Number Forty-Four: It’s Only a Number

Number Forty-Four: It’s Only a Number

Hello? Can you hear me out there?


How about now?

[Screech of feedback.]

Whoa! OK, looks like the mic is hot, and I can see that you’re all waiting with bated breath for my next monologue. So what’s the topic, you ask. Why, it’s my wife’s 40th birthday, of course! On one hand I want to roast her like a pig on a spit, playing into her trepidation and insecurities over rolling the dial from 39 to 40; on the other hand, my brain is screaming at me to take it easy because, after all, I have to live with this woman after I’ve had my fun!

[“You know you’re getting old when the candles cost more than the cake.” –Bob Hope]

I’m kidding, I’m kidding.

Or am I?

I’m not sure I’m the best person to talk my wife off the ledge in this case. Not only have I already turned 40 (much to my chagrin), but in true Nostradamus fashion, I predicted just how awful it is to turn 40 when I was a wee lad of 15 years in age. Don’t believe me? I’ll prove it! The following is an essay I wrote in my 9th grade English class. My teacher always made our class submit entries to the Minneapolis Star Tribune newspaper’s “Mindworks” contest, in which the editors would select a topic and kids would write a small snippet in hopes of getting published. Now, I enjoy writing (as evidenced by this blog), but I like writing about what *I* think is interesting, not what some teacher or editor thought was interesting. As such, I tended to be a little dickish about the things. One month the topic was “What is the age you’d love to be forever?” What did I do? I wrote an essay about the age I’d *hate* to be forever. Fight the system, right? Wrong. Lo and behold, my paragraph was chosen and placed front and center in the Variety section of the paper. Read it and weep:

[Was I right, or was I right? Pretty sharp for a young whipper-snapper, eh?]

Add in the fact that “over the hill” in relation to turning 40 means the seesaw is now balancing perfectly on its fulcrum before it begins its inevitable trip downward, and, well, the first half of life is over and the twilight is beginning. After crunching the numbers, my wife technically has about six more months before the midpoint of the average life expectancy of a female (81 years and change) kicks in, marking the scientific equivalent of “over the hill,” but that’s semantics. She’s gonna have to face facts: 40 is effin’ old, and the end is nigh.

[Not only did I get her a custom walker, but also a reservation at the local nursing-home facility.]

After making her sweat through this opening (I wish I was there to see her read it…my guess is her eyes are wide and her jaw is somewhere around knee-level), I’m going to take a different tack and tell you why my wife defies the over-the-hill stigma. While 40 may be the average for midlife, there’s one issue with applying it to my dearly beloved.

She’s anything but average.

She’s Healthy
My wife is more of a machine than Arnold Schwarzenegger was on his best “I’ll be back” day. She walks, she lifts weights, she does countless squats and push-ups and sit-ups and moves that I can’t even pronounce, let alone reenact. She’s also super conscientious about the food she puts into her body. Sure, she’ll splurge from time to time and have a burger or some pizza, but 95% of the time she’s eating minimal carbs, lean proteins, and tons of fruits and vegetables. She’s more tone and fit today than she was when I first started dating her 25 years ago, and that’s AFTER having six children. The dedication to her lifestyle is nothing short of amazing, and I have no doubt her investment will pay hefty dividends down the road.

She’s Sexy as Hell
Part of this piggybacks on the aforementioned paragraph. She puts a lot of time into maintaining a healthy lifestyle, which can’t help but turn her body into a temple (one that I bow down to with a smile on my face each and every day). But I’m talking about more than physical looks; after all, she’s been an attractive woman from the start. What’s changed is her attitude, her confidence, her spirit, her wisdom. Gone are the days when she’s living for other people, pretending to be something she isn’t, questioning her abilities, or feeling bad about the paths she’s taken in her life. Is she road-weary some days? Sure. Are there times something doesn’t go her way? Hell yes. Life is life, and the bad comes with the good. But she’s earned her stripes. She’s gained experience in myriad areas, enough so to offer sound, sage advice to others in need. She holds her head high, not looking down her nose at people, but knowing that she’s a good person through and through, and has lived this life to the best of her abilities while maintaining a level of thoughtfulness and class seldom seen in people. Most importantly, she’s comfortable in her own skin, happy with the person she’s become. And isn’t that what everyone should strive for? The freedom to be her own person sheds so much weight off of her shoulders, allowing her to just be Jennifer, not everyone else’s cookie-cutter version of what they want Jennifer to be. Gone is the worry and stress of performing for people’s attention and affection, as well as the negative impact that has on a person over time. Not sure about you, but knowing someone as they truly are and loving every segment of that person is a pretty big turn on to me. If I wanted an actress, I’d go to the theater.

