It was that time of year again: My birthday. It’s happens every year, whether I want it to or not. But this time I turned 38, meaning I was officially in my late 30s instead of merely in my mid-30s. It’s a distinction—one that doesn’t really mean anything, but a distinction nonetheless. It means I’m going to be 40. And not in eight years, as Meg Ryan cries in When Harry Met Sally. In two years. Two short years.
My late 30s are my last stopover before 40. When my dad turned 40, my mom planned an Over the Hill party that my sister and I decorated with signs declaring him “Older than Dirt.” When I turn 40, my youngest won’t be in kindergarten yet.
But before I start to feel sorry for myself for being an “old woman,” I need to remember that there are actually a lot of great things about getting older. I partied through my 20s. I bumbled through little kids in my 30s. Now that I’m in my late 30s? I’ve got good things in store for me. In fact, there are a lot of great reasons to embrace 38 or your late 30s. Here are eight of them:
1. I get to laugh at the high school girls emulating my ’90s fashion choices. And it’s hilarious. Oh, ladies. The chokers? The Docs? The flower dresses and little backpacks? Hahahahaha. The worst are the grunge enthusiasts boasting plaid shirts tied around their waists. Sure, go for it. I guess we didn’t look sufficiently ridiculous enough to scare them away from repeating our fashion mistakes.
2. I’m done having babies. My kids are young (5 and 2), but I’m done being pregnant. Hooray! No more OB visits, restricted food, heartburn, swelling and the whole mess of being uncomfortable and feeling like my body isn’t my own. No more newborns mewling every two hours. No more sleepless nights on repeat. Sure, I still have diapers to change, but not for much longer. And once the little guy gets a smidge older and drops his nap, we’ll be able start a whole new phase of family adventures.
3. I know what looks good on me. Although my body has changed a lot during the last six years of pregnancy and various stages of bounce-back, I know what my assets are and how to highlight them. I wear a push-up bra—because, let’s face it, my boobs aren’t going to re-inflate—and tight tops to accentuate my waist. I also wear blues and greens because they go nicely with my red hair. And that red hair? I finally know which hue (orange-red, not purple-red) looks natural enough to fool people.
4. Conversely, I know what doesn’t look good on me. Cigarette pants and T-straps are adorable, but I just can’t make them work. No matter what I weigh, my thighs and hips do not belong in cigarette pants. Sigh. And although I love the look of T-straps, I know my ankles do not appreciate being stuffed into them. So when I see cute window displays featuring things I don’t bother to try on, I no longer even drool—they’re for some other lady, not for me.
5. I care a lot less about my weight. Like I said, my weight has been all over the place over the past six years. And that’s OK. When I was younger, three pounds would have me panicking and eating nothing but a veggie burger and steamed broccoli. Now? If I want to lose a few pounds, I don’t stress out about it. I exercise more. I stop eating ice cream every night. And I know that it’s mostly in my head—no one else notices if I gain a pound or two.
6. I know that Facebook is ridiculous. Don’t get me wrong—I love Facebook. I live online. But I don’t take it personally when a real-life friend doesn’t comment on my post or even unfollows me. Why? Because I share a lot of pictures of my kids and the vast majority of my articles are about parenting. If you’re not a parent, you probably don’t want to read my stuff, and I understand that. I also don’t get jealous of other people’s Facebook posts. Why? Because I know that the way we present ourselves to the world is usually a carefully curated and edited picture of a messy and confusing life.
7. I don’t care about impressing anyone. If I want to lose weight, it’s to make myself feel better, not to feel “thin enough” for, well, anything, really. I wear the clothes I want to wear and parent the best way I can. Sure, it’s nice to get compliments, but the truth is that I don’t really care what other people think about the way I’m living my life. Either you like and accept me for me or you don’t–I don’t have the energy to do anything different or be a different person than who I am.
8. I’m glad I’m not famous. I’ve always wanted to be famous. I was funny and smart and interesting and I deserved it, didn’t I? I was going to write blockbuster fiction, cementing my icon status as a literary wunderkind. When that (obviously) didn’t happen, I was going to tell all on a reality show about my life partying in New York. Ah, no. And thank goodness! I did a lot of stupid stuff my kids, parents and in-laws don’t need to know about, thankyouverymuch. Fortunately, most of that stuff was before digital cameras documented every move and before social media allowed you to share it instantaneously.
Actually, that’s the best reason to embrace 38: The vast majority of my terrible pictures, embarrassing exploits and dating disasters are only available to the world as I present them years later, not in real time. I have perspective. I have time to reconcile the person I was with the person I am.
And the person I am is feeling pretty grateful to be nearing 40.