“Someone mistook me for 21 today!!!” posted a 43 year old acquaintance. Braggadocio earned her 140 likes in under 120 minutes. Comments from others followed about being mistaken for much (!) younger. Facebook feeds our narcissistic desires and I personally “like” that. It works to my benefit, especially since I have an otherwise overlooked summer birthday. My friends in their 30s post about John Hamm, Netflix or naptime between baby feedings. Those who post about work – Well, I probably don’t pay attention – but they rarely have happy endings.
Anyway, the response to the 43 year old swiftly becomes a manic flurry of “me too”s, with nary a 30 or 20something chiming in. I am candid with myself and I know we are all going through some sort of “life crisis.” With options in the modern world like lunchtime surgical nips, fillers and great makeup (contouring!), as well as books by scholars the likes of Cameron Diaz and Jessica Alba…we feel minor assurance. We have little stories we tell ourselves. I sit and sip my green tea hoping it will negate yesterday’s aspartame-infested diet coke and New Amsterdam peach flavored vodka, but I already foresee the name of my future sitcom: “The Last Unbotoxed Woman on Earth.” The plan for now is to age naturally. As my sister in law stated so eloquently: “Wrinkles are beautiful. They show you’ve aged.”
I just saw Raquel Welch on the telly (being a woman of a certain age means I can affect a British accent when I choose, just ask Madonna). The woman is absolutely gorgeous, and, we can all agree: “well preserved.” The reality is that not many of us can afford the good kind of plastic surgery, and the bad kind is too readily available. Let’s not enumerate, but we can agree that the very rich have fallen prey to hideous work. Forget face lifts; it is also quite expensive to seek out options such as lipo, lasers and lights.
It is never a one-time deal from what I have surmised. Maintenance is required. I have met a few plastic surgeons and they will compliment you and flirt away (See: the E! network’s smarmy Dr. Robert Rey), but they will never simply let you say “I’m fine with my appearance.” They have a suggestion for anyone and everyone. This, in my opinion, is the reason for “fake boobs” among the gorgeous of L.A. and Beverly Hills. You can’t mess with perfection, but oh, you can if you are a plastic surgeon because perfection does not exist. (I happen to think little breasts are perfect for running and just generally not getting in one’s way, but that’s just me.)
But back to the real people, the ones who aren’t on Bravo. There is no end to the amount of cups you can fill from the alleged fountain of youth. Hearing about the miracle and attached lore of a broth one man formulated to heal his problematic skin, I am in Bloomingdales searching. The price tag for this broth which is now a cream that is eerily scented (fragrances in a miracle broth for the most sensitive of skins?!) and has the feel and consistency of pediatric staple Eucerin, is exorbitant. Two ounces retail for over 300 dollars. I timidly ask if I can try a sample. They are out of samples, how fortuitous (!), but I know I can hit up Amazon and spend 10 dollars for one, yes pay a small price for the samples that are given out free.
Another customer joins me at the counter. She is fully covered from head to toe, face veiled in an abaya, a Muslim traditional garment that is the best SPF money can buy. I try to make out her eyes’ reaction to the insane price. She takes out a 100 dollar bill followed by two more and I know she’s for real. The saleslady makes an inappropriate comment about what terrific skin she must have under there, that it’s a shame she’s all covered up. Racist! I ask my new friend, the abaya-clad customer at the counter, if the miracle broth is worth the mula. She says she swears by it.
The saleslady takes the opportunity to digest my fully uncovered face and examine the pores rather laboriously. “You, my dear, cannot use the cream, you need the gel. You are acne-prone skin!” she announces. I try to explain that I’m 41 and so I am focused on anti-aging too. I say I’m a tad worried the gel won’t address the moisturizing I might need, now that I am getting up there in the years. “Rubbish!” she might as well have said, though she was more Brooklyn than British. She dismissed me with a wave to the Clinique counter. You see, we are all being dismissed, my dear 40somethings, as going through some sort of silly stage akin to a midlife crisis and not really understanding what we need to do for ourselves.
I also realize it is not only skin deep. We are reading all sorts of ludicrous books on feminism that we may never have picked up 15 years ago (for me, it’s Fear of Flying.. I’m not knocking Ms. Jong, but I would not have appreciated it in my 30s). We are determining our identities and one step further and more subconsciously, our legacies.
