364 Days of 40

Engage with the West Michigan Woman Community!

Tomorrow is my birthday: I turn forty-one. I'm not telling you this in hopes that you'll send some well wishes; I'm not a big birthday person, so I promise not to be offended if you forget.

Last year, I had no chance of flying under the radar. My husband rented a limo and my girlfriends and I headed downtown to bar hop. We partied. Hard. (Like "turning twenty-one" hard.) The resulting hangover reminded me that not only am I not twenty-one, but cheap vodka is not my friend—and twenty-something college boys aren't really interested in dancing with me anymore. Boo ...

Little did I know about some other things I'd feel at forty. Certainly, I've heard a lot about this milestone, and it makes sense when you think about it. Most of us aren't interested in having babies anymore; our careers are established; among our proudest moments is successfully recreating something we found on Pinterest. But physically, it almost felt like a switch flipped in my body when I turned forty. Here are a few observations.

1. Remember acne? Well, it's back.
Actually, I was fortunate to not really have acne in my younger years, so you can imagine my confusion when pimples popped up out of nowhere—and not those on-the-surface, fun-to-pop zits, but deep, painful ones. After "Googling" it and asking around, I've concluded that it's cystic acne and related to hormones. (Of course it is!)

2. Suddenly ... you can't see.
Around the first of the year, I began struggling to read what was on my computer screen. Assuming I needed the "readers" I'd heard so much about, I scheduled an eye exam. I was told that I didn't need readers after all, and my problem was simply dry eye. Damn. I was really hoping for some hip, cool frames to hide the new vertical lines between my eyes. Well, I guess it's on to Botox!

3. You can't get away with cheap beauty products.
If you're a part of my generation, your first product purchases likely consisted of frosted pot gloss, Wet n' Wild eyeliner in Very Black, and LOTS of White Rain hair spray. As you grew up, you graduated to Almay, Neutrogena, and hair products pushed by your stylist. By the time you approached forty, you treated yourself to a few expensive, high-quality products that are now among the things you'd take with you to a deserted island. That "natural" (or "grunge," if you went to college in the '90s) look you'd sport when running to the grocery store? Sorry, sister, it just doesn't work like it used to. Suddenly, you remember your grandma and her weekly visits to the salon to have her hair set. Time to pop your daily dose of Biotin!

4. Some "young thang" will totally piss you off.
I remember the first time someone called me "ma'am." It was a young, attractive gal working at Banana Republic. I was checking out when she said it and I felt like tackling her across the counter. Instead, I exited right and headed to Charlotte Russe. At least I can still don a pair of cheap platform shoes and leggings! I had another experience the other day, at a bike repair shop. As the "young man" was loading up my bike, he asked if I had any kids who graduated from such-and-such high school, because he remembered some classmates with the same last name. I scoffed at him and drove off, feeling defeated. Then I remembered the bike he fixed was my trusty Trek mountain bike from my freshman year at college. It must have looked like a relic to him. It wasn't me after all!

Phew. At least I'm not riding on one with a basket yet.

5. You think you look better than you do.
I get the whole "beauty comes from within" that Dove keeps reminding us of, and truly believe that women of any age can be beautiful. Most days, I think I look pretty good—and then I get a reality check. The other day I was walking in my office door when I caught my reflection. "What's my mom doing here?" I thought. Oh. Um. That's me. (No offense, Mom. You're beautiful and I can only pray I look as good as you do in thirty years). And have you had the privilege of seeing your reflection in your cellphone? I must have accidentally reversed the camera settings on my phone, when I went to make a call and nearly screamed in terror. Who's that scary gargoyle? Oh. It's just me again. Hello!

Yet along with the humbling physical changes that came with turning forty, some pretty great things arrived. Four decades of experience can't help but arm you with a deeper understanding of you and where you want to be, what you want to do, and with whom you want to do them. You tend to care less about what people think and more about things that matter, like relationships and health. You value time with your kids and parents more than ever. You don't feel as guilty saying "no" when someone asks you for something you don't want to do. And you daydream about fly-fishing with your husband in retirement. Yes, a switch flipped 364 days ago on that hot July day. But I'm confident in saying that I feel like I'm shining brighter than ever before.


Written by Jill Carroll, the marketing director for West Michigan Woman magazine. As long as you don't call her "ma'am," she might just let you in on more secrets of living life at 40. Good vodka works, too. 

More stories you'll love