In not very long, I will have a birthday, and I will be 39. I actually wrote a whole blog post about this, musing not just on how the hell I made it this far (honestly, in some ways I’m surprised), but also on how society, as represented by TV, movies, and an uncomfortable proportion of books, isn’t quite sure what to do with people of my age. Our options appear to be harassed mums, nagging wives, bitter divorcees, or (if childless) selfish career woman or cat ladies.
I have no children and a cat, so, actually, maybe they nailed that one.
But doesn’t it seem this way? We’re apparently too old (or too young) to be love interests, too old to be sexual creatures (unless we’re cougars, which is only good for comedy value), and we’re much too busy with kids to be interesting. Unless we’re childless, in which case we’re just waiting to be swept off our feet by Mr Wonderful, at which point our biological clocks will immediately kick into belated overdrive, we’ll whip through some IVF (which will, obviously, be immediately successful), we’ll have triplets, and settle into domestic bliss in suburban paradise.
The only problem is, I can’t seem to identify myself in there anywhere. And, in fact, I can’t find any of my friends in there either. None of them seem to fit into any of those particular boxes, kids or not, married or not, career (however you want to define that) or not. They’re much more interesting than that. They’re much more varied than that. Could it even be – gasp – that women are individuals even when they get a few crows’ feet and grey hairs? That they actually have lives and drives beyond marriage and kids? (Or cats and careers?) Eek!
Maybe it’s not that we don’t fit the boxes. Maybe it’s that we’re not actually designed for them at all.
But then I realised that better bloggers than me (I’m more a blog dabbler than a blog writer, if I’m going to be honest, and since I’ve told you my actual age, which is apparently something women aren’t meant to admit to either, I may as well be honest) have written better and more serious posts about such things. So I thought I’d have a little fun with it (since it’s almost my birthday, and it’s my blog, so nyah), and see what the ever-reliable stock images felt were in store for my 40th year.
Special thanks to the lovely writer and blogger A.S. Akkalon, because her hunt through the wilds of YouTube did in part inspire this. I occasionally forget about all the wonderful weirdness that the internet’s home to. (As opposed to the just – weird.)
So, without further ado:
My 40th Year As Predicted by Stock Images.
I typed in ‘stock images women 39’, and it started out pretty much as I expected:
Okay, so tea parties and yoga. Fits the narrative.
But then things got a bit weird.
So what do you do if you’re not being a somewhat eccentric businesswoman?
You’re hanging around with your friends. Pointing.
I’m not sure what drives all this pointing. It’s rather accusatory, although they’re all grinning like it’s an awful lot of fun. It’s a bit, “Yay, you’re the witch! Burn, witch!”.
Even if she has a excessive amount of arms, there’s no call for finger-pointing and witch burning.
We’re adults here. We can sort out all this shouting and pointing and multi-limbedness.
Of course, you could just not let any of this get to you. Bollocks to knicker-clad finger pointing and workout multi-tasking, right?
So, apparently, this is what stock images expect of 39-year-old women. Much more interesting than expected. And much, much weirder. Which I like. I’d sort of expected the whole thing to be awash with pastel colours and tea cups. And while I like my tea, I like my weird, too.
The greatest beauty of getting older is, I’ve found, the ability to embrace your own wonderful weirdness, to understand that not only is it okay, it’s vital. Because it’s what makes you so perfectly, fabulously you. Squishing it down to fit into society’s boxes only works for so long, and it’s not a good time while it lasts. We really are not made for boxes, we’re not made to be catalogued and categorised like some collector’s specimens.
We are all weirdly, wonderfully ourselves, and it may have taken me an awful lot of years to realise that, but maybe that’s part of it. Maybe it shouldn’t be called ageing at all. Maybe it should all be called growing. Growing up and growing out and growing weird.
What’s your next milestone birthday? What’re you expecting, and what does stock images think lies ahead of you? (I’m starting to think they’re as good as horoscopes).
And allow me to leave you with one final search result for ‘stock images women 39’:
adulting, creativity, fear, happiness, health, humour, ideas, imagination, introverts, mental health, writer's life
Haha, awesome post! And thanks for the links. You inspire me so much I’m thrilled I could inspire you once.
The age thing is something I’ve been trying very hard to ignore recently, but maybe laughing at it’s a better idea. Stock images tell me I’m supposed to wear camo pants, a sports bra, and dark glasses. Out of the options, I’m kind of on board with that one.
Love it! It sounds very late 90s (I think – my grasp of fashion is a little wobbly). Can you wear a puffer jacket over it, though? I feel it could get a bit nippy in the winter… (And there’s my age showing – take a jacket! You’ll catch your death!)
I firmly believe that laughing at age is the best way to cope with it – mainly because I already have some grumpy old lady tendencies and it wouldn’t do for them to get too out of hand. But also – what’s really the alternative?
