I've been hearing that magical shift that happens after forty for decades. I had friends who swore once they turned forty, they stopped caring so much about what people thought of them, they got more confident and playful, and they leaned into their own pleasure. I could not wait for 40. I was tired of living in my own judgy head. I wanted free from that. It was just a matter of time.
My 40th birthday happened during the pandemic. I was virtual schooling my children and trying not to die. We were out of work and trying to sell our home of almost two decades and our business, then we were moving across the country. But I was 40! I was supposed to feel awesome! I got some boudoir pictures taken of my awesome feelings, and they turned out beautifully because the photographer is great at her job, but I wasn't in them. I wasn't in my body. I was worried that my chubby belly and my sadness would show through. I barely took my clothes off, decided to be practical and use them as headshots. I was sick at the money it cost us. I was trying to force it, but just wasn't comfortable.
Shortly after we settled, I had a breast reduction that went very badly. The physical and mental scars were terrible and I gained a lot of weight and lost a lot of confidence. My husband and I were living very different lives in the same house, out of step with each other. My kids were struggling need machines. I started having back problems that led to a whole lot of expensive testing and appointments with people who were trying to fix me but couldn't seem to. The dog loved me but he's kind of pathetic, so that didn't count. I felt ancient and broken and gross and lost and it felt like everyone who saw me as something special lived thousands of miles away. I couldn't make up for all that loss. I couldn't love this wounded, old, bitter woman.
NOT what I'd been promised for 40. This was fucking depressing. Shame hung around my neck with more weight than the old boobs ever had.
Everyone who has lived for a while knows that time can be a real ass hat. It can't be rushed and it's often the only solution. I hate that. I'm impatient and a fixer; waiting to heal, to grow, to relax into something- none of that suits me. I want it NOW.
We've been here for almost 3 years. It's been getting us all settled in a very different place/culture/community than we're used to, and also becoming a full-time mom and writer. It's a lot of time alone in my head and flexing in ways I never had. It's questioning biases and reframing how I see the systems of the world and myself in them. It's counseling and burlesque dancing. It's therapy and meds and water and weed and time, time, time.
Time (the bloody asshat) has finally delivered me to where I largely feel comfortable in my place, in my station, and in my head. I wanted to rush it but that's not how it works.
I turn 43 in a few months. Finally- with a lot of therapy and chiropractor work- my back is mostly OK and I can move like I want to again. My scars aren't so bad now- physically or mentally- and in the end, I'm glad I can close my arms against my body without boobage interfering. I'm chubby but because of all the inside work I've done, I'm no longer taking that to mean I'm a piece of shit, so it's not stopping me from loving living inside my body or wanting to feel good. ALSO, when I want to get stronger or tighter, I have hope that I can do it. I haven't given up on me. Also, I'm learning to trust myself and not let social concerns effect my relationship with my body (I reject that only thin women have value, but also don't think I'm being anti-feminist if I to try to lose weight, etc).
There was a long time there when I couldn't imagine that this body deserved to be loved well and so I pulled up short in asking for and accepting it. I had these notions of what sex was supposed to look like and how I was meant to show up in that arena, like there was a stage and I could fail or succeed in my performance. Only recently have I learned to focus on what it feels like and what I want, to stay inside my body instead of floating above to watch or sitting in the director's chair. It goes hand in hand with learning to be vulnerable across other areas of life and learning to care for myself, learning that I deserve that.
Now, between not letting the notion of perfection interfere with my pleasure and the healing and reconnection I've made with my spouse, I'm FINALLY getting that freedom of forty I was promised. Because I spent so long in fear and transactional sort of relationships, I'd never really dug deep into how fun and empowering sex can be. I'm starting to now, and you know? It's fun.
Since I'm new to this whole flirty, confident in my body, happy to proclaim my wants thing, I'm pretty bad at it. Thus, the "sexy" selfie above, edited to save your eyeballs; you're welcome. I took it with the intention of sending it to my spouse, to be filed under "bank-comma-spank," but when I saw the way my bright white ass glowed in the dark and my torso looked so long it looked like I was a horse or there was someone laying behind me in an optic illusion, I had to laugh and share. I didn't delete it, mortified, I laughed at it and showed it to my husband anyway. We laughed. And then had some sex. Because we can do both.
They were right. It might take a minute, but being a human woman in a body in my 40s is WAY better. Hopefully I've learned the lesson that it just take the time it takes...time will tell. ;)