I turn forty in a couple of months, and I’ve recently become driven by a compulsion to tell everyone that I turn forty in a couple of months. Spoiler alert: that may be what I’m doing now. I’m not sure if it is to see what the words feel like coming out of my mouth or to impress upon people that I am now full of some mystical wisdom that, just last year, still escaped me. Or maybe I’m subconsciously trying to explain away errant wrinkles that were offensive at thirty-nine but somehow become acceptable at forty. If I am in an elevator with a stranger and the silence gets a little weird, I find myself biting my tongue, chewing back the guttural urge to tell this person, whatever his walk in life, that, in fact, I am about to turn forty. What IS that?
Whatever it is, I keep saying it. To everyone. And I can’t stop.
By nature, I am an over-explainer. The socially awkward part of my brain has a mainline to my tongue, and when in doubt or fear, I babble. Some find this endearing, while others clearly do not like me from the start. The members of the latter group used to haunt my thoughts, but now, as I approach forty, I have approximately zero shits to give about those people. Some of them, if they are forced into my proximity multiple times, I will win over, because dammit, I am funny and a goddamn delight. Some will never like me. I am an acquired taste, and I have a lot of friends who have acquired it. I have grown out and wised out of caring about people who have not, including people whom I’m related to, both by blood and by marriage. Because seriously; I’m almost forty, and I am too busy awkwardly singing it from the rooftops to have time for those people.
As I approach my birthday, I’ve been having an important conversation with myself about my age and the body that has carried me to this age. It goes something like this: “We are almost forty, body, and it’s time I learned to love you.” For my entire life, I felt as if my body was betraying me. In junior high and high school, my height ranged from 5’10” to 6’1″. I was taller than almost every boy, fell constantly, sucked at sports, had knees that ached, and would, if anyone let me, sleep for fifteen hours a night so that I could keep growing. After high-school I got too chubby, then too skinny, then super athletic but with too-large thighs. I passed on water park trips and beach adventures and even just laying by the pool on a summer day—for twenty plus YEARS— because I felt that I was not worthy of wearing a bathing suit. My weight fluctuates on a twenty-pound spectrum. At the low end of the spectrum, I am happy, and at the high end, I’m sad. No more. I’m a mostly healthy eater and an active person who is shaped exactly like my sister who drinks Coke all day and eats fast food and never works out. So, this is my body, my DNA, my genetic makeup! I have spent approximately 30 years hating a body that is healthy and strong (though sometimes injured) and I’m done with it. I will continue to be active and healthy and as strong as possible through exercise and a proper diet, but I refuse to hate my body anymore. It carried a rockstar of a baby who still snuggles up against the squishy part he lived in to sing himself to sleep with made-up song lyrics. It carries my brain, the same brain that sprinkles my own brand of awkward into the world. It has run ten half-marathons, six sprint triathlons and an olympic distance, and it has climbed up half the 14ers in Colorado, plus it can swim laps faster and longer than almost anyone it knows. For all of those things, my body deserves a prize. And if that prize happens to be a grueling road race, I’m in. If it’s a massage, yeah, I’ll hit that. If the prize is a cheeseburger and a beer, I’ma get after that shit. Guilt free. Then fetch me my swim costume, Jeeves, this statuesque Athena-type is taking a long overdue pleasure dip.
Forty is for feminism, (I just made that up—should that be on a t-shirt or what?) and because I was just speaking about bodies, I’ll start there. Can we stop talking about women’s bodies already? Seriously. Why? Why? Why? I no longer care what anyone’s body looks like and vow, though it might be difficult because of the way it is ingrained in everyone, to stop talking about bodies full stop. Mine, yours, hers, his. What your body looks like is not my business. If you can accomplish amazing athletic feats with your body, congratulations, that’s awesome. If your body holds a brain that can write a NYT bestseller, great, I’m super proud of you and, ok fine, also kinda jealous. If your body is tired and old or young and new or fat or thin or pale or dark or a bikini body or one of those inflatable Sumo wrestler costume bodies or whatever, I don’t care. I want to hear what you have to say and what you feel and your take on the state of politics right now. Unless you’re voting for Trump, then I don’t want to hear shit from you. But even then, I still don’t care what your body looks like.
In other feminism news, I’m going to use my fortieth year and beyond to fight back. I have let a sexual assault invade my feelings and thoughts and self esteem for fifteen years, the same way about a kerbillion other women out there have probably done. I’m stopping that, and then I’m helping other women stop that, and then I’m fighting for it all to just fucking stop. I’m going to find a way to help keep bad men from touching women without permission, even if I can only help a little. I’m a big girl now, and I can do something about this. In my mind, that culture, that fear, and that power struggle are the main reasons we make less, why some think less of us, and why we often end up feeling like we are less. We are not less, we are equal. Equal to everyone. And females are strong as hell.
There’s more I want to accomplish as I embark on this this milestone birthday; maybe I’ll post another rant about it soon, but I don’t have time right now. I’m raising a boy-feminist with my feminist husband, kicking ass with my own business, and starting my birthday celebration early by leaving for Vegas this weekend—where I will lay by the pool enjoying cocktails and cheeseburgers with my best friend, who happens to love my witty, albeit endless, banter. So I’d better stop this babbling go pack my swimsuit.