I am feeling a bit reflective; I wrote a bit when I turned 40, but because that month itself was such a downer, I didn’t really write anything of any great note. The husband had just lost his job, and was feeling the effects of leaving behind the career he had loved for 20 years, and my big-bang 40th birthday party itself was a washout; not least because about half of the people who were invited, turned the invitation down, and then about half of the people who said they were coming, just didn’t. It didn’t help that other acquaintances have turned 40 this year, and had a whale of a time.
So, when I wrote my “goodbye 30s” eulogy, it focussed very much on how rubbish I felt at that time, and not really on how I felt about moving on to another decade. However, 5 and a half months in, I’m about ready!
So, I’m 40. And it’s not so scary any more. Heading towards 40 was a bit horrible, if I’m honest. It didn’t seem as though it referred to me, but not because I “still felt 25” or any of those clichés, just that 40 seemed so very old. And, of course, it turns out that it is quite old, but only a bit older than 39, and the really good thing about being 40 is that you can say “I’m 40” and it gives you a licence to be a bit more frank with people. And the other good thing is, that even if that’s not really an acceptable excuse; YOU ACTUALLY DON’T CARE.
Of course, this is nothing to do with actually being 40 – there’s no bolt of lightning or cosmically ordered change that occurs (unfortunately) because age is a human-made construct and we only link age with our perception of it. etcetera. But, somehow, that has appealed to me, and I have become 40 and grumpy. And I am really enjoying it.
In true reflective spirit, I should be looking back on my 30s, but my 30s were very much dominated by one thing, which was very much defined by one event that happened about 2 months after my 30th birthday. I went to see a doctor about something trivial, and whilst he was browsing through my notes, he said “and, of course, you’re infertile.” Which was news to me. When he saw my jaw hit the floor, instead of being a bit apologetic or contrite in any way, he followed it up with “it must make it easier that you both are infertile. This way, you’re both to blame.”
Of course, with the benefit of hindsight and my straight talking ‘tude, I should have bloody well hauled him across the coals; for his mistake, his reaction and his refusal to take responsibility for the downward spiral that ensued. What was that noise? Oh, that was just my future smashing into little pieces, and the sound of my heart breaking a million times.
So, because of that, the next 6 years were pretty much spoken for. Particularly as (apologies for the TMI) we’d spent the previous 2 years “trying naturally.”
So, I can’t remember much else about my 30s. Lots of hospital visits, job changes (because we needed to somehow fund our medical enigmas) lots of tests and waiting and probably some other stuff. I really don’t know what else. Because, what happened was, all of our friends and acquaintances started to have their children, and add to their families. And the ones that didn’t? Well, they already had theirs. And so, out of self-preservation and sanity, we had to withdraw from the social scenes around us. When you are “sans enfant” and the rest of the world isn’t, it’s like a big fat club that you don’t belong to. And the only invitations you get are out of pity, or a misguided desire to include you in something. And it’s hard not to be sensitive, or emotional, because it’s your whole entire life. And nobody really understands.
After the IVF came adoption. Which was even more intrusive with much less chance of turning out positively. And something that we had to do almost entirely on our own. So even after 6 years of my 30s, we were still flying solo, and on a path that was alien not only to us but to everyone around us. And, I guess, we still are.
So my 30s was spent distancing myself from those around me, and from people who had been my friends, allies and compadres throughout my 20s. And when I hit 40, they were notable by their absence.
There’s no one to blame for this, I guess. It’s not their fault and it’s not mine, but the one thing I take away from my transition from 30s to 40s, is that I think most people spend their 30s cultivating, maintaining and nourishing friendships old and new. I spent mine distancing myself from people in order to protect my emotionally battered heart, and not making new friends because, ironically, I spent my final years of child-free evenings researching, working, planning and writing our 40,000 word “parenting application”
And now, I pay the piper. The husband has a new job which takes him away from us for many evenings, so now I CAN’T go out (because of child care issues – natch) and because all the friends I used to have, fell by the wayside during my wilderness years.
Of course, the end result is worth any amount of sacrifice, and there’s nothing that would induce me to change it, knowing what I now have.
I am an older mother, through necessity not choice. And I am. I know people of my age who have grandchildren who are older than my son. So part of my exclusion from social delights is because, at an age where many of my friends are rediscovering their nightlife, I am still reading bedtime stories, singing number songs and watching CBeebies. But those other factors, outlined above, still niggle at me and a little part of me wonders that other 40 year olds seem to be able to have a family AND friends. You can count mine on the fingers of one hand – and I haven’t seen any of them since 2013.
40 is just a state of mind, I’m told. It’s not; it’s also a state of chronology and a number. I haven’t ticked many things off my bucket list, but that’s OK, because I just keep adding to it.
My 30s didn’t pan out how I expected, but I did start a job I loved, founded a theatre group I adored, and appeared in more than 40 TV shows (yes, really) so it can’t have all been bad.
But my 40s are already better than my 30s, because I start them with my little boy at my side, and I can’t wait for the next 10 years.