Turning 40 Was All Fun & Games Until…
I turned 46 this year and it’s been a hard one to put it lightly.
I really do wish I was writing an article praising all the awesome things about aging up and life in the mid-forties, but I’d be doing you all a big disservice with a fluff piece. So instead, I’m going to write an important story. One that is very much for me and my cohort, but also—and maybe more importantly—for the younger generations of women. I hope that I can help you avoid enduring some of the experiences I’ve had. I’m going to share all the things that people need to stop saying to women over 40.
Look, I know you hate to be told what to do. But really, I am doing this for all of us. Including you! I know it’s hard to imagine now. If you are in your 20s or 30s, the 40s (especially the mid-40s blech!) seems so far away.
But they aren’t. We are all aging baby. Tomorrow you’ll wake up and you’ll be standing in my shoes with both feet firmly planted in the middle of your life and a whole bunch of younger people trying to bring you a cane and some Aspercreme while telling you what you should do.
That’s right you’ll be a woman over 40.
Coming Off the High of Turning 40
I thought turning 40 was the shit! I embraced an age that I just knew would let me shed all of society’s most annoying expectations. Questions about having kids, my professional ambitions, and my love life dissipated to nil. I relished the freedom the invisibility this new decade offered me because now, unwatched by the judgmental eyes of the masses, I could get away with whatever the fuck I wanted to.
Sure, I felt bad for my younger sisters still navigating the social pressures of baby-making, marriage, and career life. But hell, I had done my time! We all have to right? In retrospect, I should have known escape from the never-ending challenges of being a woman living in today’s society wouldn’t be that easy.
So here I am halfway through my 40s with some wisdom to pass on that could very well improve the lives of women over 40 for generations to come, should anyone take it seriously.
This list goes out to both men and women who haven’t quite made it to mid life. Listen up. Now, Let’s get started:
7 Things Everyone Needs to Stop Saying to Women Over 40
“For Your Age…”
Let’s just start with the obvious and most annoying backhanded compliment ever. It’s used by younger women and men of all ages alike and comes in the form of:
“You’re attractive for your age.”
“Wow! You sure are strong for your age.”
“You’re surprisingly sexy for your age.”
You name it, people love to tag “for your age” on the end compliments made to women over 40, effectively making said compliment an insult in a matter of seconds.
Just imagine if a woman in her 40s turned the table on you and said:
“Wow, you haven’t accomplished much for someone in their 30s.” Or,
“You really aren’t very fit for someone in their 20s. What happened to your youthful metabolism?”
Doesn’t feel good does it? Stereotypes about age suck.
Look, people, you are living in the dark ages if you still equate beauty, strength, and speed with youth. A parade of women have shown the world that life doesn’t suddenly end when you say goodbye to your thirties. Women are scaling mountains and becoming elite athletes after turning forty. And don’t forget the jaw-dropping 2020 Superbowl Halftime performance Jennifer Lopez (50) and Shakira (43) put on this year. Younger stars couldn’t (and haven’t) done it better. And Jlo and Shakira are part of a growing club of stunning beauties like Charlise Therone (who recently kicked ass in “Old Guard”), Gillian Anderson, Halle Berry, and Kate Beckinsale who have all proven that beauty isn’t restricted by age.
“It’s probably Menopause.”
When we were younger, our unpleasant feelings had to be due to our hormones and periods. And now every unwanted emotional response just has to be due to the onset of menopause. If you find yourself saying this to a woman over forty, it’s highly likely that you are the cause of her anger, and that her moodiness has nothing to do with menopause at all.
I am not your mother!
I don’t know how many times I’ve had younger women tell me that I remind them of their mothers. I truly hate it when this happens. It’s so awkward, and kind of gross. It immediately sets up a dynamic that feels super unhealthy. I am not your mother.
While participating in a sincerely miserable yoga teacher’s training a while back, I found myself in among a group of mostly younger women. Many of them were amazing, however throughout the three-month long course, I had two younger women approach me to tell me that I reminded them of their mothers. Then they proceeded to share their mommy issues with me and treat me as though I was the mother who wounded them.
Unfortunately younger women aren’t the only ones who bring their mommy issues into play. While it’s nice to be hit on by younger men…things can start feeling gross real fast when a guy mistakes an older woman he’s dating for someone who wants to bottle feed diaper them. (This doesn’t apply to people with those very real kinks…but seriously, join a group to find that special person. Leave the rest of us alone.)
Bottom line? I’m not your mother and I don’t want to hear about your mommy issues. Now that you are all grown up, you should just talk your problems out with her.
The cougar concept
Here’s where things get weird (once again) for women over 40. Society loves to perpetuate the idea that older women chase younger men in a desperate attempt to reaffirm their worthiness and sexiness. The concept of “The Cougar” creates an image of a sad woman over the age of 40 trying to recapture the withering beauty of youth with an abundance of makeup, plastic surgery, and copious amounts of sex with much younger (and dumber) men.
The reality is that younger men more often aggressively pursue middle-aged women without provocation. Younger men, genuinely seem to adore older women. While our plump cheeks and lineless skin may be gone, we’ve gained some attributes that make us equally as attractive as our younger sisters: confidence, knowledge, sexual skills/sexual openness, a liberated lifestyle, authenticity.
Please note, I said equally attractive. I do not think that older women are more attractive than younger women, or vice versa. I think women of all ages are beautiful and each age has its own allure.
Most any comment from 30-year-old men
“Do you typically go for younger guys?”
A good friend of mine, who is currently 45, was asked this while on a date with a 38 year-old man. “At first I was struck dumb. I didn’t know how to respond. His age hadn’t really occurred to me until then,” she explained. “Then I snapped back, ‘No, they typically go after me.'”
There’s really nothing more pathetic than a 30-something year-old man asking a forty-something year-old-woman this kind of question while in the process of wooing her. Look, I know this is hard to hear, but once you are in your thirties, mid-thirties–and especially your late thirties–you are no spring chickens yourselves. You are supposed to be grown ass adults with more of a macro view of life and the world. It makes things real awkward as the woman you are on a date with becomes suddenly painfully aware of the lack of maturity that’s packed into an otherwise aging body.
Those articles. You know the ones. The ones that tell women over 40 what they should stop wearing? Fuck those articles. Women should wear whatever they want, whenever we want, wherever they want to.
We make the rules.
Do not listen to the thirty-five-year-old yoga instructor or personal trainer who just realized she’s aging and has decided to advise every woman older than her to back off the long runs and challenging yoga poses because their bodies just can’t handle it anymore. (Sorry babe, I know you’re freaking out, but you can just keep those crippling stories to yourself).
Again, please refer to the large number of stories about women well into their fifties and sixties kicking ass! Everybody ages differently. And, every time a coach, trainer, or teacher makes one of those very limiting comments, it wedges into your consciousness and creates damaging doubt.
I recommend getting up and leaving immediately whenever this happens to you.
“You’ve earned your wrinkles…etc.”
Dear God! We know you mean well, but telling older women that they should feel proud of their wrinkles and that they are doing themselves a disservice if they decide to get Botox or dye their hair is just plain dickish.
Women should do two things after they turn forty:
- Whatever the fuck they want
- Whatever the fuck they want
It turns out that turning 40 wasn’t the answer to all of my womanly frustrations. So, instead of running from the challenges women over 40 will inevitably face, I think we should work together to be the change that is needed in order for women to thrive throughout every stage of their lives.