By Dori Hartley
Every time we consider the idea of brutally honest truth, one of the first things we think of is Jack Nicholson delivering that line from A Few Good Men: “You can’t handle the truth!”
So, what is it about the truth that’s so intolerably terrifying? Why can we not handle it? Are we so cemented to our illusions of truth that we’re brought to tears over the idea that there may be more to the story? And if this story is our life and the truth cannot be denied, then the veritable and inevitable truth surely must set us free, as we’ve been told all our lives.
“The truth will set you free,” they say. And while other pop phrases, like “The truth is out there,” encourage us to accept no imposter, when it comes to our lives as women — most especially women who understand that we can’t stay young forever — the truth comes in the form of acceptance, as well as a bit of detachment.
Getting older is wonderful, but it takes a lot of adjustment, and some of the hardest life lessons come to women in their late 30s; the women who are just about to cross the threshold into their 40s. Here’s a sampling of some of those bold-faced truths for the 30-something woman to embrace … someday.
1. Employment opportunity goes down exponentially.
While in your 30s, you won’t be too aware of just how incredibly beautiful and vital you are. You’ll be thinking about things like career, kids, partnership, marriage. These are the days when responsibility really starts to pour on, and because of your youth you’ve got the stamina to deal with it all.
If you’ve got a job, it will be impossible for you to conceive of the idea of being unemployed; in fact, you will just assume that whatever you’re doing career-wise is what’s going to take you into that comfortable, wealth-filled old age of your dreams.
What’s great is that you’re still young enough to roll with the punches. That youthful glow of yours is what’s presently getting you through the door, even though you think it’s your brain or your ambition. What’s wanted is your short years; that you’re good at what you do is just a plus. Cross the border into the 40s and suddenly you’ll see how the perception of who you are as an employee becomes slightly less thrilling to others, especially employers.
2. You will age — and it will show.
In a world where our physical appearance is so scrutinized, we’re taught to fit into the mold or perish the cruel judgment of an unsympathetic human audience. Of course, if being eternally youthful-looking is at the top of the to-do list, well, basically none of us can survive that endurance test.
In your 30s, you haven’t really experienced the sag. Your boobs haven’t made the hellish descent yet, and there are relatively no lines on your face to tell the tale of your journey thus far. You’re just a shiny, stupid baby with all your parts still intact. It’s a good time but it’s not going to last.
One of the reasons women become cougars is because they’re clinging to youth and feel the only way to make that known is by being sex-kittens. Appearing sexual to others is the final frontier of not letting go, and so when confronted by lines, wrinkles, sagging body parts and the general feeling of becoming invisible, many women in their 40s go insane trying to hang on to what you kids have in your 30s.
3. Your divorce is yet to come.
Unless you’re one of the lucky ones, your 40s are when your divorce will happen. Why? Because people get bored of each other, and when boredom and over-familiarity collide with mid-life crisis (one of the guaranteed Satanic thrill-rides experienced by almost everyone in their 40s), this is where you start to rebel against your own life.
Something happens to a person in their 40s and it ain’t too good. Still, it’s real — and it’s a brutal truth. In your 40s you’re made slowly but surely aware of your mortality. And when it ends, and you become aware of how little time you have left before you start to look like Dick Cheney, that’s when you start to rebel. And this rebellion looks like cheating, plastic surgery, risking your life one way or another and being bored out of your brain by your spouse.
And the feeling is mutual, for your spouse is more than likely bored of you, tired of the familiarity, and desperate to keep themselves alive with faux-youth. You won’t be the only one who cheats, as your partner is probably already on his fifth secret affair. And guess what? It’ll be with a younger woman. Oh joy.
4. Life will beat you down.
When you arrive at the door of 40, you’re still fresh off that 39 high. Yeah, the number hurts, but hey, it’s only a number, right? And then 41 shows up … and then 42. Soon, you’re on the other side of that fateful meridian. You’re forty-freaking-six-years-old and there’s no going back.
No amount of “Hey there, you sexy eater of men” can convince you that you’re anything less than a desperate hag who’s losing her looks while witnessing a world that rejects you for your age. Well, that’s an irony we didn’t expect, huh? You work all your life, do what’s expected of you, put out a brood of kids, cook the din-din for hubster, etc., and then hello, nonstop rejection.
5. You will beat life down.
Ah, the good part. Remember that whole “wisdom of age” thing? Well, don’t get ahead of yourself here; the real wisdom won’t come until you’ve hit the 50s. However, there’s a certain strength that we dredge up when we know we just can’t will ourselves to die over the fact that we’re now alone, without money, balancing our children’s lives, and dealing with the fact that nobody wants us on any level.
What we must all know is that hormonally, emotionally, physically and intellectually, we’re at our most messed up in the 40s. If you think teenage-hood was bad, try mid-life crisis on for size. All those Ra-Ra, Go Me! programs that you sell yourself will fail you, simply because they’re NOT truths; they are ideas that let you keep avoiding the truth.
If you want to beat life down as equally as it has beaten you down, then stare it in the face and tell it that you accept it. If you want to be the master of your own destiny rather than a slave that must perform great feats of inhuman endurance just to stay relevant, then simplify your life in such a way that when the world says “no,” you say, “Whatever.”
6. You’ll still make stupid mistakes.
Don’t for one moment think that becoming 40 is going to turn you into an experienced sage. It’s not. In fact, your levels of stupidity will be put to the test in ways you never imagined possible, and most of those tests you will fail miserably.
Examples of epic fails to come:
You go online and find a romantic but “harmless” fling to charge your world up because you’re stuck at home, bored and starved for attention. At this point you might as well cross off all the things you’ll expect to receive in a divorce settlement, because to your partner, your harmless romantic nothingness is actually considered emotional cheating. And guess what? It hurts people.
You take naked photos of yourself and send them to strangers you meet online. What, you think people don’t do this? This is how we fish for compliments. “I’m sexy, right? I’m valid, right? I’m still shagalicious, right?” When you realize that you’ve just sent naked photos of yourself to strangers on the internet, you won’t have to get to 50 years old before you feel like a trash bag of lonely desperation. Just don’t.
At some point during your 40s, you will look in the mirror and see your granddad. To deal with the massive freak out that you’ll be battling, you’ll be tempted to “revamp” your look. Once again, here comes the double standard: the world will tell you to celebrate the beauty that is you while simultaneously making you feel like sh*t for being such an ancient geezer. You’ll fight, and there you’ll be at 47, dressed like Madonna during the Like A Virgin Tour.
Pretty, it won’t be. I’m not saying to wrap yourself up in a dead-body bag and get on with the dying, but trying to look “too young” to compensate for being too old is what we in the business call a mistake.
So, there you go, kids. Live those 30s to the fullest, because the 40s is without a doubt the most turbulent time of your life.
But here’s the great part, and I am very sincere when I say this: by the time you get to your 50’s, you just won’t give a crap. You’ll laugh over the ridiculous mistakes you’ve made in your 40s; you’ll cherish the beauty you had in your 30s; you’ll gag with laughter over the fun you had in your 20s; and you’ll be happy, because that’s what survival gives you: contentment.
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