Today is my birthday. I’m forty three. My family have showered me with love and I’ve received some lovely presents, including a slow cooker, and a pair of microwavable slippers to keep my feet warm. Everything is perfect.
Everything, that is, except the fact that I’m forty three.
Forty three is my ‘old age’. Everyone has an ‘old age’ – the number at which they feel they have left youth behind and moved into a new, elderly stage of their life.
So why forty three?
Forty three is five whole years past thirty eight, which is the last time I wasn’t in my forties, or ‘nearly forty’. It is dangerously close to my mid-forties, which is dangerously close to fifty, which is dangerously close to sixty, which is dangerously close to seventy, eighty, ninety and beyond.
Forty three means I have been an adult for twenty five years, and am old enough to be a grandparent (though as my oldest child is only twelve, the possibility is somewhat remote). Forty three is also considered very old to have a baby, and though I’ve had had my family (and a tubal ligation) I still find that thought strangely disturbing.
What’s more, forty three is half way to eighty six, which is officially a ‘good run’ in terms of lifespan. In other words, I’ve reached the midpoint of the journey, and now I’m just cruising to the finish line at as leisurely pace as possible.
I’ve always thought I’d be one of those people who accepts aging with grace. Well, not only am I not sure that I do accept aging with grace, I’m now not even so sure what ‘aging with grace’ really means.
Does aging gracefully mean not feeing your age? Because I definitely don’t feel forty three. Some days I feel about 140, and on other days I feel about fourteen. It just depends on the situation.
Does aging gracefully mean looking your age? Well, I don’t know if I look my age or not. I don’t even know what forty three is meant to look like these days. Compared to how Bette Davis looked at my age, I think I’m doing very well. Compared to Elle Macpherson, I am falling way behind.
Does aging gracefully mean accepting yourself and not taking excessive steps to halt the aging process? Well, I can’t see myself rushing to get a facelift any time soon (any time ever, actually), but my evening routine of cleansing, toning, moisturising and application of specialised products for ‘mature skin’ takes longer than it does for me to bathe and dress my three year old. With far more mess in the bathroom to clean up.
Still, gracefully or not, I’m aging. And as hard as it is to confront my mortality, as I sit here looking at the card from my kids, with hot slippers on my feet and my slow cooker bubbling away in the kitchen, I smile.
Forty three could look a hell of a lot worse than this.
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