"The appropriate age for marriage is around eighteen for girls and thirty-seven for men." Aristotle.

I’m not sure when it happened, how it happened, or why it happened. But it snuck up on me the same way my Uncle Hyram used to do when I was little. In 1971, at the ripe old age of 85 years old, Uncle Hyram, I believe, was the first man on planet Earth to exhibit stealth capability. He would creep up on us kids at the annual Carnes family barbeque, hiding behind a live oak tree, a picnic table, or Cousin Bubba’s souped up Chevy truck to gain his advantage. Then, using his own portly wife, Aunt Vesta, as a human shield, he would shadow behind her as she was going for the cake and pie table for a third helping, and sneak up and goose me from behind, causing me to drop my ice-cream cone and pee in my Saturday-labeled panties. This is what the age of forty has done to me. It has goosed me unexpectedly from behind and caused me to evaluate the possibility that I might now be the target demographic for Depends advertisements.

I never thought I’d see the age of forty. Even worse, I (ok, and my mother, too) never thought I’d find myself single, childless, and husbandless at the age of forty. I grew up in the 70’s. The era of the Brady Bunch. It was just sort of expected of us to be like our moms – housewives taking care of our families. But I guess I was never one to conform. And Carol Brady was just plain boring to me. I admired Gloria Steinem growing up, instead.

So here I am – single and childless at 40. Does this mean my life is over? Is there something wrong with me? Is someone going to suddenly show up at my doorstep to cart me off to some Old Maid Colony on an island in South Louisiana where they’ll put a sign on my chest labeling me “Spinster” instead of Leper? Will I stand in the street with a tin cup, begging perky, twenty-something upstarts, to give “ohms to the has-been. Ohms to the Old Maid.” They’ll toss me a quarter, then consider my life kicked to the curb.

Funny, but I don’t feel like giving up the fight just yet. While I admit there is a brochure for Botox treatments sitting on my desk and Collagen injections appear more and more appealing every day, I hardly believe that my dating and social life should be over merely because I’ve hit that magical age barrier known as “Lordy, Lordy, Look Who’s Forty!”

As an alternative to Carol Brady, I’ve lived up to the ideal that Betty Friedan & Mary Tyler Moore envisioned for me. Instead of pushing a Hoover upright around the house, playing den mother to a pack full of webelos, and shaking chicken in a plastic bag then baking it for my husband’s feast after a long day’s work at the office; I have found myself slogging my way through a forty-hour a week career, getting paid a man’s wage, so that I can afford to pay for my two bed-room cottage, really hot sports car, and yearly subscription to Marie Clare all by myself. I didn’t have to break the glass ceiling. I simply took the roof access staircase to overcome it. I’m an independent woman living on her own means. Like the Destiny’s Child song, sure I paid for the ring and watch I wear, but only because on one dateless Friday night, I was feeling sorry for myself and bought the entire Joan River’s collection on QVC.

So I guess the question that I ask myself is simply, am I a has-been at forty? God, I hope not. I would like to believe that I have aged well, like a fine Chateauneuf de Paup; that I am full bodied, subtle, and mature. I want to believe that I go well with anything, and that I am timeless. That I can run with any crowd, be sophisticated on one side, yet playful and childlike on the other, after all, I am caught between the ages. Otherwise, the alternative is unthinkable – to be like a used Depend Undergarment, balled up and tossed in the trash can. No regrets!
Copyright © 2007 Tracy L. Carnes

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