By Amy Jordan Cronin
My fortieth birthday is imminent. I tell myself that age is just a number and that 40 is a glorious age to reach, a milestone denied to many.
Yet this birthday symbolizes so much more.
While I exalt the virtues of a confident body image to my children, each time I stare at my own reflection my confidence droops. Things that once were perky are now saggy. Eyes that were clear and bright look dull in the mirror. Hair, once glossy, is dry from too many chemicals meant to mask grey hair. All of it reminds me I’m on the fast-track to the big Four-O.
I consider my options. Among my girlfriends (can we still be considered girls?), age is the new topic of conversation over coffee or drinks. One friend advocates for the easiest way to feel younger: just look younger. Restore, revive, renew. I nod in agreement. Should I buy a pair of the leather leggings all the twentysomethings seem to be wearing, squeezing my love handles into sweaty oblivion? Should anyone ever?
My best friend’s response to the aging process has been to dabble in body piercings. She pierced her nipples, much to her husband’s delight and my absolute horror. My nipples and I have been through a lot together. From peeping seductively through sheer tops in my twenties to feeding my babies in my thirties, they’ve been good to me. I don’t feel justified in assaulting them with a sharp implement in the hope of reclaiming youth and frivolity.
Should I follow my cousin’s example and make the ever-popular trip down Botox Lane? While my fear of needles was rapidly overcome the day I needed an epidural during excruciating labor, I’m not sure I want one brandished near my eyes and lips. Same goes for my nipples.
Still, when my husband moves towards me I wonder if he misses my pre-baby body, unmarked by the trials of childbirth. Does he miss the unlined face, my brow less furrowed, from the time when responsibilities were so much lighter to carry?
I wear my impending entry into the next decade as I would a scarf around my neck on a cold day. I’m grateful for it, and that gratitude warms me, yet sometimes it feels a little too tight and it takes my breath away.
So, last week, with bated breath, I went to one of those hip boutiques and tried on leather leggings. The lighting was harsh and unfamiliar music blared from hidden speakers. The assistant was plumped and preened into terrifying Kardashian-esque perfection. The dressing room felt tighter than the leather pants, and after what felt like an hour of panting and contorting trying to get into the things, I was ready to give up. Just as I managed to pull them slightly past my knees, the curtain whipped back, and the shop assistant inquired how it was all going.
“Well, I’m nearly 40 years old and I’m trying to squeeze into a child’s pair of pants, so not great,” I joked, desperate to keep my tears away.
The copious amount of filler in her lips kept her from smiling, but her eyes were sympathetic. I grimaced, knowing she could read the sheer discontent of being my age. Almost 40. Middle-aged. She sensed the full extent of my doubt that I could even shop in a young person’s clothing store anymore.
Her words of comfort reached my soul as if they had fallen from the lips of the Dalai Lama. They have stayed with me, offering me consolation in dark moments, guiding my hand as I pluck out stray grey hairs, wrapping around me as I wriggle into Bridget Jones-style knickers.
“Honey, be kind to yourself.”
Gears inside my heart clicked into place. Surely it would be easier to embrace the changes life brings to body and soul, to offer myself the love I give to others? My attraction to my husband has never wavered, although he, too, is getting older, yet I reserve my loathing of aging exclusively for myself. Why?
If we have gratitude for life, we must accept aging too. Fighting what naturally occurs is the epitome of wasting time. Just as time ticks ever forward, our bodies move steadfastly toward old age.
Aging isn’t to be feared. Self-criticism is. The challenge is to still the inner voice that bemoans every wrinkle. I have read the self-help books, watched the TED Talks, and experimented with therapy to help silence that voice when it shouts, “You’re too old, not pretty enough, not good enough.” All my efforts pale in comparison to the startling, simple wisdom of that shop assistant.
I will be kind to myself.
I bought the leather leggings.
About the Writer:
Amy Jordan Cronin is a mum, a wife, a sister, a daughter, a friend, and a writer. A graduate of business management, she has taken time out to focus on being a mum. An avid diary-keeper since she was young, Amy writes to meditate and she adores the sense of wellbeing that comes from both reading and writing. Amy is a fan of thrillers and crime novels, and a huge fan of authors Ian Rankin and Lee Child. She will soon have a short story published in Woman’s Way and is working on the final draft of her first novel, a thriller.