Last month I turned forty. I didn’t want to make a big deal of it, really. I said no presents, and please no big party. But it was harder to say no to the all-expenses-paid stay in a Florida waterfront property with a pool, surrounded by loved ones. Age does bring wisdom.
They say it’s not how old you are but how old you feel. And I must say that for a moment I did forget my age when handing out slices of tiramisu birthday cake to the under-fives around the table. They did eventually nap, though, so I think the rum might have counteracted the effect of the espresso.
I fretted away my entire thirty-ninth year dreading what it would mean to turn forty. I would be so irreversibly grown up. My knee wrinkles would be permanent. I could no longer decide to go back to school to become a professional pet groomer. I might need glasses. I couldn’t dare think that the gas-station attendant was flirting with me, or that I could ever again leave the house without a handbag. People would call me “ma’am”.
Following tradition, I suddenly decided to set myself a couple of goals to achieve before turning forty: have another baby, and secure a contract with a publisher for my memoir. If I didn’t accomplish these two feats, I thought, the world might implode. Or I might melt away in a puddle on the floor like the Wicked Witch of the West. The fact that I set these goals only three months before my birthday helped me get in touch with my inner masochist. Because, in my experience, it takes about nine months to grow a baby. And I’m pretty sure that before you find a publisher, you first need to find a literary agent.
Of course, what I realized as I tried to get the kids to stop eating the candles, my own face smeared with cocoa, was that the only thing I might end up melting into was a puddle of mascarpone. I was forty and nothing had changed. Except for a rather attractive tan.
For the past two years since biting into an innocuous piece of toast, I've dreaded losing the rest of my devitalized tooth, which no dentist would go near. I stopped eating on that side. I flossed oh-so carefully around it. I fake-laughed into the mirror to see how close to my smile line the tooth came. I had nightmares. I imagined the gaping hole in my mouth that would toss me into the category of tattooed, chain-smoking abused wives whose only friend in the entire trailer park is a stray dog.
If you have serious dental problems, I don’t recommend eating dry Corn Thins in bed in the dark. But I can’t really blame those crispy snacks for the inevitable that happened today - the rest of my tooth fell out. And you know what I felt looking down at my tooth, which incidentally was about the same color as the puffed corn? I felt relieved. The dread was finally over. And where there used to be jagged edges and dark terrifying crevices, now there was only space. Freedom.
I’m old, toothless and unpublished and I'm still here. What is there left to fear? I now have no fear of my own self-imposed deadlines: I laugh at them! I’m no longer afraid of the word “dental implant”, technically a denture. I no longer fear opening umbrellas in the house or putting away loaves of bread turned upside down. I have no fear of publishing my blog post a bit late: my seventeen faithful readers may not even notice. I’m no longer afraid of having nothing to say. I no longer fear that my butt will get pinched in a dark alley. I now have no fear of literary agents because I know that the closer I get to the one hundredth rejection, the closer I’ll be to finding the right agent. So bring the rejections on, folks! One lucky agent and I will be laughing all the way to the bank.
Even if only to withdraw cash for a dental implant.