I’m 40, and I’m ok with that…

I’m 40, and I’m ok with that…

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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!

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44 thoughts on “I’m 40, and I’m ok with that…”

  1. As my husband turns 40 this week and I will in a few more years, I understand what my parents have been saying all these years…you finally, really know who you are in your 40’s!
    I feel like I am less inclined to do things I don’t want to do and I like to surround myself with positive, fun passtimes. The sense of duty is gone and you no longer feel guilt about taking care of yourself! Yay 40!

  2. @nouveaucheap I loved this piece! We certainly have some fabulous 40 and over ladies here!! It is so important to embrace any age that you are at. Just because we hit a certain age doesn’t mean that our life should be over.We can still look and feel amazing as long as we live well. And I am so going to work on living life more fully, openly, and with less worries.

    Gianna you are one amazing forty year old!I love your outlook on life. It is very inspiring.And according to your list “40” has never looked so good. So no,I do not fear 40.

    Oh, and we must not forget that one of our fearless leaders @stef has just turned a “Foxy Forty”!!

  3. @glamazon56 I couldn’t agree with you more! That sense of duty just kind of falls by the wayside, and it feels glorious! Please wish your hubby a happy, happy 40th from me, and tell him “Welcome to the club”! :)

    @hao9703 Thank you so much! I’m so glad you understood what I was trying to say! Looking back, it was such an enormous waste of time and energy, caring so much about what others thought of me. And about looking 40, I kind of feel like 40 looks darned good now, when you look at the people on this list, eh? ;)

    @Kellie76 Yes!! Happy, happy belated b-day to the foxiest forty we all know, @stef ! I could not agree with you more about embracing whatever age you’re currently at. In the grand scheme of things, it all goes by so quickly, and I feel like I never really embraced *any* age until now. So thank you for saying that, and thank you SO much for the kind words. xo

  4. Love this post! I am 38 so I’m pretty close to that age now. I totally agree with you, when I was in my 20’s I had zero clue who I was. By the time I was 32-33 everything changed for me and now I have no issue speaking up for myself, being who I am and not giving a rats ass what people think about it. This age rocks!(I could do without the fine lines and back problems though, haha!)

  5. YAY! Happy you turning 40 BEFORE ME! LOL. I will turn 40 in July. I admit I am dreading it, mostly because I don’t feel what I thought 40 would feel like. I feel more in my late 20s. I dunno. I like the idea of all the BS going away, but I still think I’m gonna care, to some extent, what people think of me. However I have decided to give up on being fashionable. I just wear what I like and say F-it! LOVE your post!

  6. Kelly: I am SO glad you understood what I was trying to convey. And you GO, girl! I love that you don’t care what people think! We should *all* try to live our lives like that because at the end of the day, we only have ourselves to answer to, right? Those people we were worried about in our 20s were just a mere blip on the screen. But um, yeah, I could do without the fine lines and back problems too. ;)

    Elvira: I know *exactly* what you mean about not feeling how you thought 40 would feel! I think that’s the biggest surprise that no one really tells you: there IS no “way to feel” when you’re 40! Everyone I know who has turned 40 recently has said EXACTLY what you just said–we *all* still feel like we’re in our late 20s. Surprise! Oh, and I dreaded it too–I can’t lie. BUT, once it hit, there was an enormous sense of relief and I swear to you it’s not bad–it’s wonderful. Promise.

  7. Wow! I love, love, love this article. I want to completely feel this way at my current age, 22. This article gives me hope and a good outlook. Keep being fabulous!

  8. @nouveaucheap and I have had plenty of emails over the past couple of months on this subject, and I have to say, G. you helped me a lot (as I hope this post may help others).

    I was none to happy about my impending 4-0. It’s ridiculous really, how different would it be from 39?! But something about it made me feel incredibly old. I spent most of the month before my birthday in a funk. And not a good “Bootsy Collins” kind of funk either! There was lots of crying, looking in the mirror; the whole sad sack lot!

