Hurrah! I’ve made it to 40! And I would like to take the opportunity first of all to say that I do not feel my age. I was chatting recently to a lady who I don’t think would mind me describing as “older” (I’d guess she’s in her 70s) and we got to talking about how perceptions of age have changed over the years. We agreed that whereas in the past, 40 was definitely seen as the age where one started to slow down, settle down and start the gentle roll down into old age, this is no longer the case.

Certainly when I was a child, I saw 40 as old, and as I grew up, still considered 40 as ‘middle-aged’ which can have very negative connotations. 40 has, to me, always implied sensible clothing (think M&S and Viyella), grown-up leisure pursuits (think golf rather than skateboarding), mid-life crises, and the onset of middle-aged spread. Also, it is drilled into women that if they get to 40 without having had a baby, Time Is Running Out. But for just about everyone these days, the negative messages about this age are increasingly out of sync with how people actually live.

For a start, we are *generally* in better physical shape in our 40s than our forebears, and overall the average age at which people die is creeping up and up. So 40 is becoming less a gateway to old age, and increasingly just another age, albeit at the upper end of young.

Statistically, a lot of people my age have had a number of partners, and are far more likely to be on a 2nd or 3rd major partnership by the time they hit 40. At which point most of the ‘middle-aged and married’ jokes do lose their point a little, and it is probably fair to say that most people of my generation have enjoyed a much more flexible approach to relationships.

The same goes for jobs. Very few people that I know are still doing the same job at 40 that they started out doing. The economy has become a place for temporary work, short-term prospects and flexibility. So again that image of the 40 yr old with a steady job-for-life and 2.4 children is waning.

And me? Well, apart from the ‘not feeling 40’ thing, on a personal level, and also when considering my life against the stereotypes I grew up believing, I am currently going through a 2nd puberty. Which at my age is a touch undignified, but can be quite fun. I have more spots than a Domino’s pizza, have the sex-drive of a crazed rhino, am inclined to slam doors, and spend endless time trying to express my thoughts. However, I also get hot flushes, whether due to the testosterone, or my ovaries giving up the good fight is hard to say. Believe me, combining puberty with menopause-like symptoms all makes for an interesting 40 yr old life, very different from my childhood expectations.

As for middle-aged spread, despite generally eating more now than I used to, I am still the same weight that I was before starting hormone therapy. My muscles are growing bigger by the day, despite my exercise regime being rather sporadic, my face changes practically every week and I am stronger and more energetic than I have ever been. When so much physical change is going on, and I’m in good physical shape as a result, I think I can postpone middle-aged spread to my 50s, or even 60s.

So, 40. The goalposts have definitely changed – firstly because despite still clinging to outdated stereotypes of what 40 year olds are like, society has changed. Secondly, because by changing my body, outlook and happiness, I have removed myself from the expected path through life. I rather like that I am no longer expected to conform, though as I mentioned in a recent post, I do still hold on to my own, ridiculous, expectations of success, and it is these, not anyone else’s, that I need to focus on kicking into touch.

Some jokes about being 40 that are about as far from the truth as you can get:

At 40, you get two invitations to go out on the same night, and you pick the one that gets you home the earliest.

At 40, every time you suck in your gut, your ankles swell.

At 40, I realize that I was built for comfort, not speed.

 

Yeah, right. Speak to me again when I’m 50.

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