June 4, 2012 in Adventures in Re-Discovering Myself


Bad things happen when you hit 40 years of age.

I’ve had friends mention this to me on occasion. “Your body changes when you hit 40,” they’d tell me, shaking their heads at its inevitability. But I was a young whippersnapper in my 30s. I came from good stock: strong, athletic ancestors, some of whom lived well into their 90s. I was energetic and physically fit, and could eat anything I wanted to and not gain weight as long as I exercised regularly. My hair was uniformly black and shiny, and I could see just fine since my Lasik eye surgery.

Whatever was happening to them couldn’t possibly happen to me.

When I turned 40, nothing happened. Clearly, my friends had no idea what they were talking about.

41…the same.

42…the same.

And then one day, I couldn’t fasten the button on my jeans. I couldn’t button a pair of my slacks either. What was happening?

I evaluated my exercise routine: nothing had changed. I evaluated my eating habits: nothing had changed. Well, I did help myself to more than my fair share of the kids’ snacks, but hadn’t I been doing that for years? And who was I to turn down a Rice Krispie treat?

Could it be that my body was changing? Had my metabolism slowed down as my friends had predicted? Was I getting…old?

I suppose there have been little signs along the way. I can no longer drink heavily on a Friday night and expect to function the next day. Staying up late, which used to be a fun adventure, now sounds like a nightmare. I wear glasses when working on the computer to help combat eye strain. And what was that I saw in a recent picture of myself? Wrinkles? Since when?

How can I look like that and still feel like I did in my 20s?

One day while my dad was up for a visit, we sat on a bench watching the kids play on the playground. It was a sunny afternoon, and my dad commented on how surprising it was that my hair had such beautiful shades of amber and gold when the light hit it just right. “It used to be so dark when you were younger,” he said.

“That’s because I color it now,” I admitted. I didn’t need to tell him it was because my hair was starting to gray. He figured it out all by himself, and the bald man laughed heartily at his vain daughter trying to hide her gray hair, as in Welcome to My World.

But I still feel young! I’m not ready to hang out with the adults and have conversations about creaky joints on rainy days or where you can buy Centrum Silver on sale. I don’t want to discuss getting a living will or whether I’d like to be buried or cremated, and I definitely don’t want to talk about Medicare.

I’d much rather hang out at the kids’ table, talking about TV, movies, American Idol, who likes who at school, and what hilarious YouTube video just went viral. I’m still young and hip, dammit, even if my face, my body, and my metabolism seem to have forgotten that.

All you young ones out there, don’t listen to me. Keep on enjoying your youth, your smooth skin, your luscious, non-gray hair, and your ability to chow down on Peanut M&Ms with no consequences. They’ll be plenty of time to tell me I was right down the line. Just say it loudly because I might not be able to hear you by then.