Last month I turned 44. To put things in perspective, when I was in my teens, I had quite thought it would suffice if I made it to forty and then popped it because by then I would have achieved all my dreams, brokered world peace, patented a cure for cancer and achieved cult supermodel status. Consequently, when I did hit 40, I was feeling a trifle shortchanged that the only peace I could broker is plea bargaining with the husband for Indo Chinese takeaway over Mutton Biryani from a QSR. I hadn’t found the cure to anything, except perhaps insolence (nothing that a good sharp yell can’t sort out, as any mom worth her stretch marks will tell you) and as for supermodel status, well, if I could keep my girth from levels that would need extrication from a turnstile, I was sorted.
Having lowered my expectations from my self rather substantially, I didn’t set store a great deal by my forties, after all, what were they but a bridge decade to the fifties, and menopause and subsequent decay and decline into early dementia. But the forties have, well, surprised me. And here’s why.
1] I am finally happy with my body. Oh god, if I could chat with my 20 year old self, I would sit her down, smack her hard across the face and give her a stern talking to about the solid on toast dissing she subjected her close on perfect body to. It didn’t fit in with the tall and slim borderline anorexic androgynous looks that designers perfected but it was a body that was functional, had more curves than a scenic railway route, and could pour itself into tight clothes with no thought for Michelin Man tyres. Today, at 44, the stomach is a mess of stretch marks, the little overhang from pregnancy grimly defies all the crunches I try, the cellulite on the thighs moves to a beat of its own, and gravity has worked its irresistable magic on the breasts. But I know this is the one functional body I have, and I need to make the best of it.
2] I can go out of the house without a smidgeon of make up. You would have had to put a gun to my head to get me to put my nose out of the door without me having applied at least lipgloss in my 20s. In my 30s I felt naked without my lipstick, eyeliner, compact and blush slapped on. Today, I can wander through an entire day without running a comb through my hair, and looking like something that swamp creatures could take a tutorial from. While I can slap on the warpaint when I choose to, being out in public domain without applying a smidgeon of make up no longer freaks me out–by now I know that no one notices. Or perhaps, it is the other way round. I couldn’t care who notices.
3] I like being slightly invisible. You know, that invisibility that cloaks you when you hit a certain age–no longer do the stray romeos on the streets target you for their attentions, no longer do you walk into places and have heads turn 180 degrees. It feels safer. The fly on the wall is a more comfortable spot to be at.
4] I no longer have the desire to get out every night or every weekend. There’s no fear of missing out, there’s no fear of anything except perhaps, losing those I love. That is the only fear, and that makes me want to spend as much time as I can with them, rather than spend it in a giddying haze of out and about-ing. And yes, I’ve begun appreciating my mother more. She did a good job with me. I’m not doing half as well with my offspring.
5] I’ve learnt it is more important to be comfortable than to be stylish. Bring on the wedge heels and the lycra waisted pants, the loose fits and the clothes that fall comfortably and have plenty of give. Looking good is no longer about following trends. Looking good is about being comfortable in your skin and caring a damn what anyone thinks about you.
6] I can do what I want without seeking approval from all the authority figures in my life, because dammit, I am the authority figure in my life now. I can say no without trying to apologise or sweeten it with an explanation. I can say no to dinner invitations, and know that my friends won’t think less of me for it, because if they did, they wouldn’t be my friends.
7] I take nothing for granted therefore I am thankful for everything I have, my family, food on my table, friends by my side, the kindness of strangers. I start my day with thankfulness, all the what if scenarios keep me grounded. I know what and who are important to me, and thankfully that list is small enough to get all my attention.
8] I have zero tolerance for bullshit. I have even less tolerance for whiners and negativity. And I don’t hesitate to cut myself off from people or situations that don’t make me feel good or comfortable. I’ve learnt to no longer wear my heart on my sleeve, but on the inside as nature mandated it to be. It keeps it safer.
9] There’s no longer an urge to agree with everything a person says to make him or her like me. There’s no longer an urge to be contrarian just to make a point. There’s only the quietness of knowing my mind, and sticking to my opinion, but yet, being open to reason. And the urge to be kind, because I never know the story behind the other’s opinion.
10] And finally, I’ve realised it is now or never to pursue all my dreams. I published my first book at 40. My second at 42. And I have three more coming up for release at 44. I’ve written two more. I’ve realised this is the perfect age to be at, I have the thick skin enough to deal with rejection and not to take it personally. I have the discipline enough of getting to my desk even when inspiration is sodden with a hangover, and the muse has gone AWOL. Most importantly, I’m old enough to know I can’t blame myself now on anyone else but me.