A new Cameron Diaz interview and USA Today trend piece showcase our irrational panic about the milestone
Wait just a darn minute here. I thought we’d established years ago that a woman’s 40s were supposed to be nothing but MILFy, cougary good times, that the big 4-0 was universally decreed as the new 30. And it is, ladies, it is! But go ahead and freak out anyway.
In a story seemingly designed to give you new derisive laugh lines, behold the recent USA Today scare story wrapped up as an empowerment trend piece that decreed that “Among Generation X women, age 40 is party time.” Sure, that Sebastopol mother of two knows that her birthday “looms large.” But she’s “not bemoaning the fact that she’s on the cusp of middle age. She’s planning to party.” What, no ice floe into oblivion? Instead, she and other women are using their milestone birthdays “to proclaim they’re healthy, they’re sexy and they haven’t lost their mojo.” Or, as one partier explains, “Look at me. I have so much more life to live and I’m very vibrant and successful, instead of crying in the corner.” Wow, and here I was unaware that turning 40 ever meant a crying jag in the corner or the revocation of one’s mojo card. Well, good for you, sisters!
It seems even in an era when 40-somethings like Halle Berry, Jennifer Aniston and Julia Roberts still regularly grace magazine covers, the formidable cultural baggage of that number remains. Cameron Diaz had to make it clear to Cleo magazine recently that “there’s nothing scary about [turning 40] at all. Life is so much better as you get older. I feel stronger, better, more capable, more fulfilled, and happier than I ever did when I was 29, when I was 30, even 35.” A fine sentiment, but why did the interviewer have to suggest it was “scary” in the first place? And in an interview for the Telegraph this week, soon-to-be-40 actress Emily Mortimer says, “I recently realized that my son’s friends don’t think of me as a young lady — which is how I think of myself — but as some old bat who comes to pick up their friend from school. Your idea of yourself has to start to change and that’s quite difficult.” As someone who is comfortably settled into her 40s, let me break it down for you, USA Today trend piece writers and celebrity interviewers. Shut up.
Writing in Jezebel Tuesday, 39-year-old Dodai Stewart explained, with admirable candor, that “I feel healthy and sexy, sure. And vibrant, and relatively happy. And yet: I associate 40 with ‘older’ people. Part of me has absorbed the messages our society has emitted for years: That 40 means boring, sad, old, undesirable, spinsterly, pathetic, waiting to die. I do not feel that way about myself.” Dear Stewart, I promise, anybody who starts waiting to die at 40 is in for a long, miserable second half of life, because she’s likely the sort of person for whom the first four decades were not so healthy and happy anyway.
Yes, some aspects of one’s 40s are terrifying. But to Stewart’s question, “So what is there to celebrate?” I’ll say this. Much of it is not so bad. You lose some things along the way — mostly elasticity. You gain others — mostly perspective and gratitude, which seems like a more than generous trade-off. For what it’s worth, the mojo seems to hold pretty steady. And none of it happens all at once on the anniversary of your birth. Aging is a process, just like maturity. And it has very little to do with a number on any damn cake.
More Related Stories
- Ray Manzarek, founding member of The Doors, dies at 74
- Beware of book blurbs
- Did a Salon excerpt ruin Penn Jillette's chance to win "Celebrity Apprentice"?
- Zach Galifianakis to take formerly homeless woman to "Hangover 3" premiere
- Seth MacFarlane will not host Oscars again
- "SNL's" uncomfortable Garner/Affleck moment
- "Celebrity Apprentice" finale ratings hit a new low
- Worst National Anthem fails
- The truth in Kanye's anti-prison rap
- Stephen Colbert to UVA: "You must always make the path for yourself"
- "Game of Thrones," season 3, episode 8: A salon
- Bieber booed, Miguel falls on fan at Billboard Awards
- "Mad Men" recap: Love, acid and whores. Lots of whores
- Taylor Swift leads Billboard winners
- “Game of Thrones” recap: “We must do our duty”
- "The Unwinding": What's gone wrong with America
- Michael J. Fox wins: The best and worst of the new fall shows
- First look: The Coens' marvelous folk-music odyssey
- New York's most persecuted subway artist?
- James Franco: "I really felt I was in conversation with Faulkner"
- "Jodorowsky's Dune": The sci-fi classic that never was
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11