I wanted to slip quietly into that black night and turn 40 in secrecy. No black balloons. No mid-life jokes. Just me, self-care and eating birthday cake with the blinds drawn. I certainly, under no circumstances, wanted my younger friends pointing out to me for the one millionth time that the next oldest person in the group is one of their parents.
How did I become the oldie of a friend group? I live like a double agent. By day I am a career woman and mom. I juggle conferences, workloads and school pick-up lines. I work during my kid’s practices and I help with algebra while I teach my adult staff the same exact skills. Really…maybe we can all just be on the same Zoom call.
Thanks to a divorce and a split custody plan, I also have a lot of time just being a single lady. No kid. No husband. The laundry is all caught up and I’m looking for connections outside of my dog. Most moms my age do not have the luxury of time and freedom which is how I ended up in a crowd of younger people.
As I reflected on this birthday, I observed some differences in our approaches to life:
1) Early thirties women without kids spend a fair amount of time lamenting about how they are too old for children now. At 30 it seems too late and at 40, whether you want kids or not, you will launch head-to-head, sword swinging combat on nature just to make the point that you decide when it is too late.
2) On that note, young moms or not yet moms talk about the healthy choices they will make for their babies. And boy oh boy does it sound judgy! I did it, too. I even walked the walk for an entire twelve months before my daughter got her first taste of sugary, blissful birthday cake. My dreams of being that perfect, home-grown natural mom became a joke at that very moment. Now it’s cheeseburgers after practice. It’s allowing a sip of my wine just because her scrunched up face gives me fortune-teller insight as to what kind of sorority girl she will be.
3) It can be difficult to be around a younger person who is taking risks early on and rocking their career. Their life seems like a playbook for what you should have done. People say comparison is the thief of joy and as I look over their brochures about pools, elite wine clubs and vacations, I can completely agree. Alas, I am not a total asshat. I am also inspired by my friends and I am very happy for their success.
4) Dinner at 8PM is no problem. It’s no problem for me either except when the little one is in tow. Fancy menu? Great for me. Several bottles of wine? Sounds nice. Tired, annoyed kid who just wanted chicken strips and grown-ups who don’t act like kids? You bet.
5) I’m suddenly talking about yard care, leaf removal and the timing of flower blooms. Then I follow that up with home repairs, the best roofers and the awesome battery powered trimmer that I just bought. Here’s a tip…save those inspired nuggets for an early dinner with your older friends.
6) It’s a night out and you’re finally going to meet your friend’s new lady. Yay! Another lady to spend time with. Except that she is closer to your daughter’s age than your own and she makes the same face when she drinks wine. On the bright side, she knows what your daughter needs to survive junior high.
7) I have grays. My metabolism is slow. I gained a few extra pounds. I hate the way I look in a bathing suit. So do most women in their thirties.
8) I am more interesting than I thought. Something about this last ten years made me more interested in history, my family’s background and what is happening in the world. Now I have insights and experiences that I can intelligently share. My perspectives are different which makes for good conversation.
9) Although there are some differences in perspective, past a certain point age really is just a number. Sometimes I am 40. Sometimes I pass for 30. Sometimes I feel 50. Sometimes I act like I’m 21. Sometimes I wish I were retired. All of the ages are good and all of the friends are worth having.