Turning 40 Is a Breeze
It could have been ugly. There could have been tears and wails of lamentation.
Instead, turning 40 was a bit of a non-event. One day I was 39, and the next I was 40. Easy.
The year leading up to the milestone of 40, however, was a little bumpy. I was faced with not a mid-life crisis, per se, but what I call a mid-life examination.
2012 was a year in which I confronted certain truths about myself, as if my brain forced me to conduct an intense self-analysis. The results? Well, they ain't pretty, but I hold on to what Audrey Moriarty once said to me regarding aging.
"There's a breezy confidence that comes with getting older," she said as she kicked up a heel, pirouetted around the main desk of Given Memorial Library and broke into song.
OK, so she didn't do that, but when I recall the moment, there is a very Broadway element to it. It was such an aha moment for me that someone should have broken into song. Here are some of my breezy realizations since that day.
I want to be the type of person who attends cultural events and swoons. I'm not. I'm a regular ol' movie theater type of person. Who likes butter on her popcorn. Lots of butter. The popcorn should be floating in it.
About a decade ago, I saw in the same year the movie "Legally Blonde" and an opera at The Met. I fell in love with Elle Woods, the movie's protagonist. She's, like, totally my guru. But Violetta from "La Traviata"? Well, I didn't care if she lived or died, and I did not enjoy the opera one iota.
Breezy lesson embraced: I'm your girl if you ever need someone with whom to see movies like "The Hangover" sequels.
I want to be the type of person who reads literature. As in books that win awards, books that are important, books that are ... virtually unreadable. My high-brow and well-read neighbor, Chris Graham, attempts to engage me in intellectual dialogue about books that are not only mainstream award winners but also winners of prizes I never heard of.
He'll holler across the street to me sentences like, "Mel, did you read the new winner of the Lu Xun? You can read it in English, but I much preferred it in its native Mandarin. Much less accessible, don't you think?"
Chris will keep trying, bless his heart, and I'll keep reminding him that I prefer chick lit and that my favorite nonfiction reads are humorists like Celia Rivenbark.
"Chris, dahling," I'll say, "didn't you just positively love Rivenbark's discourse on contemporary maternology in 'Stop Dressing Your Six-Year-Old Like a Skank'?"
Breezy lesson embraced: I like low-brow, and I have the confidence to say so. Even to Chris Graham.
I want to be a New York Times best-selling author in the aforementioned genre of chick lit. I'm not, and moreover, the future best-seller is not even finished. My character Gigi, an accidental private investigator, stands frozen in adorable and utterly impractical Christian Louboutins waiting for me to write her next chapter.
Neither Gigi nor I need be frozen forever, though. Our state is temporary. Things can happen - life goals can still be reached - even after (gasp!) the age of 40.
Breezy lesson embraced: If all goals were met by the age of 40, what would we have to look forward to?
I analyzed lots of other aspects of myself, the self I want to be. I want to be the wife who has a gourmet dinner waiting for my husband (Patrick is smiling hopefully as he reads this), but I'm not going to be (he just stopped smiling). I want to be the genuine Southern lady my mother attempted to raise, but I actually enjoy my 7-year-old's potty humor. (Why did Tigger look in the toilet? Answer: He was looking for Pooh.)
My mid-life examination started in a panic. It ended with peace and optimism. It launched a different me - not a new me, mind you, but an improved me, who has that breezy confidence that Audrey Moriarty exudes.
In fact, I just may pay her a visit and pirouette through her archives while singing "Perfect Day" (the theme song from "Legally Blonde").
Why, yes, it is a perfect day.
Contact freelance writer Melanie Coughlin at email@example.com.
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