Forty and feeling fine


AnastaciaIt was, as the UK Guardian reported, a rebirth in all senses of the word. The artist known as Anastacia (pictured) told the newspaper that she wasn't born in 1974, as had been alleged since the 2000 release of her debut album, Not That Kind, but in 1968.

That would mean she's ... gasp ... 40. I'd hate to think what this makes her in pop-star years, but Anastacia certainly went up a notch or two in my estimation. Here was a woman (who could easily pass for 30) airing her real age when all pressure would have surely been to continue with the smokescreen.

I found Anastacia's honesty far more reaffirming than the chick-lit-inspired grrrls of the past decade. It might be galling to officially turn middle-aged, but do we really need to dress it up as the 'fabulous 40s'? Or turn 40 into the new 30 or (worse) 21?

The way I see it is that 40 is like any age — unless you're a woman.

In a few days I, too, will be slipping it on for size. Despite the birthday looming over me ever since I stumbled over my biological clock a few years back, I'm still unprepared. The truth is that despite having engaged in an energetic game of hide and seek, unlike Anastacia, I never actually expected 40 to jump out and shout 'Boo!'.

In the words of James Brown: 'I feel good', and just a little indifferent. I'm anxious and a little elated. I feel old yet young enough to remember that not so long ago 40 wasn't over the hill — it was over Mt Kilimanjaro.

But the view on the way down isn't so bad. Here's the thing: life at 39 and three-quarters is a lot calmer, and a lot less inconsistent and self-centred than it was 10 years ago, let alone 20.

That's not to say that the existential scars have healed completely. I've battled with God and lost (but live to fight another day). I've read books that have made me laugh, cry and buy airline tickets to far-away places. I've known what it is to leave behind a marriage and embark on another. As well as buy property, I've bought into the consumer culture only to have my 'precious' things a) lost, b) stolen, c) forgotten.

Whereas in the past I would have remained silent, I now shout — if mainly at the TV. Injustice, rather than embarrassment, raises my temperature. I have new respect for motherhood since hearing the pierce of my newborn's cry. Most of my close friendships have grown old and crusty (just how I like them). My love is now of the deep and measured variety, rather than the forceful kind easily mistaken for indigestion.

I can be silly and serious almost in the same breath, something I could never quite pull off on the right side of 30.

'We do not grow absolutely, chronologically,' wrote French writer Anais Nin. 'We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly ... The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.'

Is it any wonder then that at 40 those layers, cells and so on start to settle in places we'd rather they didn't'? If I were honest I'd say laziness, and not feminist pride, is behind my Botox face-off. Botox is the drug of choice for Anastacia, who credits her youthful looks to it and to the fact she's no 'partyer'. She'll get no criticism from me — if I were forced to fend off the trifecta of Crohn's disease, severe heart palpitations and breast cancer in as many years (which I haven't and she has), I wouldn't waste a minute debating the merits of a little cosmetic therapy.

It's becoming clearer why Anastacia may have chosen her 40th year to come clean about her age. After what she's survived (including leaving her record label), turning 40 starts to look much less like an ailment and more like an achievement.

'A woman has the age she deserves,' the late fashion doyen Coco Chanel once said. And I couldn't agree more. So tell me again why a 40-year-old would want to be mistaken for 30? Are a few wrinkles less worth being short-changed a decade of experience?

Besides, as Anastacia will tell you, having to constantly subtract numbers in your head can, in fact, add years to your life.

Jen VukJen Vuk is a staff writer with the Salvation Army's magazine Warcry.


Topic tags: jen vuk, turning 40, anastacia, Anais Nin



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Existing comments

I'm delighted that you've quoted my favorite author, Anais Nin. You might be interested in reading my new book of poems which I've dedicated to her, Dear Anais: My Life In Poems For You.

Also, check out my blog.
Diana Raab | 29 October 2008

Jen I admire your outlook. I'm still a few years short of 30, and I already feel like a candidate for a quarter-life crisis! Your words have inspired me to consider getting older, gracefully. Thanks!
Charles Boy | 29 October 2008

I have to say I am little bored with the constant need for the media to write about ageing in this manner. It is sexist and does not add anything to the real discourse we need to be writing about. Ageing in our society needs to be considered in terms of maintaining independence, access to affordable & nutritious food, access to primary care services, access to public transport etc not the superficial world of Coco Chanel et al. 'Despite the birthday looming over me ever since I stumbled over my biological clock a few years back, I'm still unprepared' Oh perlease Jen!
Nilva | 31 October 2008


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