    But then, it happened. I turned 40 on January 2nd (which is the worst date in the world for a bday, but that’s another post). And you know what happened? Nothing. No one stopped and pointed at me. My husband didn’t instantly leave me for a younger woman. I wasn’t kicked out of the junior section at Macy’s.

    Best of all, the feeling that @nouveaucheap describes really is true. I’m 40, so what?! For me it came down to practicality. “Is there anything I can do about it?” Since I don’t own a time machine the answer was no. And I have WAY too much to do then spend time worrying about it.

    The weird thing for me (and I’m sure G, Kelly/VampyVarnish, Elvira and @tyna can relate) is that being an older beauty blogger is both a blessing and a curse. The curse applies when I look at younger bloggers posting pics of their line-free lips, testing out the latest lipstick. And I have to take 200 pics just to get a pic of myself where my jowls aren’t showing. But the blessing applies when I get to test a $275 serum! Luckily, the blessing aspect far outweighs the curse. And I do feel pretty foxy for 40 (thank you, you sweet things!) and that is absolutely due to everything I’ve learned in this industry.

    I could do with less of groaning when I get up from my chair though…

  9. Lachelle: That is just so wonderful to hear! I’m so happy to have given you a little insight that you can take along with you on your journey. I hope you can learn from our mistakes and feel fabulous and enjoy every second of *every* age! xo

    @stef: I feel like that sadness is a rite of passage, really. We EARNED being this age, and as we all know, it ain’t easy to get here! You earned those tears, but the beautiful thing is that you didn’t wallow in them once it hit. You are SO right that nothing really changes once the day hits–except for our outlooks.

    And about the blessing/curse of being a more “mature” beauty blogger, I TOTALLY hear ya on taking a zillion pics before finding one that looks “decent” but, again, I think that the first or second pic probably looked amazing and we were just being too harsh (still carrying around some of that judgmental weight of our 20s!). So I’ve stopped taking so many pics and apologizing for how bad my pics are. I earned my wrinkles, damnit. :)

    Oh and a HUGE blessing? We are old enough to remember when fads and trends came around the FIRST time! I am constantly seeing “new” beauty products that I know I saw in the 80s, and we’re so lucky to be able to recognize that and distinguish the truly new from the recycled. That’s a great gift and we should embrace it!

  10. You know, I do fear forty, but in a different way. I fear I won’t make it to forty sometimes. Seizures can take a person’s life away if the seizure is bad enough. Thankfully I’m on medicine to control them, but it really makes you think about the next day.

    I definitely have to find a place for this post. I sometimes feel old as it is and I turned 22 yesterday!

  11. I am glad I have people like you in my life (internet life that it may be!) to look up to as a postive role model. I have always been astounded by how much you do, and now I am astounded at the way you conduct yourself when you do it! I ♥ You, G!

  12. Fabulous post. When I turned 40, my new mantra became – “with 40 comes freedom”. Freedom from the guilt of saying no to people for a change & free from the bs from those who as you said, didn’t deserve my love. 40 is fabulous!

  13. Great-great post @nouveaucheap! I was thrilled to read your words of wisdom. I recall feeling so out of sorts when I was younger. It is kind of funny how all the things that seemed so important to us in our youth an instant can fall by the wayside. It’s like a light of reason and thinking rationally goes on in your noodle! I remember turning 40 seven years ago and that seemed like yesterday. Aging gracefully is the key, and not sweating the small stuff is huge! Life has so many other things in it to glean from than a silly little number- A number is just a number no matter how you slice it! Here’s to another 40! My motto..Live,Love and Laugh! Everyday is a gift and life is for the living! Blessings to you all.. You are all precious, unique, and special -more than can ever really know, no matter how old you are!

  14. Oh @nouveaucheap, I feel ya! Having turned forty-one this past year I must say it is the best of times (and the worst of times). Heading into this perimenopausal decade is kind of scary (what about those kids I was always too immature for…I want them now..). But you take the good (I def learned to speak my mind, too…and oh, the attitude that can be parlayed to sexy in a NY minute), you take the bad (joints that crack, eyes that can focus on the small print, pretty young boys of a certain age that see you as a hip, motherly type), you take ’em both and there you have the Facts of Life.

