Turning 40 for me was a little tough, not horrible, but I had to get used to the idea. I think the biggest problem with the dreaded 40’s is the expectation that comes with the decade. People in their 40’s are supposed to dress a certain way, act more mature, and you’re supposed to have it all together, right? That was what I thought. I had this vague plan in the back of my mind for where I should be in my life by the time 40 rolled around. When I turned 40 and I didn’t meet all of the standard criteria I scrutinized myself, wondering why I didn’t look or act the same as most other women my age. I was a divorced, remarried, mom of two. I thought I would have been a published author by the time I turned 40. The thing about expectations, as I have written about previously, is they warp our view of ourselves.
In the last two years, I have grown so much as a person, and as a mom. Two important people in my life passed away in 2014, forcing our family to focus on the important things – the glue that holds our family together. Sometimes I think we have to be stripped of almost everything, to be taken down a few pegs to be reminded what is really important in our lives.
One of the most frustrating things for one of my daughters it when people comment about how young I look in front of her. I absolutely LOVE those moments and take them whenever I can get them.
I was in a store recently and a very young, twenty-something woman helped me. She said something about having a toddler at home, to which I commented that my kids were long past that stage. She asked how old my children were, and was shocked to hear my age. I hated telling people my age when I first turned 40, but now I’m proud of my almost 42 years. I’ve earned every one of them! She commented the usual shock, and then she said, “you look great, for your age.” She muttered the last part under her breath. I could tell you that I was thinner than her or perhaps dressed better, but then I would be tearing her down to make myself feel/look better, just like she did. Have you noticed when you know you look great, you’re having a good hair day, and you’re wearing your favorite dress or jeans, some other women look you up and down? Some even frown or give dirty looks, and others are rude. Another mother actually made a snide comment to my 16-year-old one day about my weight. She thought I was too thin, and this was the parent of one of my daughter’s friends. When I was younger I would give the attitude right back, assuming they were trying to be mean and hurtful for no reason other than being hateful.
Trish & Her Girls at Various Ages
I like to think that now I know better, so I try to do better. I know how it feels to be a teen-aged girl, just learning about herself and the power of her sexuality. I remember how powerful it was to feel pretty and desired. I also remember how horrible and desperate I felt when others talked behind my back, laughing at me for being the creative, sarcastic, weird girl who moved from school to school. I remember being in my twenties, figuring out who I was, what I wanted, and hoping to find a man who would love me with all of my flaws. I know how it feels to not be confident in your clothes because you haven’t quite lost the last few pounds of baby-weight, tugging your shirt down over your middle. I remember the sagging bags beneath my eyes after countless sleepless nights of nursing a colicky baby. I remember how it felt to be a newly divorced woman, on her own again and unsure of herself. I looked at my own body in the mirror in comparison to the much younger woman my ex was dating, feeling undesirable and ugly. I have been these women or a version of them at one point in my life. When I see older women staring at me, I remember I will be them one day, staring at someone younger and prettier. Instead of being rude when other women try to tear me down I offer a smile. I try to talk to them, to show them I’m a woman just like they are – flawed and human.
We are one in the same and we all should help one another. Think about it for a bit; men don’t typically behave this way. They don’t stop one another on the street, stare each other up and down or make snide comments about weight gain and the way their clothes cling to their thighs. When another man walks into the room looking sharp, the other men often don’t even notice.
How powerful would we all be if we came together instead of turned on one another?
When that young woman muttered that I looked good for my age, I smiled at her. I told her thank you. I wished her well and walked out of the store with my head held high. I do look good, for any age. I look good for almost 42 and I’m proud of that because there is also so much more to me. If another mom is out in sweatpants maybe she was up all night with a teething baby. I enjoy dressing up on most days for no reason other than it makes me feel good about myself. I feel better when my hair is done, I’m wearing bright colors and cute shoes. There are other days when skinny jeans and a T-shirt are all I can manage. Rather than pointing out one another’s flaws, critiquing what other women wear, and judging yourself against other women, try to allow them to motivate you to do better – to be better. None of us are the same, or have identical lives. Compliment another woman -a stranger- the next time you are out. Let me know how it goes.
To all of those women in all stages of life, no matter which stage you happen to be in, hold your head high. There is room in this world for all of us to be beautiful in our own individual way without taking anything away from one another.