Why Do I Still Have Zits And Other Questions About Turning 40

by Kathleen Siddell
Originally Published: 
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I’m pushing 40 years old.

Forty years old. I can hardly believe.

It’s around this time people stop to take stock, to impart the lessons they’ve learned along the way and offer assurance as to why 40 is the new 30 or that age is just a number. When I actually turn 40, perhaps I will throw my thoughts into the virtual universe too. Because really, I’ve never actually felt as old as I am or been bothered by getting older.

But not today.

Today, I’d like to ask why I am still faced with problems that I was supposed to outgrow:

Why, why, at nearly 40 years old, do I still get acne?

I have two kids, a mortgage and (finally) no outstanding student loans. I have wrinkles and (probably) gray hairs (if I could see without my glasses). Why does the wicked universe insist on marking my decidedly non-adolescent face with acne? It’s like seeing an elderly woman with fake boobs: It’s not right. I know, the hormones are to blame. They always are. But it’s not fair. It wasn’t fair at 16, but I soldiered on because I was made to believe that I would outgrow it. Acne in your late 30s—no matter how infrequent or minor—is really not fair.

I also want to know why I still never have any privacy.

I shared a room with my sister and shared a raised ranch with five other people for most of my adolescent life. I was a teen who liked a little (OK, a lot) of alone time. I liked to brood in silence about how awful braces were and why a boy didn’t like me and how I could meet Rob (and/or Chad) Lowe because, obviously if we met, he (or they) would fall madly in love with me. But someone was always around. “When I grow up, I can do all the private brooding I want,” I’d write in my diary.

Now, I hear a running commentary even when going to the bathroom. “You’re peeing now! Can I see? I want to see!” No one mentioned that in order to get privacy as an adult you have to hide miles from your house, without a phone, a blindfold (so you don’t see the smoke signals) and earplugs (so you don’t hear them yelling for you). Even then, I start to feel guilty, and my pseudo-private time is ruined.

Next time your teen complains they don’t have any privacy, tell them, “Tough.” You’re just preparing them for adulthood.

Why do I still care what you think?

I was led to believe that somewhere along the line, I’d grow out of this. Like acne, it would just stop, and I’d become too old to care. Sure, I’ve learned how to be myself, and sure, I get that not everyone will like me and I will move on. But that doesn’t mean I won’t care. Why doesn’t that other mother talk to me? I think we could be friends. I hope she likes me! How could she not like me?

I know there are people who will tell you they honestly don’t care what others think, but if they are lucky enough to find some privacy and really look inward, do they really, truly not care at all what anyone else thinks? Don’t all those counter-culture types still actually care what the other counter-culture types think? Shouldn’t we fess up and tell our kids that caring what others think is just part of human nature and instead of making them feel bad for it? Should we tell them they’ll learn not to waste too much time worrying about it, but it will still happen?

Why did I ever wish t be treated like an adult?

Ha! The foolishness of youth. Now that I am an adult, people treating me like I am my age is still a problem. I thought this was supposed to be fun and make me feel mature and sophisticated. It’s not fun and makes me feel stressed.

So when you’re teenager laments, “Why can’t you just treat me like an adult?!” Don’t get all, “You want to be treated like an adult? I’ll treat you like an adult…” Instead, flip the script and make them treat you like a teenager. Beg them to make you go straight to your room, turn off all your technology and sit. Don’t forget to sneak a bottle of booze. Enjoy. You’re welcome.

Why can’t I drink anymore?

When I was really mature—like an old teenager in college—I couldn’t wait for the day I could drink like an adult: a glass of Merlot while out to dinner or a dinner party with cordials and aperitifs, perhaps.

But seriously, how great would it be to be able to drink like a teenager again? Start early, drink through the night, make crazy memories, wake up whenever you wake up and feel only slightly hungover, ready to do it all again.

Now that I’m an adult, a glass of wine at dinner may result in face-planting into my main course as I’ve fallen asleep. Okay, I’m being dramatic. But there is a direct correlation between the number of drinks consumed and the number of days—days—it will take to recover.

It’s a cruel, cruel world.

Do I wish I could go back to those uncertain days of yore? Absolutely not. I just wish some older, wiser, but still young-at-heart woman in her late 30s would’ve laid it out straight for me. Now, hand me the Stridex pads so I can apply them in front of my built-in audience.

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