I am 39. Tomorrow I will not be.
This tick of the clock first came home to roost, several months ago while planning my summer birthday celebration, a trip to the Cote D’ Azure. At my desk in January I was booking an easy jet flight from London to Nice, France dreaming of summer weather, fancy wine and rich food. While drawing up the sum total of the cost of the trip, one I had dreamed of since 1998, I contemplated whether it was possible for me to actually wear all my clothes on the plane to avoid the baggage fee, like the 20 year old I had seen on YouTube. Impossible! What would I do with my shampoo? Never once did I think I might be too old to try that, nor did I think that by now I should have learned to be sophisticated or at least pretend to be like all my relatives. Certainly by now I should earn enough to shirk off baggage fees like pennies at an arcade or hundreds at the supermarket but alas I have yet to grow up.
In 1998 I was on a coast train from Italy to Paris enroute to London after six weeks of inter-railing through Europe. Watching the sun set over the beauty of the French coast line we passed through a train station with a sign for Beaulieu Sur Mer. It struck a cord; we were passing through the very town where they filmed Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Captivated by the beauty and enchanted by one of my favourite films, I vowed one day to return.
That was almost twenty years ago. How could that be? Impossible! To avoid my reservation timing out I clicked the purchase tab. I was finally going to cross something off my bucket list. Filling out the obligatory personal information, passports etcetera, my cursor blinked at me from an empty fill box. Easy Jet was asking me an uncomfortable question that in January of 2016 I was not prepared to answer: AGE AT TIME OF TRAVEL?
I am turning 40 and it was the first time I had come face to face with my impending birthday. A milestone birthday can’t help but throw you into evaluation mode, binge eating, overwork and general burn out because you are old but you still think or worse act like you are young. That is the crux of the matter of turning forty.
I suppose it is a chance to look back at what you have left behind and what is still ahead. I heard a woman at the pet food store yesterday expressing to the much younger cashier how “happy I am to have all that young stuff behind me, thank god I don’t have to go on dates, and have boyfriends all over again.” She was pushing a cart full of overgrown children and kibble. Hmmm, I thought looking down at my own cart, and checking my phone to see five phone calls from the same number.
When I was in my twenties I would have thought it was one of my numerous stalkers calling from a new pay as you go phone number… but now alas no such thought crossed my mind. I checked the messages and there were three from the psycho nurse at my OB/GYN. In true stalker form, she never said what she wanted just that it was important I call. I was one step ahead of them; I knew what they wanted; they want me to have a mammogram. As I turn forty the only thing I have to arguably look forward to is a cold machine with extra large pinchers feeling me up. Can’t they wait to harass me until the realities of middle age have sunk in, at least give me until the middle of next week?
As I approach the wisdom of middle age I realize that achievements go hand in hand with disappointments. I went on a vegan cleanse in February and lost eleven pounds, then I went to France in July and gained fifteen. My boobs are so big that they scare small children and grown men which necessitates a new wardrobe of sunshirts to wear over my miracle suit. I “pretend” these are for preserving my already wrinkled skin… Ah the trials of the pudgy.
My parenting has hit its high and low this week. Eva came home from camp with a black eye so I dutifully asked her how she acquired it. With her coy reserve she told me that Ethan had punched her. Ethan is at least three times the size of Eva and five times the weight. Attempting my best tiger mom, I texted Ethan’s mom “to make her aware of the situation,” which was met with much shock and apology and assurance that she would question him the next morning.
I felt I had done my duty until the fatal wiggling of doubt arose the following morning probably around the same time Ethan was under interrogation.
“Eva, tell me about your black eye one more time.”
“No,” her big blue eyes gave a coy flick and she buried her nose in her bunny.
“Tell me why he punched you?”
I pick up the telephone and ring my sister as I am sure Sadie, Eva’s cousin, would have seen the entire incident at camp.
No answer. I leave a message.
I open the fridge door and dangle a bag of food dye free organic gummy bears. (It’s 8:00am)
“If I give you a gummy bear will you tell me why Ethan punched you?”
Eva eyes the gummy bears like a hawk hunting its prey.
I hand over an orange gummy bear, revealing a red one in my other hand.
She scoffs it, and matter-a-factly announces, “I punched him first.”
Any hint of shame had been swallowed along with the gummy bear, but I relinquish my grasp on the second one with a sigh of defeat. She chews it triumphantly as I contemplate my next move.
I send a flurry of apologetic text messages to Ethan’s mom explaining how I had found out the entire story through bribery. She confirms that it corresponds to Ethan’s account.
I return my attention to my daughter,
“Last week when you came home with a bruise under your other eye, did the other girl really hit you with a stick by accident?”
I retreat to the fridge, and return with a yellow gummy bear.
“Are you sure?”
“Her stick was bigger than mine.”
She puts her hand out for the gummy bear and I place it in her sticky sweaty paw.
“Eva, You don’t have to turn everyday at camp into David versus Goliath.”
“Whose Goliath? You?”
“No! Why would you say that? Never mind.”
I know my daughter has spirit, but I am left wondering how have I managed to raise a pint sized swashbuckling, punch throwing, whisp of a child who looks like an angel, but fights like a gladiator and insults me without even trying.
Next a thought fleets through my mind… If I had another child how they would turn out, would I do a better job, would they sleep better than Eva, would they be as smart, or as quick with a right hook?
Now that I am 40 (there I said it) I can safely assume that it’s too late for any crazy thoughts or irrational behavior like getting pregnant.
And then I remember to be grateful for the wonderful child I do have, my elderly dog who I am catching up with in age and temperament and a happy family.
A family I am celebrating with tonight. While I was in France my mother sent me an invitation to celebrate my birthday at a Wild West BBQ at her club. But there was a catch; there is always a catch. It is to be a joint celebration with my niece, Sadie, who turned five two days before my fortieth. Five and Forty have so much in common.
I am promising to let Sadie blow out the candles if I get to eat the first piece of cake. I have bought us both pinwheels for the occasion and I plan on demanding at least two party bags to satisfy my increased appetite since I overate in France. The invite says there will be a mechanical bull so I hope my Shirley temples are spiked with vodka so I can try it with my mother’s permission of course.
I am planning to let my hair down this birthday, after all I worked hard this past year; perhaps it was the looming anniversary reminding me of all those hours I wasted in my youth. I wrote a 120,000 book, one screenplay about Bette Davis and co-wrote another untitled screenplay. This of course has come with a sacrifice, namely this blog, which I have missed.
One gift forty has given me is a damn good excuse to bring back my blog. I got a Variety alert a few days ago informing the world that Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is getting a remake. Hurrah! So is my blog. I hope to upgrade the interface and move on up in the world of the forty somethings so stay tuned.
As Bette Davis always said, “Old Age is Not For Sissies,” and neither is being Eva’s mom.
Xxx Derelict Mom
Love this: “I am left wondering how have I managed to raise a pint sized swashbuckling, punch throwing, whisp of a child who looks like an angel, but fights like a gladiator and insults me without even trying.”