Originally published 7/1/2014
I turned 39 about a month ago.
Like most people facing the imminent arrival of 40, I’ve gone through various stages of mental struggle over the last couple years: trying to face the fact of my mortality, questioning some of the choices in my life, yanking out gray hairs with tweezers so I can pretend they don’t exist.
But the thing that has worried me the most about turning 40 has been the idea that I have to grow up now.
Maybe it sounds strange, but most of the time I don’t really feel like an adult, even though I’ve been married for fifteen years, have a Masters degree, and own my own business. I keep waiting for the day that I feel grown up, and it keeps not arriving.
While I’m waiting for The Grown Up Day to arrive, I pass the time by watching animated movies, reading young adult fantasy novels, and browsing the toy section at Target every time we go there. I embarrass my husband by dancing down the aisles of stores and taking funny pictures of myself with statues and props in public. I wear t-shirts and socks decorated with superheroes and Disney characters to work. I buy office supplies with Hello Kitty on them. The clothes in the “Women’s” section of stores look too frumpy to me, so I shop in the Juniors section. I build Legos and I play Lego video games on the XBox with my husband. My favorite part is when you shoot a Lego guy in the game and he falls down in pieces.
I enjoy my life.
Lately, though, I’ve struggled with the feeling that being 40 is SERIOUS, and I need to stop goofing around and act my age. There’s a ritzy shopping area here in Denver, and when you go there you’ll often see women in their 50’s and 60’s dressed in tight leopard-print miniskirts and high heels, their blouses low-cut and their hair dyed improbably blonde, trying to recapture their trophy wife heydays. I used to think, “Wow, that’s sad; they’re trying too hard.” Now I think, “OMG I AM WEARING SHORTS THAT I BOUGHT IN THE JUNIORS SECTION AND I’M SHOPPING AT THE DISNEY STORE AND WHAT IF I’M JUST LIKE THESE PEOPLE TRYING TO PATHETICALLY CLING TO MY VANISHED YOUTH????”
I don’t want to be a figure of pity for the young and a cautionary tale for the middle-aged.
But, after talking to some friends who are about ten years older than I am, I’m feeling better. They assured me that I don’t have to grow up if I don’t to, and it’s OK to keep on being silly and undignified if that makes me happy. They got matching tattoos for their 20th wedding anniversary, and for a recent birthday got a garden statue of Godzilla eating some gnomes (which was awesome!), and they are two of the happiest, most well-balanced people I know.
So, with their example in mind, I’ve decided to celebrate my 40th birthday by trying 40 new things and writing about them. These adventures will:
1. Reaffirm that I don’t have to be serious just because I’m 40 years old
2. Be a much healthier way of confronting my mortality than a midlife crisis
3. Be really fun (and funny!) to write about
I’m not sure how long it’s going to take me to have 40 adventures, since adventures often take money and I don’t have much, but I figure that if it takes too long I can always change it to 50 Adventures for 50.
I hope you enjoy my adventures as much as I’m going to!