10 Reasons Life Begins At 40
We have all heard the time worn phrase ‘life begins at 40’ and of course the pithy rejoinder ‘and ends at 41’. How many of us know the origin of the phrase or even understand what it is trying to say to us. The first part of the saying, which appeared on the scene in the early part of the 20th Century was actually a popular saying and gained currency when it was used as the title of a 1932 self help book by a gentleman called Walter Pitkin. The book was predicated on the fact that while date life expectancy in the US in the 1880s was only 40 years this had expanded rapidly, even given the horrors of the First World War and the Depression, to a (for the time) staggering 60 years at birth and still rising. Suddenly people had a potential retirement to look forward to, 40 was no longer considered old, rather it was a stepping off point into a new, previously unimagined, age of opportunities.
These days, of course, our life expectancy is much higher and many people are living healthy lives into their 70s, 80s and even 90s and beyond. With that in mind does the saying still apply? Is life over by the time you hit 35 or do the facts that we have families later and have the responsibility to care for ageing parents at the same time as we raise our children now mean that we have to wait until we hit 50 or 60 to really start enjoying ourselves? We firmly believe that life still starts at 40 and here are 10 reasons why!
10Your 40s Are No Longer A Fashion Wasteland
If you are approaching your 40s now the chances are that your parents turned 40 around the 1980s. Think back to how they dressed…sure everyone made some pretty dire fashion choices in the 1980s and early 90s. Young people either channeled their inner Dallas and rocked shoulder pads or went all Fame with leg warmers and leotards. Sadly (or then again perhaps not) those looks were very definitely only for the young, most people with children, a mortgage and responsibilities were far more sober in their attire. Older women got to rock the floral sack dress that made them look like an extra from Little House on The Prairie probably topped with a dubious perm. Things were not much better for men. Younger men might have been dressing like Marty McFly but their dads dressed like, well, his dad. Middle age men wore sober suits in nasty shades of brown, tight shorts for sports and not much in between. The net effect was a huge gulf between the clothes that young people wore and the clothes that middle age people wore, meaning that people who were middle aged automatically looked old.
These days the line between acceptable dressing in your youth and in your middle age is much more fluid, sure there are conventions you should be aware of, no one wants to be ‘mutton dressed as lamb’ but turning 40 no longer means you need to sacrifice your personal sense of style. Indeed, you are more likely to be confident in yourself and therefore confident wearing what makes you feel good.
9Modern Knowledge And Technology Helps Us Stay Young
Take a look back at photographs of your grandparents at age 40. Chances are they look an awful lot older than you do right now. Why was that? Partly they had a tough life, they may have lived through the War or the Depression and had to deal with the physical and emotional impacts of such life changing events. There were other differences as well, the wide range of healthy foods that we take for granted as so readily available today was just not available and many popular foods were cooked in saturated fats; people did not pay the same attention to nutrition as we do now. Furthermore most people smoked or lived with someone who did and suntans were seen as a positive thing.
All of this meant that people used to age faster than they do now. These days most women (and many men) will moisturize their skin, wear sun protection, take supplements, eat organic and exercise regularly. Experts believe that in terms of your skin, up to 80% of ageing is down to lifestyle choices and we are now equipped to make better ones than our parents and grandparents. This means that as long as we take care of ourselves we look younger for longer and turning 40 no longer needs to mean wrinkles and worry lines.
8Your Children Are Out Of Diapers!
The issue of children and the age you have them is one area where people might claim that life no longer begins at 40 and try to push that figure closer to 50. Baby Boomers tended to have had their children in their 20s meaning that they got their lives and homes back in their 40s as their children left home for work or college. Members of Generations X and Y (particularly professionals where both partners work) are more likely to delay children until they are more settled in their careers. The average age of new first time mothers is now in the late 20s with more and more women waiting until their 30s to have their first child. While this does mean that children will still be at home when their parents turn 40 at least those parents can look forward to deliverance from the dreaded diaper.
