I’m an intelligent, liberated woman, so why should that number faze me so?
It does. I’m turning 40 in just a few months, and I vacillate between avoiding and obsessing about that birthday. Turns out, those two behaviors are almost the same thing. I’m wasting mindspace on it either way, so I figure I better address it.
What is it that scares me about turning 40?
Well, there’s the admittedly shallow yet very real terror that once I turn 40, I will no longer be hot, and no one will ever want me again. I will become old and frumpy and die alone. Dramatic, I know, and nevermind the presumption that I’m already hot. (I am, dammit.) But I think lots of women fear that after a certain age, they won’t be sexy anymore. And I’m one of them.
So here’s my one-line rebuttal to that screaming fear:
I am younger than Jennifer Aniston.
It’s pure logic. If A=B and B=C, then A=C, right? If younger equals hotter, and I am younger than Jennifer Aniston, then logically, I must also be hotter than Jennifer Aniston.
That’s right folks—you heard it here first! Meg Faulkner is hotter than Jennifer Aniston!
You can’t argue with logic, right? Unless there is a flaw in the argument. Maybe younger does not equal hotter. That would throw the argument right out the window. But it also counters the irrational terror that I won’t be sexy after age 40. Either way, I win. I can believe that I am sexier than Ms. Aniston, or I can recognize that young does not equal hot. There are plenty of sexy women over age 40 and I can choose to be one of them.
So that helps a little bit on the vanity front, but there is a bigger fear in play when we think about aging. It’s quieter but uglier than the fear of losing our looks: the fear that we are running out of time. That our horizons are shrinking. We won’t be able to do what we wanted to—we’re too old, we’re not fit enough or we’re stretched too thin or we’ve squandered our potential on other things—and now it’s too late.
This is where I bring the logic a little closer to home.
I am also younger than my sister, Sandy. Sandy is an accomplished business woman, a social dynamo, and the most fun ever. She realized a dream of going to culinary school at age 41 and graduated with honors. When I think of myself just a little bit older, I’ll be her age—no matter how old we get. But when I think of being like Sandy, it’s something to look forward to. It’s something to aspire to.
This trick works with my sister Theresa, too. Theresa got her master’s degree at age 48, while working full-time with two kids still at home. Oh, and she married a younger man right after that. Age schmage.
Don’t even get me started on my mother, the one-woman-community-service-brigade. I’m thirty years younger than her. She gave birth to my brother when she was my age and she has moved several mountains since then.
The point is NOT, “be the youngest in your crowd.” I’m not suggesting that you go hang out with some old girls so you can feel younger.
I’m saying that the antidote for the fear of aging is to surround yourself with people who keep you grounded in possibility. Find women of all ages who inspire you, who keep you motivated and mindful of your best, fearless self. Make sure to include women who have moved past whatever age you’re scared of, who will show you how much fun can be found on the other side.