The “stage” you are at now, if you’re halfway to your 80s, is suddenly under self-scrutiny. Am I happy? Am I fulfilled? Have I written the great American novel yet, the one I was supposed to publish at 25? Yeah, that last one is MY depressing admission. These are all minor aspirations for those faced with greater challenges. Perspective changes in the face of overcoming illness, abuse or worse. How you process the deeper resolutions of making your life great and seizing the day may be altered by a Xanax in the short run, but you’ll later cry in the shower wondering why you can’t connect with your emotions. You will realize it is to your benefit to feel!
For some reason, my friends in their 50s seem to be over the more massive hump. Those initial grays, age spots and wrinkles are so yesterday. They’re busy traveling and posting pictures of bowling nights out with fabulous folks. But I know they must have their fair share of complaints that I’m not hearing —Still, I feel they’ve shifted priorities. They’re busy commenting on Kosovo, not on the Kardashians.
There’s less pressure to impress when they leave the house, having finished the New York Times crossword puzzle (will I be smarter in my 50s too? I hope so!), clad in stylish yet supportive sneakers, hair scrunched in a bun with minimal makeup. Unlike 40somethings, these woman have known each other for a long time and even when they haven’t, they seem to be candid and not self-conscious. When they trade stories about their spouses or dates, the candor need not be candy-coated or apologetic. The air is filled with understanding, cynicism is a part of their regular humor, not a set-in-stone gossip- garnering sign of learned helplessness.
The above is all based solely on observation and what it looks like from inside of 41, looking out. So I ask that you take it all with a grain of salt – or a strand of salt and pepper hair. Turning 40 signified numerous changes for me personally. I’ve stopped caring more than half as much about what others think (while admitting I have a way to go. You don’t know my starting point, in fairness), I definitely take more fashion risks (wide brimmed hats, bright red lipstick), I focus on the time I’m spending with my kids in the suburbs and not the fact that I haven’t been in the city partying freely and unencumbered with friends in eons. My friendships are based on who I bond with best, whether they be 27 or 55. Age is just a number after all. We can have similar life experiences as someone a decade younger or a decade older.
However, I recently reflected that at age 41, I have no friends who are 21. I’m just not sure we would have ample common ground. Beyond taking selfies (which Wendy Williams says we may be a little old for past 40), a friendship with someone half my age would likely begin with a flip of radio stations and end there: Justin Bieber is on the radio? Hmm. Did you know that according to Wikipedia, the singer’s mother was born in April of 1975? I was born in July of 1974.
Chelsea Handler recently admitted that she felt like a pedophile interviewing Justin Bieber because it’s part of his shtick to flirt with his interviewer. Chelsea Handler is a full year younger than I am. So putting these random little puzzle pieces together, it is more logical that I could be Justin Bieber’s mother than that Chelsea Handler or Justin’s very own motheris disconcerting. If I think too hard about what it means to be in my 40s, I will forget about beautiful glowing JLO, or my friend Brian who looks like a teenager but is a highly sought out international headache specialist at a mere 41. And I can’t forget the human rights activists, the novelists (damn them!), the filmmakers and the people who are living their dreams – and mine!
What it boils down to is that a “crisis” affects those of us who have not yet grabbed the bull by the horns. Some of us are unsure how to, or we feel stuck, but we also feel an urgency to carpe diem. We are not getting any younger. So if you are in your 30s or 20s and wondering why so many “older” people are posting selfies or sharing pictures of their massive hike to the apex of Kilimanjaro, try to be understanding.
We are still living, somewhere between young and old, somewhere maybe prior to, or just post, mid-life, and we fear irrelevance. No one gets out of this crazy world alive, but we’re all here now to make an impact. The greatest fear, in fact, is not actually death since we know death is an inevitability to life. The greatest fear is going through life without making a mark, or leaving a legacy, without diving off a few planes high in the sky, without making someone gasp or smile for a lengthy period. Our 40s may be our last decade to let loose and go wild while our God-given knees and hips are still in-tact. So excuse us if we make absolute asses of ourselves in order to live each day to its fullest and rejoice, but it seems like the perfect time.
(Article previously published on my Huffington Post blog)