Small children may be lovely but they are hard work, parents can expect sleepless nights, explosions of bodily wastes, messy homes, fussy eating and lots of other stressful situations. By the time most parents have hit their 40s they can look forward to a little bit of a respite as their children become self-sufficient teens. Of course there might still be some sleepless nights but for a whole host of other reasons and at least they can, in theory, wash their own clothes and get their own food! Parents can look forward to really getting to know their children as they grow up, discuss their life’s ambitions, share hobbies and favorite activities. Simply put, older children are a lot more fun.
7But You Can Have More If You Want Them
What better way to celebrate life beginning at 40 than with a brand new baby? In our parents’ generation women who fell pregnant in their 40’s (even second or later pregnancies) were considered ‘elderly’. These days many women choose to delay formalizing their relationships or trying for a baby until they are established in their careers.
While women are told that fertility declines after age 35 (that famous biological clock) it is not impossible to get pregnant naturally in your 40s and, for those that struggle, IVF and other fertility treatments are more successful and accessible (if you have the money) than ever before. Being an elderly primigravida (older first pregnancy) used to be considered something akin to a taboo. Older parents were put on a dreadful guilt trip; the pregnancy would not be healthy, the parents would be too tired to care for their children properly and would die while their children were still young.
It is fair to say that there are risks to pregnancy in your 40s, women are more likely to miscarry, there is a greater likelihood of chromosomal abnormalities and birth weight is likely to be lower. Nevertheless as more and more women choose to delay pregnancy OB/GYNs are becoming more adept at supporting parents in their 40s through successful conception and pregnancies. Parents who delay pregnancy to their 40s are often said to be more established, have more time for the baby and to be more financially secure than younger parents.
6Your Sex Life Starts To Get Really Steamy
It is a popular myth that young people are the ones having all the best sex. The truth is that, while they may be limber, those in their 20s and 30s have not quite worked out what turns them on. They are also more likely to suffer from body confidence issues and not yet have found their long term partner. As a result they are far more likely to fake it and pretend to be satisfied with their partners than those who have reached their 40s.
There is truth in the saying that practice makes perfect as by the time people turn 40 they are confident in their bodies, have learned what works for them and are confident enough to ask for it in bed. In a survey of the sexual habits of over 2000 40+ women, over 80% said that they were more adventurous between the sheets in their 40s than they were when they were younger. While more than a quarter of married women over the age of 40 admitted to having an affair a staggering 58% said the best sex they had was with their husbands, proving that long term commitment often pays off.
5You Are More Financially Stable
Admittedly this is another area where our parents had it a little easier as by the time they hit their 40s their mortgages were well on the way to being paid off. Higher costs of living combined with major life expenses such as getting married and having children being pushed from the 20s towards the 30s means that many of today’s 40 year olds will be carrying a higher debt burden than their parents.
All is not doom and gloom however. Your 40s are an enviable time at work, you are likely to have gained quite a significant degree of seniority and to be known and respected in your field. At the same time you are likely to be young enough to be able to understand and adapt to the requirements of new technology. In your 20s and 30s it is easy to be pushed into accepting the salary you are offered whether or not it was really fair. By the time you hit your 40s your years of work should have given you the experience to know the standard market rate for the work that you do and to advocate for appropriate remuneration. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this learn and learn soon. Your 40s are your peak earning years, you will probably never earn as much again as you do now so it is up to you to make the most of it.
4You Have Worked Out Who Your Real Friends Are
Do you remember all the cliques at high school? It seemed like everyone was desperate to find likeminded people to hang out with. So desperate, in fact, that it was sometimes tempting to hang out with people you didn’t like just so that you were seen to have friends. The pressure to be ‘popular’ is certainly intense during our teens and it is not something that goes away very quickly. People seek validation through friendships, in the same way you don’t want to be sat at a table of two in the school cafeteria many people feel the need to have a large circle of friends to go out drinking or clubbing and who wants to be the bride with only one bridesmaid or the new mother with only five people at her baby shower.
The trouble with this mindset is that it can force us to keep friends long after the friendship has run its course and these out of date friendships can quickly turn toxic. Before you know it your friend starts taking but not giving, putting you down and making you feel trapped.
