This Is 39

This is 39

I am feeling my age. Age is a loaded word and concept, but in my case, what I mean is that I feel this year of 39 completely: this is not just another year in the life. When I was younger, the milestone birthdays seemed to be 13, 16, 18, and 21. I remember announcing what I believed to be the last of them at 25, a birthday I felt marked the beginning of when “everything counts” as well as my ability to finally rent a car on my own. But 39 has been a milestone too — maybe even more than 40 will be. I feel as if I am standing in a more significant threshold, leaving one place and entering another.

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This is my 39…

At 39, you splurge on Justin Timberlake concert tickets because you love him in a way that almost feels inappropriate — even though you still remember his hair circa the ’90s — but then you find that his concert homage to Bel Biv Devoe’s “Poison” thrills you even more than “Suit and Tie.”

You do all your Christmas shopping on Amazon — not because you are all savvy and techy, but for the simple reasons that you cannot bear to deal with crowds and parking at the shopping malls and you don’t have time to shop on foot anyway. ( I  once spent New Year’s Eve in Times Square. I went to Woodstock in ’94. When did I become such a wimp and so “busy?”)

People you love have cancer. Way too many people you love have cancer. It makes you angry. And scared.

Thus, you look at moles differently. You start staring in the bathroom mirror for long bouts of time, trying to figure out what is going on above your upper lip and what to do about your forehead and WTH that tiny bump on your temple is.

You dish with your college girlfriends about miracle devices that remove chin hairs and the most comfortable yoga pants for school pick up. Because, you know, that is hot.

Your husband remarks to you that Taylor Swift seems like “she’d be a really cool girl to have… as a daughter.”

You find yourself keeping the car running so you can finish hearing that Guns ‘n’ Roses song on the radio — on the easy listening station (the hell?) — because it reminds you of college. Hall and Oates take you straight to the backseat of your parents’ car on road trips to the beach when you were a child, and Paul Simon and Billy Joel sing the songs that you hold sacred, the songs that your parents used to play on a record player  at parties that went past your bedtime.

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You cry at commercials and flipping You Tube videos. You don’t want to watch violent movies. You wonder how the teenagers at the mall have parents who let them dress that way. You realize with a start that although you believed you were Carrie when you watched Sex and the City on HBOyou now think of Carrie and her friends as “young,” and they totally wouldn’t hang out with you.

You hear through the grapevine about friends separating and divorcing, a stark contrast to your 20s and early 30s when there was another wedding every weekend. It feels surreal; divorce seems like such a grown-up thing to do, even more than mortgages and minivans and babies. It’s threatening, like a tornado that might randomly hit you or someone you love. Even though divorces are not random at all, they feel random — which is terrifying.

You spend lunches with friends comparing local memory loss facilities and living wills for your parents in the same breath as preschools and tennis lessons for your kids.

Everyone you know is training for some kind of race — whether it’s a half marathon, a full marathon, or an Ironman (overachievers). Your friends wear CrossFit T-shirts and Zumba pants at the grocery store because they actually do those things. Fitness is the new mid-life crisis.

Still, you very possibly might drink a Diet Coke with your lunch of kale and quinoa salad. Details.

Speaking of beverages: hello, hangovers. Every drink after your first is now some huge risk and gamble on whether tomorrow will be absolutely miserable.

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You squint more. You consider appliances a viable gift option. You don’t know any of the bands playing on New Year’s Rockin’ Eve — and you don’t want to — but you can totally beat your kids at Just Dance (and only Just Dance). It ticks them off in a very satisfying way, but you are pathetically sore the next day.

You find yourself wondering whatever happened to Winona Ryder and Natalie Merchant. You hope they are okay, because they feel like distant cousins you grew up with once upon a time. You have a soft spot for Ethan Hawke and John Cusack and you always will, like the boys next door growing up that you can’t forget. Jake Ryan will always be the hottest boy who ever lived, and no, you don’t want to see a picture of what he looks like now. Thanks.

Your parents are slowing down and retiring. Some of your friends are losing their parents. It feels like some kind of seismic shift to realize that our generation is now up to bat. We’re the ones leading our countries and churches and corporations and the world. It’s us. Donna Martin graduated and has four children now — and so do I. The same people I drank with in college are now in charge of universities and hedge funds and corporate giants and Homeland Freaking Security. Gulp.

