Hard To Say The “F” Word

It’s just a word.

But it’s really offensive to some people.  And by some people, I mean me.

I can’t just throw the F-word out there or use it during any old conversation.  It’s never uttered around strangers, only people I know well.  The F-word is used only for emphasis.  I always cringe when I’ve said it.

So, (deep breath) here I go.

Forty.

There.  I said it.  I’m (gasp) forty.

The F word

The F word

I love when women who are forty find out that you have turned forty.  They say things like “Welcome to the club!” and “What moisturizer are you using now?”  and  “Might as well have fun, we’re into middle age!” (that sentence is usually accompanied by a small sob).  It’s also fun to be with women who are two years away from forty.  They say things like, “It’s not so bad!” and “It’s just a number.”  Of course it is.  They’re not forty.  One of my dear friends likes to tease me and say “So, how’s it feeling these days being forty?”  I love her.  And yet I’ve threatened to kick her in the shins.

I know, I know, forty is the new thirty, fifty is the new forty (28 is still the age cut off for American Idol).

Some people are shocked because I reveal my actual age.  I’m a television anchor, and in that line of work, women usually start pulling their faces upward, injecting laugh lines and get very vague on the number of candles on their cake. Thankfully I don’t work for Entertainment Tonight.  I’m on PBS.  And in PBS years, I’m 25.

I’ve had many months to get used to my forty woman self, but it didn’t really hit me until I saw it in print.  A friend of mine asked me for a quote to go in an article she was writing.  So she got the information and then asked me my age and hometown.  That Sunday I opened up the paper, and there it was.  Christy McDonald, 40.

Yech!  I remember when my parents were forty!  They were old!

I think the problem is, I still haven’t felt the “Ah-ha” moment of embracing my beautiful, forty self.  And that’s the dirty secret of the F-word.  We’re told by every talk show and magazine to love our age and feel empowered by it.  But at the same time we’re force-fed pictures of 40-ish stars who Botox, wax, pluck, air brush and fast their way to a perfectly non-forty appearance.  I don’t see them hanging around on the soccer game sidelines, coordinating car pools, working long hours and teaching children to tie shoes.  Except maybe for Jennifer Garner because she’s always pictured doing those things in People Magazine.

I also find myself wondering what the 40 and over rules are.  Can I still buy something at “Forever 21”?  Do I have to start reading “Good Housekeeping”?  (The headlines are catchy.  I do want a cleaner closet.)  Forty also brings special recognition, like the fact I’m eligible to play on a “40 +” tennis team.   And it brings some kind of adolescent break out on my chin I suddenly acquired two months ago.  My dermatologist said I could thank age, hormones and stress for that.

I say no thanks.

I found this quote from Mark Twain that I guess puts it all together.

“Age is an issue of mind over matter.  If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”

So, I am forty, hear me roar.  Or really, hear me kinda mumble it.  And I better enjoy forty.

Forty-one is coming soon enough.

New Shoes (Stripper Pole Sold Separately)

You want me to wear THESE?

In the middle of the department store, I take a huge cleansing breath.  Like a new car smell, the scent of new shoe is intoxicating.  This is no ordinary “I’ll see what’s out there” tire-kicking kind of browsing.

I’m in for a serious purchase.  A new pair of heels.

Like most women, I adore shoes. Different colors, textures, heel heights. They can change an outfit, my mood and my confidence level.  I know this is nothing new.  I imagine the bizarre, emotional women-and-shoes connection dates back to ancient Greece when women searched high and low for a solid gladiator style sandal to walk long distances and pick olives.

My search hopefully, wouldn’t be so tough.  With me, my wing man, Carol Ann.  Her street name, Bargain Hunter. Full disclosure: she’s my mother.

I started looking, wandering from display to display.

“A heel makes your leg look so nice,” sighed my mother.  “But I can’t wear heels like that anymore. Or like that.  Or that either.  My goodness, how high ARE those?”

And just like that, every heel I saw had a massive platform and sky-high heel.  It didn’t matter how cheap or expensive.  Apparently Jessica Simpson,  Michael Kors and Stuart Weitzman had the same stripper shoe design conspiracy. I’m not talking a simple platform.  I have platform shoes.  I’m talking Elizabeth-Berkley-in-Showgirls heels.

“I can’t wear those!” I said to my mother, who nodded in agreement.

Wait, what am I saying? I can wear any shoe!

So I tried a pair on.  And started staggering through the shoe department, looking like a slightly drunk desperate housewife in stripper shoes.  I cursed the designers.  The trend setters.  The ones who are trying to guilt me into buying neon shirts and leggings.

And I had that feeling. Like the first time the girl at the make up counter called you “ma’am”.  Or when you realized you’re too old to try out for American Idol. (just me?) Or  you hear they’re remaking “Footloose”. (No one can top K. Bacon)  It’s the realization you can’t wear all the trends without looking truly silly. And that made me feel kind of old.  Am I old? Will I start to refer to my pants as “slacks”?  Only buy sensible shoes? Complain that I’m always cold?

One thing I did know. I was a total wimp to let a display of platform shoes make me feel ancient.

See, I live in the real world. Those obnoxiously high platforms won’t work when I moderate a town hall meeting on state budget problems next week. They’re a tad impractical to wear picking my kids up from school.  And I challenge anyone to do a grocery run with a quick stop at Target in those heels without begging for mercy.

So I said no thank you to the platform shoes with 10-inch heels.

Hello, Kitty

Instead I treated myself to some 3 1/2 inch peep toe animal print heels.  Take that, stripper pole.