The only way you can deal with people like this is to end the friendship and cut them out of your life for good. By the time you turn 40 you have probably come across your fair share of ‘frenemies’, you will almost certainly have been stung by at least one. The upside to this is that you will also have learned that you don’t need 20 best friends, just one or two who have your back and will support you through thick and thin. As a result you will have the confidence to end friendships that are no longer mutually supportive.
3You Have Learned That Ageing Is Better Than The Alternative
Let’s face it no one really and truly wants to get old; we would all love awesome abs, perky breasts, naturally gloss hair and plump fair skin. No matter how well we eat or how many serums we slather on our faces or how much botox we have in our lunch hours those signs of ageing will creep up on us.
Does it really matter? It truly is not the end of the world and sadly for some people and their loved ones their world ends far too soon. No matter how healthy our lifestyles things can and do go wrong. If you have got to 40 the chances are you know someone who has not. Whether it is a childhood friend who died in a car crash, a friend suffering from cancer, a parent or grandparent no longer with you to celebrate the milestones, the chances are that you have been touched with loss. Even if you have been lucky enough to escape this you will have seen tragedy or known those touched by it, in your friendship group or through the media.
If you are lucky enough to get to 40 you are probably sensible enough to hope that you age gracefully over the next 40 years than deal with the horrifying alternative of remaining forever young in the memory of your loved ones.
2You Learn To Be Kind To Yourself
All too often we are our own worst enemies. Comparison is the thief of joy or so the saying goes and when we are younger it is all too easy to look at ourselves in the mirror and find ourselves wanting. Sadly there will always be someone cleverer, wealthier, better at their job or more beautiful. Many people end up being sucked into a negative cycle where they end up believing themselves ever more unworthy.
The chances are that by the time you turn 40 you have learned to recognize when you start to think like this and developed strategies to deal with it by identifying and valuing the positives in yourself. One of the keys to this way of thinking is learning to stop being judgmental and give ourselves the same supportive constructive criticism we would give others.
In order to do this it is vital to learn to trust your gut instinct. This becomes progressively easier over time. In your teens and 20s you probably came across situations that made you uneasy and you just did not know why, you followed your head and did what you were expected to do, the chances are it turned out badly. By the time you turned 30 you probably started to accept that the sense of uneasiness you felt was your unconscious trying to tell you something. By the time you have lived 40 years you will have a pretty good inkling on when something is just not right and the sense to listen to that feeling. The ability to do that will give you confidence and allow you to feel assured of your talents.
1You Know Who You Are
From the tumultuous teens to the fun of your 20s and the hard slog of your 30s the last 40 years have been about one thing and one thing only, finding out who you are. By the time you hit 40 that is it. You are unlikely to make any wild career changes so if you are not already a Hollywood star you probably never will be. The compensation for this is that you know what you are good at. From standing out in your career to knowing who your real friends are; from knowing how to dress to look your best to knowing how to ask and get what you want in bed. These are things that you have been striving for your entire life to date so now is the time to make the most of your hard won skills. This does not mean that the adventure is over, far from it. Now that you know what direction you are going in you can concentrate all your energy on consolidating your skills, at being good, at being the best you that you can be.
It sometimes seems that our society is obsessed with youth. Look at any magazine and you see handsome young men with rippling muscles and stunning young women with bronzed legs that go on forever and impossibly tiny waists. We then look in the mirror and see…normality. Not only that but we see an ageing normality that is at odds with what is pushed down our throats by the media, as such it is horribly easy to become depressed about the very thought of ageing.
Don’t fall into the trap, everything you see in magazines and on air is a lie. Almost every frame is photoshopped to promote an unrealistic ideal of perpetual youth. But what is so good about being young anyway? You have to slog long hours at an entry level job for poor pay, you haven’t yet worked out who your real friends are and while you may be having a lot of sex it is not necessarily very good.
The truth is turning 40 is pretty good. You are entering your peak earning years. If you had children in your 30s they become easier to handle and if you have not yet had some you still have the chance and you can have a lot of fun practicing on the way. Life really and truly does begin at 40!