Most people suffer mightily on their 40th birthday. They consider it a milestone, the entrance into middle age. I was nearly six months pregnant on my big day that year, so I did not absorb the change in the tens column like most women do. I did not mourn my youth, because I had not lost it.
43 was my 40. That year, I suddenly realized that not all adults were the same age as me. There were actually women – the dewy skinned ones – who were 20 years younger! I considered switching skincare products.
It wasn’t only that. I would get on the treadmill after 6 months of nothing, and my knees would hurt for two days. I had to keep lowering the speed. And I realized that if I wanted to remain at my current weight, I actually had to watch what I ate.
But now, I am two days into 45. I feel great. I now consider myself a wise old woman, and am proud of it. There are a few I have learned since 43. I will call them Jenn’s Rules, and I promise they won’t be anything like my old film professor’s “all women should retire their arms at 30.”
1) Think of each birthday as your opportunity to be spoiled, recognized for all you do and told you are wonderful. Plan your splurge, weekend away, dinner or party if no one seems to be doing it for you. They will come, some will bring little gifts, and you will have fun.
2) Bare your midriff if you want to. I see too many women my age who never take their swim cover-ups off at the pool. The freedom of crossing 40 and having kids is that none of us are going to suddenly become supermodels. No need to be embarrassed that you didn’t make the cut. You may be cute in your cover-up. We may not see the flab on your belly, but we all know it’s there, you look hot, insecure, and you are missing out on all the fun with your kids.
3) Go out with your friends at least once a month. They will keep you sane and laughing. But go out more than that. Date nights at least every other week will remind you that romance is not dead at any age.
4) Skorts. Wear the flirty ones even if you don’t play tennis. Everyone will think you do. And you feel remarkably younger.
5) Exercise for fun, to get outside and to make sure breathing never gets too hard to stop you from doing what you love – playing, hiking, walking through museums, traveling, jumping on trampolines.
6) Don’t drink more than two glasses of anything alcoholic…especially on your birthday. You will hurt before the next day and beyond. But don’t restrict either. Moderation is the key to happiness. You can always recognize the people who are constantly forbidding themselves little treats, whether it be wine or chocolate. They carry the pressure in their eyes.
7) Do not regret what you haven’t done yet. Start a new bucket list of the things you want to do or achieve. You will find that at your core, you are the same energetic, adventurous person you were at 20. Most things you wanted to do then remain on the list and are still attainable. Start knocking them off and add a new one every year as part of your birthday ritual.
8) Feel free to share your aches and pains with the girls. We all have them. Someone will top you. And you will certainly end up laughing.
9) Try something new or explore someplace new whenever you get the chance. Surprise yourself (or your friends or husband or kids) with your daring.
10) Smile. You are only 45.