I’m so flattered to think that I’ve been an inspiration in any way – thank you so much! I love your blog and can’t wait to read your book one day 🙂
Oh, I love puffer jackets. I bet you could wear a puffer jacket over that.
Aw, thank you! I’m having fun with my blog, and it’s great to hear when someone enjoys reading it.
You’re definitely an inspiration. Your imagination is like a crazy Amazon jungle with unicorns and time machines (in a good way).
Best. Compliment. Ever. Seriously, no one is ever going to top that, so I’m just going to frame it and put it over my desk.
Brilliant post! Peeing my pants laughing at the images but they may be because I’m in my 40s now and Tena Lady beckons, ha ha!
I got married and started writing at the grand old age of 40. Therefore 40 will always be a fab thing for me. I feel so much more liberated getting older. I no longer need to spend time and energy getting angsty about stupid, meaningless crap that seemed so important in my 20s and 30s. I even give this old body more of a break in not hating it so much. I’m overweight and it’s more ‘love mountains’ than ‘love handles’ but this body has served me well and I think it deserves some credit for that.
Turning 40 is great. Look forward to it. In the meantime I expect to see far more finger pointing, in your pants, with a surgical mask on. You’re letting the side down.
Everyone who’s worried about ageing needs to read what you just wrote. It’s lovely, and encouraging, and I agree with it completely. So many things that used to seem so incredibly, insurmountably important really do lose their mountain status. 40 seems to me to be quite a magical sort of age, where you’re still young enough to enjoy everything, but old enough to have got through much of the crap that we carry with us for so long (and to have said bollocks to a lot fo what we’re left with!)
Also, growing extra arms, standing around in knickers looking completely happy about it, and arm wrestling. I’m in!
I loved this! I will also be 39 in a few months and I don’t care at all! I’m happier now than I have ever been and I am constantly excited about the future. I have so many plans and ideas and I can never sit still for long. I feel more like a child than ever! I love myself loads lol!!! Thank you for this. And for those images!! laughed out loud!!!
I’m so glad you enjoyed it! I seem to enjoy life more and more as I get older, so I have no fear of the dreaded 40s. I know exactly what you mean about being excited for what comes, and that there is the best line of all – “I love myself loads”. I’m still working on that one, but I’ll a hell of a lot closer than I was at 29. Yay for ageing!
Fantastic post! 😀 Ouch, I laughed so hard… Pointing while standing around in your knickers…that kills me! That’s what I want to do when I’m 39. Or maybe stealth training while plotting world domination, haha. Arm wrestling wearing a mask and surgical gloves? I’m speechless. I just turned 37 last month, but I’m really looking forward to being 39 now. Sounds like life is going to turn even crazier then, I can’t wait!
I think life only gets better 😉 Personally, I’m not sure what to start with. The knicker pointing looks a bit social, so I might start with world domination. Yeah, then I can point at whomever I want, and no one can say anything about my choice of (un)dress…
So glad you enjoyed it, and thanks so much for commenting!
Love the post! I stopped keeping track of milestone birthdays years ago. They just stopped mattering. Why give attention or anxiety to something I pretty much have no control over anyway, right? I often forget my age, unfortunately, my kiddos remind me; particularly, when they’re having their birthdays and I realize another one has gone by, after all. Or, when I read your post and thought, “Geez, she’s just a toddler,” lol. I chucked the measuring stick of age after I bore my youngest son at 37 years old and try now to focus on things like what I’m doing in the moment, what I hope to achieve, what impact can I make, and what will I leave behind.
Hi Marlyn – thanks for commenting! I agree, there are far better ways to mark the passage of our lives than birthdays – although I never turn down the cake…
I’ve had friends who wigged out when we all turned 25, then 30, and beyond. I never understood what the big deal was, but maybe that’s because my hubby is 8 years older than I am, so I was always the baby of the two of us. Getting comfy with my body shape (or lack of, lol) has been far more difficult than age, and as the years have gone by, that’s gotten easier too. I care, but it doesn’t define me.
Now to the serious stuff: those pictures. Thanks to you, I now know why I have lost every arm-wrestling match I’ve ever taken part in. Why did no one tell me to wear gloves and a mask? Sheesh, the germs weakened me, and my opponents knew it all along. I feel like such a fool.
Ha, now you know the trick! Quick, grab some protective gear and get to arm wrestling!
I’ve yet to hit an age which makes me feel ‘old’, although I definitely remember being at a friend’s 40th birthday party when I was 20 and thinking that 40 seemed so far away! Not old, though, oddly – I’ve always had friends that are older than me too, so I guess that helps with your perspective quite a lot. I enjoy the fact that I’m getting more and more comfortable with who I am, but I’m still not sure about pointing at people while wearing my knickers. That situation hasn’t arisen yet.