Remember when you were a kid and you heard grownups saying that they’re turning 39 for the sixth time? Or refusing to tell people their ages, presumably because they were embarrassed or ashamed of how old they were? Or your parents telling you that it’s rude to ask an adult his or her age? Let’s be honest–lots of people still do this, ostensibly due to the stigma associated with drifting farther and farther from the state of youth that feels perpetual when you’re a teenager. Despite the obvious provenance of this antiquated stigma (we’ll discuss that another time!), I’ve never understood the denial of age (not to be confused with the age of denial) on a practical level because it seems so counterintuitive. In this day and age (*wink*), at least, why would anyone so strongly prefer the state of being 39 over 40? What’s a few hundred days, give or take, assuming there aren’t extenuating circumstances? Here’s the thing: I’d been looking forward to my 40th birthday ever since my anticlimactic 39th. Not that I’d ever want to wish away time (at least pre-COVID), but it was something I was excitedly anticipating since I assumed it was inevitable anyway. I mean, how different could it really feel? And it comes with WAY more street cred! The first morning I was freshly 40 and feeling fine, my eight year-old daughter looked at me across the table (ok, the kitchen island…I do most of my eating standing in the kitchen (don’t you?)) and said, “Mommy! You’re eating ice cream for breakfast!” And I replied, mostly for my husband’s benefit, “Yes, I am. I’m forty; I can do what I want.”
They all knew I was joking, but now that’s become a line in our house. For example, a few days later we went peach-picking and were planning to make ice cream with the harvest. I was debating about the best way to go about peeling the peaches (blanch or paring knife?) and finally said, “You know what? There are vitamins in the skins. We’re just going to leave them on.” To which my child, the one so surprised at my “out of the pint carton” breakfast the Sunday before, responded, “That’s right. You’re forty and you can do what you want!”
P.S. A note on the type: I wrote “40” in this post when referring to the number as a number in narrative, but I spelled it “forty” when using it in dialogue because then it’s a phonemic word as well as a number. Also, it’s my preference to spell out the numbers zero through ten in every kind of writing, so that’s why I wrote “eight” instead of 8. This is all to say that I made these choices intentionally because, when it comes to inconsistencies, I like to be consistent.