That blows my 39-year-old mind, because I feel like a teenager in middle age clothing. I still feel like someone else should be the grown up. Still, I do feel ready to take responsibility for life and my place in it. I am not afraid to speak up for what I believe. I accept that not everyone is going to like me, even if it still hurts. I know I am never going to be perfect, and I no longer even want to be. I feel like I know what I want from my life, regardless of the expectations of others; unfortunately, I also know that my own expectations for myself are the hardest to bear and the least forgiving. I’m still getting used to the idea that this blur around me is my life happening, but I am getting there.

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So, I’m happy to wear ballet flats instead of stilettos, and I have finally decided that Spanx are not actually worth it — I don’t care who is going to be at the party. And I have realized that I am the only mother my kids are going to get, so I better treat myself well and let them know that as imperfect as I am, I’m still valuable . Someday, they will all be imperfect, valuable 39-year-olds too.

I cannot lie: 40 scares me a little bit. This is the big-time. But it scares me in a good way, the kind that feels all tingly and full of possibility. If this is 39, I think that there is a lot to be hopeful for in my 40s. As long as I can figure out that whole what’s-going-on-above-my-upper lip thing.

About the writer


Allison is a writer and a mother of four children. Her writing can be found at her own blog, Allison Slater Tate, on Facebook, and Twitter.


Ypsi 1 month ago

50 is pretty damn awesome too.

Crys 2 months ago

I loved this article. I am so happy to be where I am at (39). I have learned so much and I would never want to go back. :0) Thank you for this honest look at the threshold of 40. Two big thumbs up. (BTW crossfit and running have been part of my midlife transition and source of empowerment)

Donna 2 months ago

I usually don’t read these type of blogs (I have no kids and am not married), but couldn’t stop reading this one! Every last word was relatable (minus the kid part) and oh so true.

I’m 39, will be turning 40 in February, and, yeah, it’s a scary thing to be staring 40 in the face. It’s scarier for me to realize that all the stuff we grew up with is ancient history these days. (Think I’m kidding? Mention Live Aid to a “Millenial” and see the blank stare you get in return.)

These days, we’re the prime ministers, CEOs, presidents of companies and corporations, the generation in between that has the (yikes!) responsibilities of taking care of ourselves, our aging parents, and growing children. Weren’t we teasing our hair to the moon with Aqua Net once upon a time?

I, too, am scared (terrified, really) of turning 40, but I have a feeling our 40s will be way better than our 30s.

Angela 3 months ago

39 is not old and if it was life is really short and it is definitely not middle aged!!!

Michelle Cowan 9 months ago

Try having your first, and last baby at 40…. I don’t feel I fit in anywhere, I have no-one to compare this with.
But it’s the most radical thing I’ve ever done and my heart explodes with love every day for our 2 yo gorgeous girl and I feel like my life has been reset to endless possibilities…. Age really is a number. People can be born old. I’m 43 in August….I’m aware of the number but so so glad I don’t feel it!

Stephanie Garcia 9 months ago

So spot on!

Nicole Paczesny 9 months ago

Just turned 34 and already mostly all true.

Louise Silver 9 months ago

All so true!!! All of sudden I woke up and really started to exercise everyday. I turned 39 in January and I’ve lost 15 pounds since then, and everyone around me is training for the upcoming marathon!!!
39 and loving it!! It’s contagious, be careful

Amy Lapinski-Bartels 9 months ago

I am 43 and these are so very true now as they were at 39! 40 was an incredible turning
Point! I embraced it and it was incredible!

Tiffany Ware 9 months ago

Hahahhahaha almost the whole thing is relatable!

Charity Almer 9 months ago

I’m 38 today and so much of this rings true!!

Tamra Lee Robbins 9 months ago

So true

Michelle Thomas 9 months ago

Turned 39 last month. So true.

Becky Johnson 9 months ago

Ha, Im soon to turn 40, this is so true!

Cory Kamen Fanning 9 months ago

Love this!!

Jen Sowden 9 months ago

I’m 38’and I’ve said way too many of these things.

Kim Figiel Hegedus 9 months ago

Wow-this is CRAZY accurate to me. I am 38 and I just did my first 5k with my daughter last fall!!!! Taara Datta Donley-still, no desire for a marathon, maybe at 40, lol. Maybe it is contagious!

    Taara Datta Donley 9 months ago

    I will sit on the sidelines with my Starbucks caramel macchiato and cheer you on! 😉

Samantha Shay Epstein 9 months ago

Just turned 40. It stinks.