She’s Young at Heart
My wife routinely says that the age of 40 is so surreal because it feels like she should be rolling out of bed to go to high school as opposed to getting her own kids off to school; that it feels like she’s pulling one over on people when they don’t ask for her ID at a bar or restaurant, despite being almost 20 years past the point of needing to prove her age; that it feels like she should be going to one of her many high school jobs, piano lessons, dance practices, or other activities from her youth. What that tells me is that age hasn’t caught up to her physically and, more importantly, mentally. She likes to laugh. She’ll shake her hips to a good song on the radio. She’ll sing silly lyrics to songs. She’ll try to corner me and tickle me. She enjoys love notes and quick text messages and funny sayings and dirty use of emoji. I’m sure each and every one of you could point to someone who’s on the other end of that spectrum, looking like they were rode hard and put away wet, in horse parlance. You know, the kind of person who tells you they’re your age (40, in this case) and they look like they could be your parent. How do people get to that point? Some of it can be physical; Lord knows there are plenty of awful afflictions out there. But all too often it seems like the attitude is simply lacking. It’s true that we’re all getting older, but it’s also true that nothing needs to hold back a person of pick-a-number years old. My gal is 40, but inside she’s still a teenager in spirit. Imagine what that does to the aging process?! It won’t stop it, but boy-oh-boy will it throw a monkey wrench into things.

She Still Sets Goals
Remember being in the 16-to-18-year-old range? The world was just about to open itself up to you, and the possibilities were endless. Then life got in the way – jobs, bills, finances, a switch from single-life to married-life to no-life – and suddenly those dreams started to fall by the wayside. I have personal experience with this one as I didn’t have much of a support system in my previous marriage. None of the things I enjoyed – reading, writing, movies, sports, etc. – was fostered in any fashion whatsoever. Enough time passes and atrophy will set in, no matter how bad you want something, myself included. But it doesn’t have to be that way, and I have Jennifer to thank for her Jedi skills in conveying that fact to her padawan. She pushes me to do things that are important to me, to keep reaching higher, and to grow as a person. I now read more than I ever have in my adulthood, I get to watch shows next to my significant other instead of alone, and I write with the freneticism of a dervish, always excited to show off my work to my wife as opposed to keeping it hidden from her.

Jen is all about goals. She wants to know when our next date is going to be (and where we’ll be going, and when I’ve made the reservation, and how late we can be out, and…). She wants to learn new things, taste new foods, visit new places. She’s talked about going into tax accounting, back into commercial real estate, taking cooking classes, creating her own blog for insane mothers with copious amounts of children. While it’s true she’ll never get to check off everything on her bucket list, it’s also true that she’s put a major dent in that list by either experiencing some of those items or making concrete plans to do so in the near future. Even better, when one item gets scratched off the list, she doesn’t allow the space to remain blank; instead, she’ll replace the one item she achieved with three fresh ideas. That striving and planning keeps her excited for the future, which is yet another way to look past life’s expiration date and continue to bleed as much out of this existence as possible.

She’s a Fighter
Folks, I gotta tell you, this girl is one tough chick. She’s been through the wringer on more than one occasion, some of which would K.O. the strongest people and keep them on the mat. Not Jen. She’ll clear the cobwebs, dust herself off, maybe wipe away the little runner of blood trickling from the corner of her mouth, and then she’ll charge out of that corner like a bull seeing red. If there’s a problem, she will work tirelessly to find a solution. If something needs to change, she’ll point it out (I can say I like this quality here, but I’d be lying if I said I look forward to my turn under the microscope when I screw up). She won’t listen to the word “no” if someone tells her she’s not capable. She’ll stand up to anyone, and I mean *anyone*, if they pose a threat of any kind – big or small — to her family. She’s as no-nonsense as they come, and she’s without a doubt the strongest person I know.

I could go on and on like this for pages. She’s my muse in every sense of the word. But I’ll cut off the compliments here and circle back to the main point I wanted to make: age, as they say these days, is just a number. This has never been more apparent than it is with my wife. I’ve poked and prodded at her this past week about being over the hill, but the jokes have been lame and half-hearted. In my mind, her over-the-hill moment will likely be in…oh, 10 more years? 15? She’s got genetics on her side – she has numerous family members who are ageless and keep on living full lives well into their 80’s and beyond – but she also has all these special qualities that make it seem like she’s located the Fountain of Youth. Yet while Ponce de Leon was hoping for a magic elixir to wash away the years, I like Jen’s method better: just keep on living life like every day is magical and full of possibility. It’s served her well, folks, and I have firsthand experience as to how powerful her mindset can be.

I mean, seriously…look at her and tell me I’m wrong.

Happy 40th Birthday, love. To steal from Carly Simon’s song:

“Nobody does it better…Nobody does it half as good as you. Baby, you’re the best.”


Until we meet again…



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