By Denise DiMarzio
I have discovered something about women who have recently turned 40. They have absolutely no sympathy whatsoever for women who are about to turn 35. Mind you, this has been an informal survey of sorts, a mere handful of, and now I am forced to use the term loosely, “friends.” These are normally very generous and kind-hearted women, but try to get a little sympathy from them about the woes of turning 35, and they transform before one’s very eyes and for a shimmering moment bear a terrifying resemblance to a certain character played by Linda Blair in the ‘70s. It really is quite startling.
Let’s take one friend, for example, whom I’ll call L. L is a yoga teacher. Follows the path of peace, encourages energy flow in positive directions, breathes deeply of all the good things to be found in this world. I thought she might have been a safe person to talk to. “I’m about to turn 35,” I started innocently, with a catch in my voice. I recoiled in fear as the normally sweet-tempered L seemed to grow to three times her size, her voice the volume of the loudspeakers at professional sports stadiums. “Yeah? Well I just turned 40! Don’t even talk to me about 35!”
Then there is S. Who keeps trying to convince me that I am, and I hesitate to write the word, so I’ll write it small, perimenopausal. I think this is her revenge on me because she is 40 and I am almost 35. Just because I can’t remember all the details anymore and can’t retrieve words very quickly sometimes. Like the time this past summer when I saw a beautiful flowering bush in my neighborhood on one of my walks. Lovely dark green leaves, pretty pink flowers. “Oh, how beautiful,” I said to myself. “What a nice______. Hold on, I know what this is. My aunt and uncle have them. I have been looking at them my whole life. I know flowers and bushes. I know what this is.” Well, a good ten minutes later it came to me, just as I was back on my own doorstep. “Rhododendron!” I declaimed aloud, exacting strange looks from my neighbors.
And those twenty-ish people, those “age is just a number” younger women. The ones who jump around the office from desk to copy machine, cartwheel up and down the staircases and bike 100 miles to work every day in rain, snow and ice with pink cheeks and nary a labored breath. I used to be able to do that. “It’s all in your mind!” they say. “What’s a number, anyway?” To them I say, enjoy your de rigueur futon beds now, because in 10 years you won’t be able to even think about sleeping on one without a twinge in your back.
So, women who are 40 already, I salute you. My sisters in 35, call me, I understand. And all you twenty-something’s? Oh, please, what do you know about it? Just wait a few years, ‘til you’re 35. And to all those women I admire and love, in their decades past the 20s, 30s, and 40s, I know you are sitting there shaking your heads, understanding the folly of it all, wearing purple mantles and secure in your wisdom.
Well, maybe I’ll try a somersault of my own today, shouting out my own mantra, a word rooted just fine in my memory: rhododendron!
About the Author
Denise DiMarzio lives and writes in her native Rhode Island. She works at a community college where she runs a developmental writing lab and teaches English. She likes to pretend that she is still about to turn 35.