The 45

Even then, my hands were huge.

I turned 45 today. I’m not all that freaked out by that. I mean, getting out of bed is a little more difficult and I use more concealer than ever before–the bags under my eyes reach about mid-cheekbone, much the same way my butt is creeping down to rest comfortably above the backs of my knees–but I just repeat my morning mantra: Who’s looking at me?

I celebrated by having dinner with a friend last night and eating a banana for breakfast this morning before buying my first-ever pair of skinny jeans. Note to self: I cannot wear skinny jeans. Those threads are fighting for their lives right now.

I was talking to this friend last night and she told me a story about a woman who got bonked on the head and was knocked out. When she woke up in the hospital, she told the doctors she was 16 weeks pregnant with her first child. She was a young woman: idealistic, easy going, and fresh.

She wasn’t. In fact, she had three nearly grown children and was divorced from her husband. She couldn’t remember the last 20 or so years of her life. In her mind, she was still in love with her husband. She didn’t know age had made her driven, distant, and cruel. Sadly, she had to brace herself to look in the mirror.

I would have had the opposite reaction. If I woke up today thinking I were still 25, I would be mean-spirited, distant, and in love with nobody but myself–and that was a love/hate relationship at best.

Either way, I still have to brace myself every time I look in the mirror. Don’t we all, though? Aren’t we all just little tweens running around trying to make sense of it all? Granted, I don’t feel justified every time I get angry or sad like a tween does because they really are just figuring it all out. But, otherwise, I feel young on the inside and all that nonsense. I suppose the difference between 25 and 45 is the difference between a boat with its sail up but no rudder and a boat with no mast but a sweet little tiller. I’m still incomplete. I’m just moving a lot slower and have a tiny bit more control when I bash up against the rocks.

With that in mind, I have come up with a list. Who doesn’t love a list, right? At 45, I have learned….

1) We are all going to die. I’ve always known this. Heading into Boston one morning when I was a kid, my dad looked over at me in the passenger seat and asked if I understood what death meant. I suspect he was trying to figure out whether I understood how ill my mother was. I told him yes. I completely understood that we all die. At the time, I was maybe 10 years old. But, come on. One of my first memories is the day my dad couldn’t find a parking space on our way to a wake and he got so frustrated he sideswiped a telephone pole in our brand new Gran Torino wood-paneled station wagon. A man on the sidewalk slowly bent over and picked up a broken piece of the faux wood paneling and handed it to us through the open car window. Then we all crawled out of the clown car and kneeled in front of a dead body in a coffin. That was the day I discovered the fine art of laughing at funerals. Death doesn’t scare me. Pain, however, does.

2) You have to pick your battles. The moment I hear someone say, “I just want to remove all the drama from my life,” I know to stay away from that person. A person who complains about too much drama is typically the person creating all the drama in the first place. The difference between 25-year-old me and 45-year-old me, other than the larger clothes and droopier bosom, is that when I get angry or frustrated, I try to think about what it is that frustrates me. The other day, Groom was trying to convince me to create a video for something. The details are quite inconsequential, but he kept pushing this idea for a video and I was getting so hot. Finally, I shouted, “If you say video one more time, I swear to god I am going to hit you. Why are we still talking about this stupid video? No!” I wasn’t mad about the video. What a dopey argument. Now, when we’re having, shall we say, a miscommunication, Groom will smile and say, “Video.”

3) I will still be late for your dinner party if I catch someone having an epic meltdown on social media. I have nothing more to say about that.

4) I have no business browsing the junior section at department stores. I have come to accept that the clothes I wore ironically when I was 25 (blousy tops, sweater sets, and corduroys) are now simply my clothes. See “skinny jeans” above.

5) Reality television is vacuous and dumb but I cannot stay away from it. Though I am a veteran of the reality revolution–from The Real World, which I would watch in my college living room in ’92, to the writers’ strike leading to shows like Survivor, which I would watch from my tiny little house up in East Nowhere, Maine, when I was trying to have a career in the early 2000s–I can acknowledge that reality television sucks. Having said that, I am always addicted to at least one reality show. These days it’s Shahs of Sunset. I know. I know!

6) Yes is the better option. When I was 25, women were learning to say no. We were slowly climbing out of the “Say No to Drugs” era and entering the “No Means No” era. It was around the time Antioch College came up with the “Ask First” rules that were so ridiculous. This business of saying no? It turned into empowerment. “I say no because I can.” Stop being a dink and say yes every now and again.

7) It’s easiest to be a good friend. I’m still shocked to discover which friends stuck around and which ones slipped away. I have a handful of people I can really be myself around. They are funny, interesting, smart, engaging people and I have so much fun near them, I don’t even think about the fact that my stomach is totally rolling over my belt while I’m with them. But, I worked hard for these friendships. There’s no secret to it. Listen, nobody wants to go to that fundraiser next week, but the friend who asked you to attend? She helped you move last year. Just be a good friend, for crying out loud, and go to the fundraiser or awkward dinner or performance art show. Trust me. You’ll probably have a great story to tell. And, you will feel so lucky when you discover who is still standing behind you 20 years from now.

8) Bathroom humor will always be funny. If you want to make me laugh, tell me about the time you defecated in your trousers. I have heard stories about men who crapped when they got pulled over for speeding, men who crapped as they ran up a flight of stairs, a guy who ended up having to wear his mother’s yoga pants, a woman who peed in her airplane seat, and a guy who has crapped his pants so many times, you have to be specific when you ask him to relay the story about the time he soiled his trousers. I am one slice of bread away from sneaking gluten into a friend’s gluten-free diet just for t
he story later.

9) Kindness and forgiveness are not weaknesses. Ugh. Sorry. I had to sneak this one in here. My 25-year-old self is rolling her eyes right now. Ah. Who am I kidding? She clicked out of here after the phrase “At 45, I have learned….” I had no patience for people who smiled too much or were pleasant. I was all about truth, which for me meant anger and yelling. What a load of crap (in my trousers). Be sweet. (Yes, I linked a death scene there. I wonder what I’m revealing about myself.)

10) I still want to meet Stephen King. I think I would enjoy a dinner with him and that thought hasn’t changed since I was a child. And this makes me not so unhappy about getting older. No matter how much I’ve changed, I’m still that me I was when I was sitting alone in my room reading Salem’s Lot.

Spring is not the finest season in New England—it’s too short, too uncertain, too apt to turn savage on short notice. Even so, there are April days which linger in the memory even after one has forgotten the wife’s touch, or the feel of the baby’s toothless mouth at the nipple…
But when fall comes, kicking summer out on its treacherous ass as it always does one day sometime after the midpoint of September, it stays awhile like an old friend that you have missed. It settles in the way an old friend will settle into your favorite chair and take out his pipe and light it and then fill the afternoon with stories of places he has been and things he has done since last he saw you….
Thin clouds form, and the shadows lengthen out. They have no breadth, as summer shadows have; there are no leaves on the trees or fat clouds in the sky to make them thick. They are gaunt, mean shadows that bite the ground like teeth. As the sun nears the horizon, its benevolent yellow begins to deepen, to become infected, until it glares an angry inflamed orange. It throws a variegated glow over the horizon.
Sarah Devlin

About Sarah Devlin

Sarah Devlin has been writing about the recreational industry since the late ’90s but ironically can’t run, swim, or bike a mile.