  15. I stopped fearing forty when I turned 35. I turn 39 this year and I’m so over the 40 scare. I did have a moment when I was pissed because I realized that I’m no longer in the demographic that stores and the media market to but then I soon realized that I was OKAY with that. I don’t want what they’re selling.

    I like being a grown-a** woman. I’m more comfortable with my looks, my beliefs, my sex life, and I’m actually excited to be closer to menopause. (Why? Because cramps suck.) I think about the hot mess I was at age 25 and age 30, and I’m so glad to be on the verge of forty.

  16. I followed Gianna here from her blog. G, I really enjoyed your piece, and I think your perspective is spot on. I was fortunate in that I realized much younger than 40 that it was time to start living for myself and that the most important opinion was my own. I literally stopped being a type A person. I knew I could achieve whatever I set my mind to. But the issue became what price would I pay to achieve it?

    I quit my job at a big, prestigious law firm for a regular hours job that actually interested me – with a $20,000 pay cut. I got involved in the volunteer activities I had missed so much. I took a intensive religious study program that taught me about my faith and brought me closer to G-d. I bought a house and started a garden. I was single for a very long time, but I believe the changes I made helped me to be better suited to be a spouse and ultimately the mother I am today. I am blessed to have started that process when I was 32. By the time 40 rolled around, I was in a good place. I’m 44 now.

    And to the wht gals, I’m happy to have discovered you!

  17. This is a wonderful article, @nouveaucheap – thank you for writing it. It is making me want to reevaluate some things now before I turn 40. I am 36 and realizing that I think I care more now about what people think than when I was in my 20s, and that’s just not right. Relationships are a big part of it – you are so right when you say to realize who not only deserves (or doesn’t) your love and will or will never return it, but also mostly who *treasures* it – so true!!

  18. Awesome article! I’m definitely going to archive this for future reference as currently I am 34. Right now I’m thinking to myself…but I’m already there! I don’t care what others think of me other than those who matter in my life (close friends and family), I don’t bother wasting my time with those who don’t matter to me but aim to be civil and polite and my goal is to focus on my happiness in conjunction with those I love. I’ve been this way since 23 when I made some hard choices and changed my focus so I wasn’t torn in so many directions trying to please everyone! Without getting into my history and drama, sometimes we learn hard lessons and make the right choices earlier in life than usual and can see the wisdom of others and say “yup! ain’t that the truth” knowing we’re there too. So, I’d love to know if, looking back at myself when I turn 40, I can still say the same thing applies to my 34 y/o self today or am I just being presumptuous? LOL Keep on showing us that age is just a number and wisdom comes with experience :)

  19. What a wonderful post @NouveauCheap ! I should print this out…

    At nearly 27 I still struggle with a lot of the fears and uncomfortable thoughts that come with being younger. I have horrible body image issues, I always wonder what others are thinking about me, my hair, etc. Strangely enough, as my first grey hairs start to come in I’m slowly finding myself being able to let these things go!
    Part of it is sort of related to @KateZena said- I have a physical disability that is degenerative in nature. As I age I’m just so happy to be able to have a body that still (mostly) works! I’m learning to be thankful for it, warts and all as you’ve said.

  20. @nouveaucheap, I just want to say that you stated this all so beautifully, and I especially love the list of 40-ish celebrities. This will come in handy, I’m sure! Thank you for your candor about a subject that frankly makes me a little cranky. I just try to think about when I turned 25 and thought I was “old.” Ditto for 30. I have no doubt that years from now, we’ll all be looking back at 40 thinking about how young and silly we were!

  21. I turned 40 this past August and I was glad to see that number. I had a good time in my twenties being carefree and open minded. When my thirties came I started to panic that I didn’t have a career, was already seperated from my husband after two years of marriage and could feel myself going nowhere. I eventually got divorced and ended up in another dead end relationship for nearly 6 years. I lost my sense of style, gained loads of weight and just basically lost my way.

