***

So. This is 43.

Yep.

Forty-effing-three.

Those older than me will tell me how young that is. Those younger than me will cheer me on, like I’m some sort of minor disease survivor – and then mentally push the number down to a place where it can’t touch them. It is so far away, right?

Right.

One of my favorite people called me a few weeks ago, on my birthday, to wish me a happy day. Her words were perfect: “Happy Birthday! I want you to know you’re still relevant.”

She is brilliant. And honest.

We had a long conversation about this number (she will be turning the same age in a few months) – and we are, as many before us, incredulous. Forty three. I want to slap it away from me like a mosquito, but I can’t. It’s a bite that will itch for days, maybe months, maybe perpetually until forty-four kicks it to the curb and slithers into place.

My friend and I laughed over the absurdity. We talked about the not so distant days of being “the young girls in the city.” We discussed how women before us forewarned that at a certain age, we will become invisible.

And we laughed at our arrogance in ignoring it.

“Listen,” I said, “We are intelligent women. We are fully capable and deserving of where we’ve gotten, because we’ve worked hard. But let’s be honest, there have been times, we have gotten by – when maybe we shouldn’t have – due to some sparkle.”

And then we both laughed at the honesty of it.  And, now, the impending end of it.

That party is almost over.

My little brother recently got married. He is nearly a decade younger than the rest of us siblings. The weddings on rotation in my age group are long gone and so I hadn’t been to such a celebration in a long time. It wasn’t until we arrived at the reception that I realized, “Wait. We aren’t the young people at a wedding anymore…” 

When did this happen? WHY didn’t I pay attention?!

I once read an article years ago with actress Ellen Barkin. She was discussing the  inability of so many to age gracefully, the plastic surgery that ends up erasing the proof of life imprinted on our shells. She said (and I’m paraphrasing), “Stop! Stop doing this! Find something else you like about yourself. This is not all you are made up of.”

Find something else you like about yourself.

I have chanted that on repeat over and over in my head whenever I see a new web of lines around my eyes or a soft spot on my body that was once defined.

Find something else you like about yourself. 

It’s so easy to say – and so hard to do – when you’ve spent years defining yourself as young and… sparkly.

Every birthday, especially in these last few years, has been a gift. I have looked at each year as pure luck that I am still here and so grateful for it. I am not defining my forties as The End.  Not by a long shot! I am saying there’s a shift happening. And I’m feeling it now more than ever.

Call me vain (I am!). Call me superficial (I can be!). Call me whatever you want (trust me, I’ve been called worse!), but this is how I’ve been feeling lately. And I know I’m not alone, because I’ve seen a few articles floating around affirming the same inner struggle.

There are other things I like about myself, Ellen Barkin. I swear there are!  But I’m just having a tough time letting go of a part of myself I enjoyed – and appreciated – that is slowly fading.

And that’s ok. I’m human. We’re all human.

Except maybe you, Gwen Stefani. Seriously, there must be a limitless tap of virgin blood in your house somewhere. HOW are you doing it?!

So. I promise to maneuver this stage as gracefully as humanly possible – and truly try to like as many other things about myself as I can.

(But I’m not above a little Botox… I ain’t going down without a fight.)

xo,

Jen

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