expected life span. Get out there and live!

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