    Turning 40 was the tonic I needed. There are no expectations of me now because people assume I’m too old to have children and have written off me having a career and I don’t give a toss. In September I’m getting married to gorgeous 25 year old who makes me very happy. Being 40 has given me confidence that has been virtually non-existent for the last ten years.

  22. What a great article…you have definitely hit a nerve. The comments are wonderful. I am 38 and therefore 40 is not so far away. It is in my thoughts and there have already been some tears. However I am much happier than I’ve ever been in my life and feel better about myself in every way. It is true…there is just no time to worry about what others think. I actually feel when people start calling me a bitch (and I hear about it!!) I will have finally have gotten it “right.” It will probably mean I’m doing all the things I want to do like those other fab 40 women J-Lo, Uma etc who often get pegged as Bs. ;-)

  23. This post couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m only a year and a half away and I have to admit I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. My hubby just turned 40 a couple of weeks ago, so it’s been on my mind a lot lately. I’m going to print this up like you did Oprah’s and tuck it away for my special day. Kim I love your mantra…at 40 comes freedom. I’m think I’m going to start ingraining that thought in my brain now. Great post @stef!

  24. I’m way ahead of you baby girl! I don’t even remember my 40th birthday, that’s how little I cared. I pretty much stopped celebrating my birthday after 21. Everyone says that you’re an adult at 18 *wink wink* but it’s official at 21! No other birthdays are as much fun as that, so I don’t do birthdays. I think this means I’m still 21! lol

    I learned from my husband not to waste my time on people who won’t love me unless I am perfect. I remember telling one of my friends about him, and that he was different and “more like a brother, except not in that gross incest kind of way. But that he knows the good and bad, and still loves me anyway, and I feel the same about him. It’s like family they don’t leave you even when you’re at your worst.” She said, “I think you mean unconditional love?” D’OH! Yeah, that’s exactly what I mean. See I was an idiot back then and nothing much has changed. lol

    It’s the knowledge that there are people out there who will offer you unconditional love, because we all deserve that, those are the ones you allow into your life.

    It bothers me that I can’t get through to my kids that they shouldn’t worry so much about what other people think. I guess it’s just something we all have to go through and they will come to this knowledge in their own time. But damn, you have so much more fun when you stop caring about everyone else’s opinion and just do what you want!

  25. Congratulations on an incredible essay, so well expressed!

    For me, the funny thing about turning ANY age was that I constantly lied lol — not for any other reason than to lead my children to believe I was younger than I was (what is WRONG with me?) lol. After years of this, whenever I was asked my age, I have to do the math, because I just don’t focus on the number much anymore :-)

    Some incredible things happen as you get older, things you’ve touched upon, things I never thought would happen to me (but they did): I don’t care what others think of me anymore. I mean, sure, I care if people think I’m a good PERSON, but with regard to the shallower things in life, I just don’t care: I don’t care if you approve of my clothes, my bag, my shoes, my looks (am I too fat in this?), my opinions (because we’re entitled to our own, though we mute our voices when we’re younger). In other words,


    Life is far too short to be concerned about things that in the long run just don’t matter. It’s been an incredible awakening!

    The 40s ARE the new 20s, it seems … we just happen to be 20ish with years of experience (ie, I’m 42, which makes me 21 with 21 years of experience under my belt LOL).

    Here’s to us, love us or leave us ;-)

  26. I’m leaving my 40’s next year. All of my 40-something years have been grand, save for these last 3. I’m back to struggling with how I look. Don’t my eyes look tired? Where’d these sun marks come from; they weren’t there yesterday! Why is my cleavage looking so crepey?

    As a new nail/makeup blogger, I have come to the rather harsh reality that the beauty industry does love youth more than wisdom. And I’m cringing at the thought of bloggers that are just getting into their 40’s are considered a ‘mature’ age. So, what category am I in when I turn 50?