Kristy Edwards 9 months ago

I’ll be 39 this year. I completely feel like the same 16 year old I can remember. My daughter is 16. It’s surreal. To many people I know have cancer. Both my parents are gone, my dad 6 years ago due to complications from diabetes…I hadn’t spoken to him since I was nineteen. I did send him a letter, once, letting him know I was married, doing good, and he had two grandchildren. He sent me a picture of his dog. My mom passed away 5 years ago due to complications from lung cancer. A minor infection turned into sepsis. She was a nurse, and I’m still not exactly sure she didn’t tell me everything, so I wouldn’t worry. To ease the burden of planning stuff she knew I didn’t want to do ( my brother MIA for years, but showed up right before she passed) she made her boyfriend power of attorney. After the funeral, he took EVERYTHING. What I wouldn’t give to have my mom back. They both were relatively young, and it makes you think…how much more time is there? I don’t want to waste any, but it seems I’m doing just that.

Suzanne TenBroek 9 months ago

Just turned 39 almost two weeks ago…except for the diet soda and kale salad this is pretty much right on the money.

Tena Vanlandingham Gibson 9 months ago

Trust me on this : turning 50 was the most liberating thing I have ever done. Suddenly, I did not care if someone liked me or not. I actually became secretly distainful of others my age, clinging to their youth and basing decisions on the coolness factor. “Oh, you don’t think I’m cool? Guess what? I think you are an idiot that needs to grow up and model for your children that being cool is not the be all end all of life”. Of course, I keep these snarky comments to myself, I wouldn’t want to be left out of the next really cool party they throw. LOL Don’t judge me, they live in my neighborhood, I don’t have to drink and drive, thus allowing me to model “responsible drinking” for the whole neighborhood as I weave my way home, from one side of the street to the other. LOL

Lyndsey Winters Carlton 9 months ago

I feel a lot of this at almost 36. I still don’t feel adult enough to be where I am yet, somehow, here I am. Oh, and yes, I’m training for my first half, lol

Jessica Geiger 9 months ago

Awesome!!!! I am heading to the big 4-0 this year!! I can so relate to this!!

Jodie Carter 9 months ago

Thank you! I turned 39 on Monday and this rings true (as I train for my first half marathon

Taara Datta Donley 9 months ago

Holy crap! You’re right! I’m 41 and it seems as if I’m surrounded by people training for a marathon or some other sweat-inducing activity! Dear Lord, is it contagious? Am I next?

Mela 10 months ago

I want to know what this magical device that removes chin hairs is all about. And I’ve got 5 months minus a few days until I’m 39, so I must be advanced.

Amy 11 months ago

I am 39 and will be 40 in July this year. I cannot believe how spot on this article was! I literally just last week left the car running so I could finish ‘November Rain’ by Guns-n-Roses. I watched ‘Heathers’ last week and wondered how Winona Ryder was doing. I watched ‘True Tori’ with Tori Spelling and thought about how we’re both married now with kiddos. That was just an example of the similarity I had with the article. Awesome start to my day reading that!

Daniela 11 months ago

At 44, I’m not at all feeling my age…don’t let 40 scare you! My grandma lived until 104 -we have a very young mindset in our family. We are all aging -every single person on the planet -just hold on tight and enjoy the ride!

emily 11 months ago

I too am 39, but single with no kids. It’s tougher for us. 1) Can’t relate well to 90% of my married, breeder friends, so there’s that. and 2) on the other hand, 39 but still have the responsibilities and freedoms of your 20s makes it all kind of weird. Stuck between worlds, as it were?

Either way….oy.

    Daniela 11 months ago

    I can relate to this…I did not get married until later in life (almost 40)… :)

Melanie 11 months ago

You read my mind… and made me smile and tear up at the same time. 39 in 2014… me too! Here’s to 40 in 2015- I’ll drink to that! Thanks for sharing!

giraffe neck 11 months ago

oh please, 39 is still young, very young, it is not 50 yet !!

Aurora 1 year ago

39 is in t-minus 3 minutes. Thank you for the fun read! So spot on, I glad im not alone and weird!!

Tracey 1 year ago

As a childfree person, I look young as young as I did when I was 25 and want to remain this way but thanks a lot for recognising that 39, although a lot wiser is still an incredibly young and happy, carefree age, apart from the cancer part, I know of people in their early thirtis to fifties dying of cancer, this is a shame

James 1 year ago

Excellent piece. Even from the UK and 39 tommorw I ‘got ‘ most of your references. Excellently written. Thanks for brightening my monotonous train journey! :)

sarcasmica 1 year ago

Found this via your newer “40” post. I am about to turn 38 and it’s all true now. How are we grown ups ?! Who said we were responsible enough to raise small people ?!!

Amy 1 year ago

This is me. How did you know. Only difference is that I just turned 36. You writing his home. It’s all truths. I love reading them.

mrsmurphy 1 year ago

Donna Martin graduates! Donna Martin graduates! LOL! Great piece, thanks for writing it. Myself, I am 43 now, and I can tell you, it only gets better!

