— On Comms Design. From London

Things that changed at 40 (for me)

This is by no means an educational post. You should not feel obliged to learn anything from it because I am not the only person turning 40 nor am I in the 1% of wise people who have turned 40. It’s more comedy than how-to and you might find it more comedic if you’re a woman than if you’re a man.

I’ve turned 40 and it’s already daunting, not because 40 is the age I thought parents are and now it turns out it’s me, but primarily because I LOVED my 30s and I worry that my 40s will be a terrible second act. That said, let’s not look back in sorrow but rather record for all posterity some of the things that make me dread my 40s.

Being sexy in one’s 40s

While most of the women in Sex & the City kindof felt like they were in their 30s (except for Samantha who was clearly older), I have no stereotype of sexiness in your 40s to relate to. Most of the cool, 40 yos in the UK are women who have embraced their mom/wife status and being 40, and for whom sexy is almost a constant source of surprise. “OMG, I cannot believe this dress looks good on me. Geesh, I am indeed wearing sexy sandals”. I don’t have kids, won’t have kids and I am struggling to understand what’s the ideal of sexiness one should aspire to. BTW, this is equally a personal observation as it is a marketing one. Who is cool and in their 40s? Not sure because while the beauty industry has embraced young AND old, when they say old they tend to go closer to 50s and 60s almost to make up for the fact that they basically hated older women until 5 years ago. So, leaving Caroline de Maigret aside (because she’s French, a rockstar so doesn’t really count) I am finding myself in a space of nothingness.

Things that happen to your body

When me and Andreea were working Garnier a while back, we stumbled across a dreadful realisation: adult acne. Turns out that while hormones surge in your teens and then settle down to blissful clarity for a decade in your mid 20s and early 30s, come late 30s and early 40s and stuff begins to shift again. TBH, not sure it’s just hormones, but let me tell you, wrinkles IS NOT the only thing that separates older women from younger ones. Shit occurs that the beauty industry fails to acknowledge and address openly not only with ads but also with products. Metabolisms slow down, skin dries out, hairs start doing unearthly things in places you’ve never thought it would and so on. And there is nothing to read on this nor any cream to apply. It’s a wasteland of information and solutions. Unless you’re worried about wrinkles. So, I am forever dreading the 40 yo-induced “developments” because I’m not sure we’re prepared for them.

Things that happen to your brain

Now, we’ve been told that one’s life is clearer when you’re in your 40s. That you’ve done the turmoil in your 20s, career and kids in your 30s and then your brain settles into a clear confirmation of what you can and cannot do. Seriously, just google in my 40s and you will almost exclusively find accounts of women who are thanking their lucky stars for being 40. Well, good on them, except that isn’t always the case if you have moved house, moved country, moved job. Having to encounter change in your 40s may seem like an interesting challenge if you have an incredible support system (husband who earns well, kids who don’t need to be pushed around in a pram, parents who are happily but energetically retired and living nearby) BUT if you don’t, change at 40 is going to floor you because the world is telling you you should be settled and …. you’re not. So here’s what happens, you dwell more, you worry more, your anxieties accelerate. You overcompensate by trying to do more, you google “early onset dementia”, stop eating sugar because you can track your momentary lapses of memory to an eclair and insist to your OBGYN that you should be put on hormone replacement because pre-menopause is killing you. Of course, you’re not experiencing any of those things but it’s a taster of what to look fwd to especially with a lot of women awakened to the trials and tribulations of menopause and sharing them online. Because, you see, in your 40s you;re not menopausal, or pre-menopausal but you’re also not 100% NOT THOSE THINGS. So it’s very much like when you think you’re going to be sick but are not but keep gagging every two minutes. Your brain is preparing for the possibility of what’s to come and you are experiencing this preparation as weekly inconsistencies. Fun, ey?

Things that happen with your job

You definitely know more by 40 because you’ve tried a lot of things and hopefully learnt from them. But there’s a nagging worry that you should have done better by now, that you’re at a point where other people HAVE done better, so you squirm and ponder on what you should be doing to be where you think you should be. You work with young people who claim to know as much as you do and cannot really silence silly ideas because it’s a “sharing” world so everyone’s opinions are valid. So you need to listen to everyone and not roll your eyes. You need to teach more and do less. By all accounts, in this country in particular, the 40s is when most advertising/tech professionals decide it’s time for something else. Either, it seems, because the industry has a tendency to push out seniors or because you start questioning whether this is all worth the longer evenings. I’ll keep you posted on that one.

Things that happen with your social life

Nothing. By 38 you’ve stopped having a clear social life outside dinners and theatre with your partner because everyone who doesn’t have kids is too young to hang out with and everyone else has kids and seeing “Death of a Salesman” with two 7 yo in tow is not an option. If you’re lucky you have some childless friends of your age and you sometimes see them to commiserate.

Things to do

I have found the following works for me: keep notes, start a notebook with things to remember, eat healthy, very healthy food and exercise a lot; try to get out of the house and walk while listening to podcasts or music; look at things around you and ride the bus; watch good films and then talk about them with someone who gets them; read books and make lots of notes and then go back and re-read the notes; try to understand politics beyond who you think you should vote for; understand the issues in your city and your country; eat lots of veg and fruit (Michael Pollan was right!!); think about controversies and try to understand if you have a POV and if you don’t, read up and make yourself one; wear clothes that are looser rather that tighter because they will make you look thin (surprisingly); don’t buy too much make up but buy a nice perfume; wear comfy shoes and carry a book around all the time; if you’ve ever enjoyed writing, for God’s sake, find the time to write (even stupid posts like this one); think about what your problems are and really try to define them; think about what your ideas are and REALLY try to define them. Dwell less (easier said than done so here’s what my therapist said: “first time you’re finding yourself dwelling, set a time and do it for that time; next time, reduce the time, next time reduce it again”) and take showers more because weirdly enough, not only do they make you smell better but they also focus your mind on creative thinking.

Here’s hoping I survive this!