What was not so wonderful was the incessant changing of my age as soon as I mentioned I was turning 40. "Oh Happy 29th birthday AGAIN!" "Happy 16th Birthday doll!" "Oh you young thing, Happy 30th birthday!" Why is this so common, so accepted, and so specifically directed at women? I cannot recall one person doing this to Brian when he turned 40 last year.
I am over the moon to be turning 40, but before, after and during the cruise my husband and I seemed to be the only people actually accepting and embracing my new number. I have been happy for months just at the thought of turning 40. So much has changed for me and improved for me the older I've become. I am in much better health at 40 than I was at 22. I am much more aware of my magical powers and my place in the world now than at any other point in my life. And as the actress Tilda Swinton said recently at the age of 54, "I live with the reality that my life just gets better."
When we fail to wish the woman who is turning 40 a happy 40th birthday, what we are really saying is that the best is behind her, that she peaked in her youth, and that she should just keep looking backwards. What a truly terrible thing to do to her. Dig a little deeper and you find the subtle cultural oppression that tells women that beauty is only available to the young, which frankly is a narrow-minded definition of beauty (and, quite frankly, of youth). To me, a woman is beautiful when she has found the freedom to be herself, just as she is, and love herself, just as she is. Kudos to the young woman who is there already. But for me, it took these past 40 years, many lovely mistakes, a couple of terrible health scares, and more than a few wrong turns to even start contemplating living peacefully in my own skin. Forty for me equals a freedom I've never experienced before that includes letting go of the need to please people or fit into their vision of/for me, releasing myself from the score-keeping of life, and exploring why I like what I like. Freedom, it's the word that keeps coming up for me over and over again now.
40 = FREEDOM
So happy 40th birthday to me! And here's hoping that women embrace their beauty and magic no matter what age they are.