Amy 1 year ago

Thank you for writing this. All of this hits home for me. I recently turned 40 and I’m only starting to think about focusing more on the journey. Life is, all of a sudden, too short.

Sonja 1 year ago

OMG! This is awesome! I was born in April 75 and this post hits the nail on the head! Happy 39th!!

julie 1 year ago

I love this, it is spot on. I am about to be 39 and I still feel young. I look at kids in their 20’s and they seem so young. Will I just wake up one day and be my age? What does that really mean? Thank you for writing this.

Dawn Wade 1 year ago

I just turned 39 on May 30th, 2014 and all of a sudden I could feel all 39 years at once. How can my mind be so young and my body screaming that peri menopause has been trying to reach me! (Stupid hot flashes) So here’s my take on it; since I will probably spend every moment trying to figure out how I got here so quickly, I think I will turn 39 again next year just to make sure I get it right. If not, I will be just like my mother (LORD) and forget my age anyway!

lesbomom 2 years ago

I am looking at 34 this summer and I am okay with that right now. But 39 seems daunting. Like – I should totally have myself together by 40 – and I just don’t know if I will….

amy 2 years ago

I just turned 40 and don’t know where the hell the last 20 years went. I seriously don’t know how I got to this age but I’m here, and while I am healthy and happy, I know I’m fragile so no more crash activities for me. As long as I’m here, I’m enjoying it as much as possible too! Although, I too do not feel 40, this was not what I remember my mother being like when she was 40 but it’s ok. Thanks for the laugh!

Shannon 2 years ago

I can agree with most of this except that the women and sex and the city have always been around that age and older even in their first season. It’s probably because they were 10 years older than me and their first season. I have never viewed them as being younger than me and they are still not younger than me now. No one on the planet thinks Jake Ryan is hot however I have never heard the end of Matt Dillon ironically enough, and also it would be a cold day in hell before I would ever drive a minivan. Loaded Dodge Durango Citadel,yes, minivan hell no! I will be 40 in October.

Rachel 2 years ago

I loved this and immediately shared it with my BFFs. I still can’t believe I’ll be 40 this year. I don’t feel anywhere near mature enough to be that age. I remember my mom turning 40! I still feel 20 (until I spend some time with 20 YOs and then I definitely feel almost 40). Thank you for the lovely piece, it really encapsulated so much of what I feel. Here’s hoping the next 40 are as fun as the first 40 years were!

Roberta Saielli Lewis 2 years ago

At 49, this makes me feel old because I was the one playing Billy Joel and Paul Simon on a record player. My parents played Buddy Holly, The Everly Brothers, and Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass.

Ali 2 years ago

Turning 40 in two weeks and it all rings true. I frequently look around and wonder where the grown ups are. And I think that this is the year that I REALLY need to review and organize everything in case something happens to me and my husband needs to know about the finances, what we have saved, what we owe, how freaking much it will cost us to be retired (and how we need to save even more despite paying for child care and trying to save for college), and so on. Sigh. Being an adult is fun, but not all the time.

Annika Miriam 2 years ago

What a fantastic piece of writing! I’m nowhere near 39 yet, but I surely am looking forward to it now! 😉

Nicole@RunningWhileMommy 2 years ago

Fantastic post! I am 42 now and I have to say, I am loving every minute of it. Life is only going to get better so buckle up!

Jan Prewitt 2 years ago

I vaguely recall turning 39… lol

Kristi Hampton Gouker 2 years ago

Jennifer Bell…that’s me..40 in less than 2 weeks…aaaahhh!!!!

Nans 2 years ago

I am 39 with my first baby (4 month old now)-and only been married (1st marriage) for 3 years. My husband and i often talk about how wild it is that what we dreamed of having our whole lives happened “this late in life” but it is also the happiest we have ever been. Its such a weird state of mind to be in–remembering the concerts that you waited in front of tower records for hours to buy tickets for-.and now its like–“how much are the tickets and do they have seats still available-i dont want to have to stand all nite” and being aware that you are doing that -you want to kick yourself for being “old” and high-five yourself for still going to concerts haha.
its such an amazing journey and each phase is so essential to the ultimate autobiography. This article makes me want to start really start documenting our lives-its gonna be a great story to look back on.

Linda Weiss 2 years ago

wonderful insights and observations

Michele Shaw Abbruzzese 2 years ago

Just turned 40….this story rocks…

Mandy Engelbrecht 2 years ago

can so identify with this, just I am turning 39 for the 3rd time this year…


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