In This Year of Turning 40…

We have been enjoying a large number of exciting turning 40 related events this year and last. Many of our good friends are also turning 40 – this has been by design (old school friends of the same age) and by coincidence (friends we have made along the way who happened to be doing the same stuff at the same time we were, and then we discovered we had been doing it like that for years, just without knowing each other).

So far we have managed the following:

1) Epic gift giving and receiving. I have very much enjoyed the looks on good friends faces when I have given them something I know they really want, or something they were not expecting at all. After six years of rolling around in loads of unbridled present-related-child-joy since J and S were born, it is equally magical to watch a grown man or woman look at you with total amazement and happiness in their eyes, because they are enjoying a moment of unexpected special attention. Its not all about the stuff but after years of hasty present buying and telling myself the grown ups don’t count on the present front, (Christmas is for kids and Christians. Birthdays are for the Queen and people that reach 100), its really nice to be doing it right for a change.

2) Epic Dancing. We have been to lots of parties – more in the last year than in the previous five, and it has been brilliant.I am not sure I will ever get to the stage where I can truly dance like no-one is watching…. (truly awful body popping and even more awful moon walking moves), but I have enjoyed some serious moshing, pogo-ing and air punching. Sad to report that twenty years since these things were first happening to me there are two new phenomena to contend with. When I was 18 and moshing, I only remember my boobs bouncing happily along in time with the music. Now every part of me from my crepey throat to my saggy knees seems to oscillate with terrible harmonic frequency. This in turn leads to much trouser shifting and on one memorable occasion, a partial trouser-falling-down-incident. This in turn led to much joy for everyone else and it is a universally agreed truth that there is not much that is funnier in the world than the trousers of an old woman falling down on a dance floor.

3) Exciting trips. Big J and I went to Venice for his birthday treat – I saved for MONTHS, and then his wonderful family gave us a big-night-out on them to enjoy as well so we had the best of times, going for cocktails, eating out and generally acting like grown ups. Venice was beautiful and ruined and moving and sad and I knew within an hour of arriving that I would be going back. Given that I can count the countries I have visited on one hand, this is probably not much of a recommendation but I loved it and as much as we missed the children , I didn’t want to come home…… But we did.

I am also lucky enough to be going to Barcelona with a few friends who are turning 40 this year. Some of us are very excited and some of us are VERY organised. Group mummy (Or “Ubergruppenfuhrer” as she is now known) has been nominated to keep us all under control and thank god for her or I would probably turn up at the airport on the wrong day. And then fly to Botswana. Last week we were issued with regulation clear plastic bags for our toiletries, so we could check our stuff would fit in advance of packing. Luckily, I am sharing with someone who intends to only bring Vagisil and Swarfega as she believes these can address most feminine hygiene issues, so I won’t be the only one representing England badly. I want us stepping off the plane to be like a scene from Sex and the City. I am imagining maxi dresses, great nails, shiny hair, aviators and raffia platforms. The reality will be sweat stains, tiny amounts of leaked wee due to one gin and tonic on the plane and the almost certain loss of my car keys down the first Spanish drain we stand over. Followed by more leaked wee.

5) The business of turning 40 itself….I know it sounds twee to be so very self obsessed that you congratulate yourself for reaching a certain age – lets face it – I didn’t really have that much control over how my body coped with 40 years of mild abuse and a good deal of neglect, BUT I am so happy to be alive and to have made it his far. When I was little 40 seemed properly ancient. The 40 year old ladies I knew had grey hair (or excellent genes), they wore patterned “frocks” (no casual layering and considered accessorizing for my female role models…) and they did NOT mind if they had pot bellies, muffin tops and a headscarf instead of done hair. The women in my life, were too busy counting green shield stamps and fantasising about giving it all up to go to Greenham Common to care about which fake tan was the most appropriate for covering thread veins.

Forty for us is completely different and frankly a little confusing. When I find myself jumping up and down to the “Whole of the Moon”, being nineteen is far more vivid to me than being 38 ever was. My husband is a fifteen year old boy trapped inside a man’s body and bears absolutely no resemblance to the 40 year old men I remember growing up. To say 40 is the new 30 is overstating it but there is something in the idea that we are staying younger for longer and we seem to be squandering our youth.

I have been loving this year of reminiscing and experiencing things that turning 40 gives you permission to try, and I think when I look back on this little patch of time, the year I turned 40 will shine out . We are saving our big party for 2013 so we can turn 41 with a blast as marking the passage of years instead of allowing them to run through our fingers has done us all the world of good. Without the vivid memories of brilliant shared experiences what is there to help us celebrate and capture the passing of time? (Apart from the sad stuff..?)

I spent years trying to ignore my birthdays in hopes that that would slow time down…thanks to this year, I’m starting to realise that exactly the reverse is true.