I'm Coming Out...as 40-something
Gen X Women - Over 40 and Fabulous
Well, we’ve reached 40-something. Did you ever think we would see the day? Generation X is now a nice way of saying someone is middle-aged! Maybe, but we are proving to be quite different than our predecessors. As the generation that brought you alternative rock and alternative lifestyles, we are finding alternative options to growing up and/or growing old.
I took turning 40 pretty hard. Actually, it was the fear of turning 40 that was the most brutal. It was much different than when I looked forward to joining the 30s club. The women of Sex and the City had made that look so good. They weren’t so convincing when the time came to usher me into the following decade. The dread set in for real the moment I turned 38. Unlike so many musicians and actors I knew, I would not be able to lie about my age. Not with my open personality (aka big mouth). Even if I said nothing, I was sure everyone would be able to tell. When the day came, I felt as if a giant neon sign with an arrow and the words “she’s 40” began following me around. It pointed at me and flashed the information.
Things were obviously much more subtle than that. It was little things like less guys noticing me. Instead I would catch them checking out the younger girls. There was less and less attention from anyone really, as if I was becoming invisible. The men that did notice seemed to be on the older side as well. I won’t lie, it did sting a little not to be turning heads anymore. The “ma’am” vs “miss” thing didn’t really bothered me. The one that got me was “for your age.” You know, as in “you look pretty for your age” or “you are in good shape for your age.” Ouch. Then came the day one of my closest friends was asked to step down from her television show to make way for a younger version of herself. Double ouch.
Think back to your 20’s…
We were just kids in the 90s. With the safety net of parents we were experiencing adulthood and the world at large for the first time. These were fun and magical times but they came with a large learning curve and a lot of mistakes to be made. All just a part of the process. Our 30s were great. They were basically a do-over of our 20s, a second chance to get things right. We still had our looks, strength, energy and health but with a little more experience and hopefully a few better decisions.
In our mid-40s, along with multiplying grey hairs, aches, pains and strange ailments, we are hit with the fact that our youth is fading. Use all the creams and botox you want but there is only so much you can hide. This is the decade where we learn to come to terms with the fact that we are not going to be the young ones in the room anymore. This is the winter of our childhood. We are still Sex and the City but let’s face it, when we look back we see GIRLS and when we look ahead we see Golden Girls.
But we are not our parent’s 40’s
The Baby Boomers had long since settled down into whatever life they had created by 40. Generation X is still questioning the norm, challenging it even. In our 20s many of us got college degrees only to become bartenders and waitstaff. We shunned the 9 to 5 hours of the corporate machine where our parents had faithfully given so many decades of their lives (and for what?) Some of us still do. A 2014 research done by the Small Business Association showed that 7.6 percent of self-employed professionals were Gen Xers vs the 2 percent that were Millennials. In 2018 the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that we were 50 percent more likely to start our own business than our younger counterparts. Still rebels, we turn to entrepreneurship for our latest in alternative trends.
Socially, at middle-age our parents were generally not going to bars to see live bands and binge-drink with their buddies. I couldn’t imagine my mother doing a Tough Mudder race at 40-something (or at any age in her case but least of all after 40.) It was almost unheard of to choose career over children in her day and equally strange to start a family in your 40s. These days we can and we do. Just as we have done since the 1990’s we go through this world finding our own way to do things.
Fear not, fellow Xers
Now that I’ve been in my 40s for awhile I like it. While I don’t love the gut that has replaced my once beautifully flat stomach, I do love the feeling of self-acceptance. What people think and what reactions I am going to get from them means a lot less now. Sure, I could be in better shape but I’m not going to enter any beauty contests. I may as well enjoy all of the carbs and wine life has to offer. Youth has been replaced by wisdom and confidence. Not just any wisdom and confidence but the kind you can only get with time and experience. No amount of reading Wikipedia can give you that.
At work I speak with authority and without doubt in my voice. Sometimes I can’t believe it’s me talking. I have knowledge to share. So do others of my age. I enjoy hearing about the contributions my fellow Xers are making to this world. For a generation once described as “lost” and self-deprecating with dismal attitudes, we’re doing alright.
So my friends, take heart as we are in this together. We are Gen X at middle age. We will make it our own way. Besides, I always loved the Golden Girls.