    I’m looking for healthy AND WISE role models myself. Maybe because we all need them, no matter what age. Maybe after 40, we see that a depth of wisdom is longstanding compared to fleeting outside beauty.

    Gianna, you ARE the BEST! Creating a friendship with you has been rewarding and easy. :)

  27. I just want to say a HUGE welcome to all the new faces we saw in the comments on the post! Your participation means so much to us. I know most of are @NouveauCheap friends and fans, we love her as much as you do!

    And we’re all pretty nice too, stick around! :)

  28. Ladies! I would just like to say that reading your comments over the past few days has literally brought me to tears. The fact that, no matter what your age, you can on *any* level identify with what I wrote makes me so emotional I can hardly get through writing this comment without breaking down (in a good way!).

    You have no idea how much it has meant to me to see so many of you take the time to leave such thoughtful, beautiful and insightful comments here. I want to personally thank each and every one of you for every word you so beautifully wrote.

    And one thing I’ve learned from reading these comments is that we ALL should be grateful for WHATEVER age we are at this very moment, because all we truly have is this very moment.

    I love you all so very much taking the time to share you wisdom with me and with this entire community. @stef and @tyna have brought us all together by creating this amazing site, and now more than ever I feel so truly lucky to be a part of it.

    And as @stef mentioned, thank you to all of my wonderful readers for coming over and joining wht!! Please please stick around for the fun! I’m SO happy you’re here. The fact that you’ve joined WHT is like when you suggest a great movie to a friend, and the friend actually goes out and sees the movie, and ends up loving it just as much as you do. Such a sense of fulfillment to see your beautiful faces here! xo

  29. I guess I’m super behind or somethign because I just saw this but even though I’m only 22 I feel the same way I think in the past 2 years I’ve come to realize all of that I don’t care what you think and I won’t put up with your BS.

    Thank you for writing this makes me glad to know that I’m not a weirdo for being like that. Yay for 40!

  30. Oh and a HUGE blessing? I lost my sense of style, gained loads of weight and just basically lost my way. But um, yeah, I could do without the fine lines and back problems too.

  31. Totally late to the party, but wanted to chime in. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I can’t wait to turn 40… It sounds wonderful. This is coming from the girl that cried on her 26th birthday because I was ‘over the hill.’ Thank you for sharing. Love it when women are able to be honest, share and comfort each other. xo

  32. Considering I did some life altering stupid things in my twenties worried about what others thought of me, my forties are AMAZING. I have had more fun, more happiness, and more joy in my forties than any other time of my life! Not to say it hasn’t been challenging, but for whatever reason, it’s not AS challenging as when I was younger.

    I jokingly said that at 40, I stopped counting in years and started counting in decades, so I was really 4. Except I was reminded that this year I will be the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything…

    I’m definitely owning 42!

  33. Age milestones mean nothing. You might be more likely to die as you get older and the parts certainly don’t work as well, but milestones are just societal markers. If we had a base 6 or 12 number system instead of base 10, we’d be celebrating other milestones. “Hey, you made it to 36!” If our life expectancies were shorter or longer, we’d be having this “mid-life” at a totally different point. If we lived in Haiti, Mozambique, or Afghanistan, we’d be near the end of our lives (statistically).

    If you are happy with your choices and happy with your life then continue on. If not, change something. I think the only caveat to this is that you do your best not to impinge on others pursuit of happiness. I personally don’t believe in purposely causing emotional or physical harm through a selfish pursuit of happiness.

    I don’t believe there is anything after this, so I make the best of what I have. I am a teacher. My knowledge goes forward even though I will not. That, to me, is one of the most important things I can give, and it makes me happy.

    What you do with each orbit around that huge nuclear fireball at the center of our solar system is what defines your life for you.

  34. I will turn 40 on the first of january 2013 – i feel young but i am as well realistic my body my face dont look anymore early thirties but late thirties…. a man broke my heart this year but early enough to heal and meet someone else in few months…
    anyway im turning 40 and its less scary that turning 30’s – thank you for your article – I just needed a glass of red and read it :)

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