Since I turned forty a couple of years ago, I’ve never been so cool. It’s been a surprise. I thought I’d basically be washed-up by now. But I’ve got it going on in ways I never did when I was younger. And looking around at my fellow forty-somethings, I see I am not alone. The forties are the coolest decade by far.
There isn’t any single recipe for being cool. But cool women usually have a few things in common. They like themselves a lot, show discerning taste and do interesting things with interesting people. It takes some effort to be cool. But it’s actually easier to achieve in your forties than any other decade.
20s – You think you’re cool but you’re not.
In your twenties, you’re young and good looking and have lots of enthusiasm for life. You’re out on your own for the first time and everything around you is new and exciting. All this action makes you think you’re cool. But you’re not.
The twenties are an age of worry and insecurity. The pressure of trying to fit in while you’re still figuring out who you are is intense. There are so many choices and decisions to make you’re overwhelmed. There’s even a term for this phase – Quarterlife Crisis. I certainly suffered from it. After graduating from the University of Michigan, I lived in three cities, worked for four companies, had seven different apartments and a half-dozen half-hearted relationships.
Without an established identity, you tend to be easily influenced by the media and trends. I quit my (second) job in Memphis and moved to Chicago based on how glamorous the city appeared in a brat pack movie called “About Last Night.”
All the turmoil makes for a very heightened, vivid time of life. But you can’t be cool if you don’t know who you are and like yourself for it. Hopefully, by the end of your twenties, you’ll begin to feel more confident. Then you can make informed choices based on discrimination and taste.
30s – Too tired for cool
No matter what level of cool you managed to achieve in your twenties, you are destined to lose it in somewhere in your thirties. Because inevitably, your discriminating choices start leading to more responsibilities. Your job becomes more demanding, you get married, buy a home, start a family. You suffer through pregnancy, lack of sleep, financial pressure and home maintenance.
You swap your Elle and Vanity Fair magazines for Parent and House & Garden. Taking care of your home and kids becomes your priority. You let yourself go to pot. You are flabby, worn out and just plain cranky. You’re too tired to exercise or go out for dinner and you can’t remember the last time you had sex.
As least that’s how it was for me when my kids were little. After a long day feeling inept at work and incompetent as a mother, I was wrecked. All I wanted to do was crawl into my flannel pajamas, slurp down a bowl of chocolate chip ice cream, and get and a good night’s sleep. As for being cool? I couldn’t have cared less.
40s - Discovering your Cool
Then, one day in your forties, standing in your sparkling, remodeled kitchen, you notice something strange. It’s quiet. The kids are in school, the dog is housebroken, and you’ve paid your Visa bill in full for nine months in a row. “What’s this?” you ask yourself uneasily.
Honey, I believe you’ve discovered TIME FOR YOURSELF.
When this blissful point arrives, a woman in her forties must take action. This is not a signal to defrost the freezer. You’ve put your hopes and dreams on the back burner for long enough.
You’ve got more time, more money and more self-knowledge than you did when you were younger. And suddenly, you really don’t care what other people think. You’re ready to take risks. This is your time to be cool!
Women I know are practically flaunting their newfound fabulousness. They are starting businesses, going back to school, exhibiting in art galleries, writing books. These grown-up babes look hotter than they ever did in their twenties or thirties. They understand their figures, dress well, pamper themselves and stay in shape.
Since turning 40, I’ve sung in a rock band, produced my own TV show, and played on a beach volleyball team. My younger self would have been too self-conscious or afraid to try these new things. It’s a combination of knowing myself and knowing how fast time goes by that makes me want to experience things right now.
The forties are definitely my coolest age so far. But I’m wondering about what comes next. Do we women keep getting cooler? Hey, you hip chicks in your fifties, sixties, and seventies – let me hear from you!