How to be 40

In Happy Hats, Searching for simplicity on January 14, 2011 at 2:11 pm

Birthday candles

I have this idea of what it is like to be a forty year old woman.

  • She has teenage kids that are happily gearing up for college
  • She has a solid career and it is what she loves so she doesn’t want to do anything else
  • She has no concerns about the future, everything is taken care of
  • She wears beautiful high heels (not too high), a jacket and skirt suit with pearl colored blouses
  • She is in charge of her destiny, that is: has a perfectly clear laid out plan of the rest of her life and is checking off the milestones
  • She is tough as nails in the face of life and wears elegant make-up

Then there’s me

  • I have one child, a three year old who is happily gearing up for elementary school
  • I have a great job that I dearly enjoy, but still yearn to write
  • I have tons of concerns about the future as in many things are not taken care of
  • I wear heavy black Dr. Marten’s and I do not own any work suits or pearl colored blouses
  • I don’t feel in charge of my destiny many a times, heck I’m agonizing over my driving test to get my license so I can be in charge of when I go to the mall
  • I do not even look tough, maybe sometimes aloof out of sheer cluelessness and I do not wear make-up as a default

That above just doesn’t fit with my idea of forty, but with my idea of middle twenties, somewhere along the second third of my late teenage-hood, except for the driving that’s late teens.  I’m so far away from my ideal woman of forty yet here I am. Plum shy of forty, with graying hair and still searching for myself.  Perhaps I’ll be my ideal forty when I’m fifty or sixty.

What’s interesting for me about this is that the gap between my ideal woman of forty and me has been generating a struggle in the background.  The usual anguish of I should be that not this that sucks the enjoyment of what I do and am now.  Where did I get that idea of what a woman of forty should look and be like? There is no woman in my family fits that idea.  No woman friend fits that idea, although some come closer to it.  Where did it come from?

Probably I got it from the movies.  I can picture in my mind this woman with short hair, great body, pencil skirt, shiny blouse, and great make-up that comes home and drops her jacket on the sofa.  She is ready to take on dinner, home and family and will have everyone and herself happy all the way up to bedtime, thus successfully closing her day.

Is this the superwoman struggle I’ve read about? The one where a woman expects herself to be able to do work, home and family without a sweat and perfectly? Is this struggle still out there, for real? I thought it was long gone.  I thought this belonged to the years when there were ads of women perfectly made up wearing a clean and stiff little apron going around the house baking dinner and vacuuming after work, never losing their smile.

I think I need to intentionally start doing mental exercises in which I replace that impossible goddess of forty with me.  Someone that doesn’t have it all figured out and cooks just enough to keep everyone going, and that means oatmeal and egg tacos for dinner at least once a week.  Wears Dr. Marten’s 8651 shoes because they’re comfortable on her feet, doesn’t wear make-up because she doesn’t feel like it and has a job that she likes very much but she still strives to create her writing corner to capture the stories living in her mind.  And that woman is just fine.

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