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For those of you who have no interest or desire to read this post because you’re nowhere near turning 40, you might want to just print it out and tuck it away, bookmark it, or just put it into the archives of your mind, in much the same way I did when I came across this article from the mid-nineties about when Oprah turned the big 4-0. Thank goodness my 25-year-old self had the foresight to hold on to this, because now that I am the big Four-Oh (and trust me, it happens far more quickly than you think), Oprah’s words resonate and inspire me now more than ever. (Fabulous image: Anne Taintor)
To paraphrase, Oprah says that when a woman hits 40, all the B.S. drops away (she says it far more eloquently, but I told you I’m paraphrasing). We, as women, spend our twenties consumed with what everyone else thinks. Deny it all you want, but it’s true and I’m old enough to own up to it now. I used to worry about my shoes, my hair, my purse, the way I walked, the way I talked, the way I ate, the way I slept (do I snore, talk, drool, pass gas, or do some other completely disgusting thing in my sleep? That settles it: I will never, ever sleep in front of a man, EVER).
But now that I’ve just turned 40, I realize that it goes much deeper than that. In my twenties and even into my early thirties, I felt myself wanting to excel and achieve goals, but the problem was, they were always someone else’s goals. So many women have The Game Plan: career by this age, married by this age, kids by this age, and so forth. I think most of us realize that’s completely unrealistic at this point, but those kinds of distant goals stick in our brains nonetheless. Many of my best friends got married, had kids, achieved what they wanted in their careers, all before the age of 40, and if I wasn’t right there neck-and-neck with them, it just feel wrong. Moreover, I felt kind of worthless.
But when you approach 40, something magical happens, and I mean it. Suddenly you’re hit with the fact that life is short, and all those years you spent worrying about having the right shoes don’t mean crap. What does matter is how happy you are with yourself, not how happy you are to know that your coworker loves your purse. My happiness is not tied to the fact that everyone likes my hair. As stupid as that may seem, I know that each and every one of us has gotten a haircut in our lives that we didn’t actually want, but we felt like it was the right haircut to get. For other reasons. For other people.
Well, when you’re 40, you’re done with that. For the first time ever in my life, I can honestly say that I don’t care if you like my hair, clothes, purse, the way I talk, the way I laugh, the way I eat. And if you actually judge me based on those things, then I simply don’t have the time or the room in my life for you. That might sound bitchy, but quite the contrary. I’ve got lots of love to give, but I’m wise enough now to know who is deserving of that love. I’m through giving my love to those who will never return it, and I’m especially through giving my love to those who do not treasure it. Every single person in my life now loves me warts and all (I don’t actually have warts—that’s just an “old folks” type of saying). And that is the most liberating feeling you can ever imagine.
So with this, I’d like to give a shout-out to the amazing men and women of my generation. The people who, like me, grew up in a very special time in history, post-typewriter but pre-internet. The people who remember that their first cell phones were as thick as a phone book (do kids even know what phone books are these days?) and who still remember the function of a postcard.
Here’s to other fabulous men and women who turned 40 within the past year. None of these people seem “old and irrelevant” to me—which clearly means that 40 is the new 20! And remember: If you’re 40 or about to turn 40 and you ever hear a young whippersnapper say, “Wow, she’s old, she’s like, 40” just whip out this list and tell them you’re in VERY good company.
Sarah Silverman, Aisha Tyler, Kelly Ripa, Mark Consuelos, Giada de Laurantiis, Tina Fey, Jennifer Connelly, Queen Latifah, Mini Driver, Taraji P. Henson, Leah Remini, Nia Long, Ani DeFranco, Jay-Z, Jennifer Lopez, Julie Bowen, Matt Damon, Morgan Spurlock, Adam Goldberg, Beck Hansen, Chris O’Donnell, Ethan Hawke, Glen Hansard, Ione Skye, Jay Mohr, Ken Leung, Martha Plimpton, Samantha Mathis, Uma Thurman, Vince Vaughn, Will Forte
How about it readers, do you fear 40? We hope after this post, that the answer is no!