30 + 10 = Winning, Part One

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Recently, Penelope Trunk wrote a little piece about turing 30. She's got some good points there, for sure. But I have a different take on this aging thing.

Let me first admit that turning 30 was traumatic for me. I'm mortified to recall my thoughts in the weeks leading up to that birthday. I was an asinine tart regarding the actual celebration with friends and I thank my stars that my good friend Laurie is forgiving. I had resolved myself to a life without passion having thus far used up all my Walks of Shame and would officially be of an age when I should Know Better.  I also believed I was destined to a life without marriage. I had only days prior watched my best male friend go back to the UK, knowing that our Next Best Thing romance was not likely to pan out. 

If only I could stand to identify myself with religion, a nunnery would have been my next step.


And yet, I survived my 30's. In fact, some might say I thrived. 

Earn more money than my male friends - check!
Sexual awakening - check!
Move to California - check!
Admit publicly how I really feel about God and religion - check!
Unconventional baby/marriage/life change - check!

It was only ten years, but WOW! I was BUSY.

Now as my 40th birthday is just three months away I come across this research on Penelope's site from OK Cupid.

If I fall into the norm of that research, I am about to be unhappy. Yet, most of the time these days I am patting myself on the back and feeling... like I am about to turn a corner into the sun.  I feel LUCKY.

The shit parts of life have not changed, just so you know. There are still bills. My kids are quite normal with problems and such. I have plenty to do in the ol' relationship department. And I'm quite sure I can be a real ass to people who love me. But it's still better than my freshman year of college! Better than 1st three months in LA.... !

40 looks good even with the wrinkles and the practically orthopedic running shoes. Maybe, again, I am naive and there are some 50 year olds reading this thinking about the general stupidity of 40 year old women. If so, Good for you! That just means that it gets better form here. Meanwhile, you can see why I feel it's only fair that I pass along some sage advice to women who still wear spaghetti strap dresses in 20 degree weather. Women who have been pretty long enough to be drunk on that power, but not long enough to believe the facade is not even half the gift. You know who you are.

People get hurt. Sometimes it will be your fault. Accept that.
It was only after that scary 30th birthday that I started to get a grip on myself. It didn't happen quickly and it wasn't without casualties and mistakes. I can't avoid thinking of those casualties on a regular basis due to Facebook. I wonder if my apologies were big enough and if I could have avoided the pain I caused. Of this, I am not sure. I used to tell people that I am the kind of person who has to learn things the hard way. That's kind of the romantic version of , "I don't listen to people who know better than I do". Thankfully that has changed over the years too. But it took time.

I once left a man that I loved crying in a fetal position on my living room floor. I have also lived off credit cards, flunked out of school and slept with far too many people I shouldn't have. I've passed out drunk on bathroom floors, used my influence to serve no one but myself, and broken innumerable promises. I thought for far too long that I was exceptional, a notch, not above, but at least away from the rest. Aside from the obvious idiocy of my mistakes, what took me the longest time to learn was that the only way to not repeat mistakes was to 
1) Feel the full consequence of my actions 
2) Apologize, sincerely to those I hurt
3) Know that I am getting better at life, not worse and 
4) Being liked by everyone is not necessary to my happiness. 

Balance your Yeses and Nos. Here's a few I wish I would have said earlier in life.

No, I don't actually like cigarettes.
No, I don't want to go out with you.
No, I don't want to sleep with you.
No, give me my coat, I AM, cold!
No, I'm not wearing that, it looks cheap.
No, I really do have to get up early tomorrow.
Yes, I am better than that.
Yes, I will bungee jump.
Yes, I'll go to Europe now.
Yes, send me flowers.
Yes, I made a mistake.
Yes, I'm angry.

Say what you mean. Mean what you say. I never liked cigarettes. But I smoked them randomly in the mid 90's because I was bored and everyone else was doing it. I also froze my ass off outside many clubs, wore stupid outfits and torturous shoes. But I didn't bungee jump (except that disc thing with Charles) and I didn't say out loud when I made a mistake or when I was really angry because I was too busy trying to look like I knew what the hell I was doing. I also didn't want to risk being thought of as bitchy.  As if only bitchy people are allowed to speak up when they are angry!  You don't think so now, but years pass quickly. Don't waste time with wishy washy vagueness. 

You don't know anything about marriage. You think you do. You've got your parents, some books, a long list of thing you will NOT EVER DO in your marriage. Maybe you even dated your man for a long time and marriage is "just a piece of paper" in your eyes. You can even have the blessing of the Pope, Oprah's minions and plenty of money at your disposal, but it won't mean shit in the end. 

It always sucks when someone tells it like it is because you think we mean that marriage is all work and no fun. But what I mean is that marriage is a process. Not a walk, not a winding little "journey". Marriage is very much like starting a business. It takes a great deal of organization of your daily lives, the merging of your families, and finances. Who signs the checks? Who's in charge of inventory? Every task that is involved from waking in the morning to going to sleep at night is up for negotiation. No longer will a woman expect to do all the child rearing and cooking and cleaning. Those days are over. No longer is a man willing to be considered the incompetent boob when it comes to matters of the heart.

Look at it this way- When you choose a mate, you are choosing someone to work with you, in your office for the rest of your life. You are going to share a CUBICLE.  You wouldn't enter into a business partnership without talking out all the details and making changes along the way for the better of the company. Don't do that in a marriage. Don't assume - anything. You will have to make time to talk. You will have to cultivate respect. 

As you get to know each other over the years, it will be fun. More fun and happiness than you knew existed. But there will be times you feel like a caged animal. You will want out. You will want to tell your partner to F- off. You will find someone else attractive. You will know you could get laid, easily, somewhere else. 
But more often than not, what people leave behind when they divorce is not anger and insecurity; those things stay with you. Instead, divorce is often just a big pile of good that might have been, time that was somewhat wasted. Hate me for saying it, but it's my experience that divorce is like throwing a fit halfway up a mountain. (Something I have done as well) You can quit, sure. Because it is hard. But if you keep going, you stand a better chance of surprising yourself. You won't know how good it could have been if you quit.

As I re-read that I realize it might not be the best metaphor. What I am trying to say is - Marriage is not the Prize you get for choosing a good person to marry or being pure or lucky. It is what it is. A commitment to STAY TOGETHER. Marriage may start with love, but it is ONLY built by many many many compromises. You will need therapy. You will. And it will be worth it.

(Part Two Coming Soon-ish)

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