The Time to Enjoy the Ride is Now

There are some expressions that you never truly understand… Until you do.

It took me until I was 29 years old and a weekend spent at Lundy Canyon during a freakishly cold June to understand what “not a happy camper” meant. Dressed in every article of clothing I had packed, I climbed out of my tent to warm my numbed toes by the fire, putting my feet so close to the flames that I melted the soles of my Ugg boots. The expression that I’d long been acquainted with, and had probably used on occasion, finally made perfect sense. I’d shivered my way through most of the night, barely sleeping, and trying to climb inside my husband’s skin when it dawned on me: I was NOT a happy camper.

Eleven years later, I think I finally understand what it means to be Over the Hill.

For the past three years, I told my husband that for my 40th birthday we were taking a trip to The Grand Canyon. I had never struggled with any birthdays before– I mean, aside from being still slightly intoxicated during college finals the day after I turned 21. Yet something about turning 40 seemed downright ominous. There were all those stories: suddenly requiring readers after a lifetime of 20/20 vision, the way the scale creeps up…and up….and up despite working out harder than ever before, and let’s not forget (I shudder to even say the word) perimenopause.

I suppose I figured that if I had any reservations about turning the big 4-0, standing on the rim of one of the world’s greatest natural wonders, one that was millions of years old, could help put things in perspective.

And if I was wrong, I could always jump in.

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Visiting the canyon was a bucket list item for both my husband and me and it seemed like the perfect way to celebrate a milestone birthday. And it was. We got to take a road trip through the desert with our kids, spend some time hiking and taking in the sights, and catch up with close friends in Vegas on both ends of the trip.

Perhaps turning forty wasn’t a big deal.

That morning, I woke early and snuck out of our hotel room to watch the sun rise over the canyon. There were plenty of other tourists doing the same, but by walking a short way down the rim trail, I was able to find solitude as the sky was painted in breathtaking hues.

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I was officially forty.

That night we were back in Vegas. We met up with our friends at a Mexican restaurant to celebrate when I made the mistake of telling the waiter it was my birthday.

“And it’s a big one.” I joked. “Guess how old I am?”

He didn’t even really pause to think about it. He took one look at me and said, “45.”

That’s right. Cuarenta y cinco.

What. The. Actual. Fuck.

There was an awkward silence that fell on the table as I added more salt to my margarita with my tears.

My husband quickly rationalized how women in Vegas all have “work” done and so many look much younger than they are. When I glared at him, he proceeded to insult the man’s intelligence, which only made me feel slightly better.

From that moment on, I was headed downhill.

Since turning 40, ironically, my hearing and eyesight have both improved.

One morning, I woke and noticed that the bed sheets had left strange marks on my chest. Hours later, the marks remained. If these small creases in my skin weren’t from my linens then…

Oh—Shit.

Suddenly, I recalled all those times as a teenager that I’d slathered up in baby oil and laid in the sun, sucking down Slurpees and chain-smoking Parliament Lights.

I whispered a silent prayer: Dear God, Please bring back the turtle neck this winter. And the mock neck the year after that. And then the cowl neck. There’d be no more décolletage for me.

And that’s when I heard it:

Tick. Tick. Tick.

I assume it’s the sound of the clock counting down what’s left of my life. Everything will gain momentum now as I race towards a finish line I’d prefer not to cross. Within a month of turning 40, my youngest will partake in her graduation to the first grade, my oldest has started saving money for her first car, and I have scheduled my first mammogram. My closest friends ask me how it feels to be 40, which only serves to remind me that they are still 39, and no matter what I do, I can’t seem to shake these five pounds that showed up around my midsection just in time for summer.

Every anti-aging cream, wrinkle reducer, fine-line diminisher, and work-out regimen are appearing on my timeline, and I’m questioning why I didn’t invest in these things sooner…before it was too late.

But truth be told, I know why. It’s because I wasn’t 40 and when you’re still headed uphill it’s a slow climb that feels like you’ll never reach the top.

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The other night, my husband asked, “Do you think you might just be having a hard time with the idea that you’re getting older?”

I hollered at the younger man I married, “Me?! Me?!”

“No. Me too.” (He stopped reacting to my histrionics years ago.) “I’m surprised I don’t wake you up in the middle of the night when I try to straighten my leg and groan.”

Huh. Maybe my hearing is going after all.

But then, I hear it again:

Tick. Tick. Tick.

Still..When you’re headed downhill, there’s really only one thing to do.

It’s time to stop pedaling so hard, let the wind blow through your increasingly gray hair, let go of the handlebars, and learn to enjoy the ride. 

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Dear Husband,

It’s been eleven years since we’ve wed and we have come to a pivotal point in our relationship whereby it is necessary to renegotiate the terms of our contract.

This morning, as I was pulling up my stockings, I let one slip. It was audible, and as I glanced at our bed, I was relieved that you had already gotten up to make yourself a cup of coffee. Our daughter, with headphones on and iPad in hand, was oblivious to my morning salute.

I grew up in a family where farts were, and still are, hilarious. I can clearly picture my grandpa, with his tanned skin and thick gray hair, asking in feigned innocence, “Who stepped on a frog?” His smile would always betray him.

My father has always been a fan of the old “pull my finger” trick. It delighted him so to simultaneously cut the cheese as one gave his pointer a tug. Long after we knew better, we reluctantly played along just to avoid disappointing him.

I know you find humor in human hydrogen bombs too. Remember the first time my mother had us over for dinner after we were engaged? She let one rip in the kitchen and gleefully announced, “Welcome to the family!” Just like that, you were christened.

Together, we laughed till we cried over a fart machine cleverly taped beneath a dining room chair at Thanksgiving or tucked between the sofa cushions in the first home we shared. Even the memory of a well-timed wind serves to amuse.

Still, despite the joy that flatulence has brought to my life, I have, for over a decade, tried my best to shield you from the gas I expel, with one exception: pregnancy.

In the nine months that my body was taken over, I lost all bodily control. I remember the night that I lumbered out of bed for the sixth or seventh time to go to the bathroom. While lowering my big belly and even bigger bottom, a toilet-bowl fart echoed through the night and roused you from your slumber. You–who have slept through earthquakes, screaming babies, and smoke detector alarms. There was a strange look on your face, a mix of horror and amusement, when you realized the source of the sound that woke you hadn’t come from your alarm clock, but rather from my back door.

A few weeks later, we found ourselves in the hospital giving birth to our first baby girl. She was so precious and tiny that it caught us off guard that very first night when we heard a man-fart erupt from our newborn daughter. We stared at each other in disbelief. How could something so small wallop with such gusto? Suddenly, those three trimesters of trouser coughs all made sense. It wasn’t me; it was her!

 As soon as I resumed control of myself again, I quickly returned to the self-imposed prison I had created. For over a decade, I have clenched my cheeks, I have stepped outside to walk Donald, I have blamed my SBDs on the dogs.

Having children has filled our lives with music, and we have found their symphonies entertaining, yet despite the few times I accidentally joined the band, I have tried my best not to toot my own horn in your presence.

Yet knocking on 40’s door, things are starting to go. I see it in my skin. I feel it in my body. I smell it in the air. These days, I find myself losing control more and more, and it happens when I least expect it: pushing a shopping cart in the grocery store, bending over to tie my shoe, blow drying my hair.

I can no longer blame my butt burps on a baby, but I also can no longer keep my bombers at bay. It’s only a matter of time before I am one of those women in yoga who applauds her own downward dog.

And so, Dear Husband, as we enter a new stage of our relationship, one that you neither asked for nor can deny, please remember: If I blow you a kiss with my bum, it’s only because I love you.

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