In your twenties, you didn’t even think about forty. Forty was old and existed in a faraway place occupied by boring people—people with kids and mortgages. People who wore socks with sandals. You were exciting and were never going to turn 40. You were young and cool. Your hair was highlighted and your nails were manicured. The mall was a safe place you could afford and enjoy. Life was all about you.
Fast-forward a couple of decades. Things have changed. Somehow, when you weren’t paying attention, distracted by babies who grew into big kids, you ventured into the murky landscape of midlife. Your twenties seem to exist in another dimension. You wonder if that chipper version of you would even recognize this older, more rundown version of you. And you somehow know that if she did, she would be horrified by the person you have become.
The twentysomething you would be shocked (and disgusted) by:
1. Your Less Than Regular Hygiene Schedule
The old you showered multiple times a day, because the old you went to the gym. The new you is lucky to squeeze in a workout to retro Tae Bo with the old television down in the basement. Even then, there are kids and a dog attempting to follow along but managing only to occupy valuable floor space. You need that space to do sit-ups and push-ups. Even if the only real push-up around your house is the black bra you wear once a year on your anniversary.
2. Your Status as Fashion Disaster
In your twenties, you enjoyed clothing and accessories. You would never think of wearing a floral-print bra with a striped pair of underwear. The new you is lucky to find clean underwear and still owns some of the old you’s bras, though they no longer fit and haven’t for a while. Every last bit of breast fat has been literally sucked away by your children. Your twentysomething self loved getting dressed up. The midlife you thinks fancy is a pair of stain-free jeans. This current version of you has a rule about pants: Unless they are made of stretchy fabric, they have no place in your drawer or on your body. Same deal with the heels you used to love: If they aren’t comfortable, they don’t belong on your feet.
3. Your Sex Life
Sex life? And who is this middle-aged man with the beer gut and graying hair? The days of marathon love making are behind you except for those rare occasions when other people are kind (or crazy) enough to take your kids—again, usually on your anniversary. In your twenties there were candles, lingerie, painted toe nails, and shaved legs. Nowadays your husband warily eyeballs your excessive leg hair, and you inform him that it keeps you warm in winter. He’s normally smart enough to keep his mouth shut. Let’s face it, he’s happy just to be getting some.
4. Your Social Life
Twentysomething you used to stay out dancing until dawn. Fortysomething you is too tired and just doesn’t care enough. Besides, a child’s birthday party, the school concert, or a trip to the grocery store without the kids are all the social events you need. A really rocking Saturday would be staying up past 10 watching a movie on Netflix and blowing your diet on Thai from that place down the street—the one that delivers so you don’t have to put pants on. The only time you dance these days is to the raucous sounds of the boy band music blasting from your tween’s room, and when she catches you, she’s embarrassed. Sadly, your twentysomething self would be too.
5. Your Midlife Body
Twentysomething gym rat you had rock-hard abs and a toned tush. Midlife you has stopped trying for such foolish things. This older version of you counts kids, not calories. And while you haven’t given up on exercise, it is no longer the priority it once was. Your breasts have lost their perk and your midsection is scarred and loose. But you wear your stretch marks the way a Girl Scout wears a new badge—with pride. This body, while not as glam as it once was, has birthed humans and carried you through numerous decades on this earth. It can lug trash to the dump, carry multiple humans simultaneously, and clean a kitchen with a single baby wipe. Twentysomething you would not be impressed, but that’s only because she doesn’t yet know any better.
You’ve changed, and while the younger version of you would probably be mortified, you are remarkably OK with the current version of you. You’re still here, and you have built a life filled with love. You finally know what’s important. So the twentysomething you, the pretty, fresh-faced girl in the pictures with the cigarette and drink, the one who danced until dawn in sky-high heels, is gone. And while you’re glad you had a chance to be that girl, you’re totally OK with letting her go.