Lucy Overthinks… Turning 40

This is it folks. The end is nigh. Destruction and terror shall rain forth upon the earth. The rivers shall turn to blood, plagues of locusts shall devour everything in their path, and zombies shall rise from the dead. Life as we know it shall cease and die.

Lucy is turning 40.

OK, so it might not be quite as dramatic as that, but for Lucy, entering her 40s is a pretty fucking terrifying prospect. And while it might not be the end of days, it certainly does feel like the end of something big. Her youth. Her moderately-acceptable looks. Her reasonably gym-toned arse (which is NOT the ‘something big’, before you go getting any ideas). Maybe her hope.

A woman under 40 has prospects. She’s still young, she can still start a family, still say she’s 30-something and people might give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she’s 35. Random French men might still call her mademoiselle – not that Lucy ever goes to France, but it’s nice to know they would, if she went there.

But over 40. Well, that’s halfway to 80. That’s middle aged. That’s fucking hideous.

According to various bullshit articles, by the age of 40, a woman is supposed to have accomplished a wide range of achievements, including having built a stylish capsule wardrobe, learned how to make a Masterchef-standard three-course meal without using recipes, discovered a love of trips to the garden centre, found her signature lipstick, and efficiently tidied her Tupperware collection.

Not to mention of course, she must also have become CEO of a FTSE 100 company, had a £30k wedding with at least one celebrity in attendance, had two or three adorable kids, established a meaningful anti-ageing skincare regime, become a black-belt in yoga and mindfulness, bought a stylish home and decorated it with Farrow and Ball colours and tasteful pieces from Ercol, saved twice her salary in an intelligent investment plan, and written a bestselling novel.

Despite not having achieved any of those things, Lucy doesn’t actually feel like she’s doing too badly. She has regular employment, even though most of the feckless 20-year old interns who were terrified of her ten years ago are now the ones hiring her. She earns enough to allow her to shop frequently in M&S Food Halls and go on the occasional foreign holiday (though she still flies economy like a fucking animal). She owns her own place, though her furniture is mostly wobbly and scratched 12-year-old IKEA flatpack and her four wardrobes are stuffed to the gills with nothing but Boden jersey dresses in every available colour and GAP basic jeans and t-shirts. She knows how to cook a meal without poisoning anyone, even if she’s unable to prove it because none of her friends can be fucking arsed to schlep all the way to the far reaches of West London to find out. She even has some savings, though certainly not enough for her to be able to retire at 50 and spend the rest of her life travelling the world in luxury as she’d like.

So yeah, seconds away from 40, life really isn’t too bad at all but for one thing: Lucy, as you cannot have failed to have noticed, is single. Deeply, perpetually, terminally single. And to turn 40 and still be single… well, in spite of her moderate achievements, that just makes her feel like a fucking failure.

It’s not just that, even in an age when there are more single people than ever before, and far more acceptance of those without partners and kids, society is still very much built around couples. It’s also that Lucy has been searching for The One since about 1685, and she’s fucking exhausted.

As a geek and a high-achiever, getting what she wants has always come relatively easily. Want good exam grades? Just turn up to class, pay attention, and revise hard. Want to work in an interesting industry doing what you love? Just be persistent and passionate, make contacts, and you’ll get there. Want to be able to afford adventurous holidays? Be careful with money, don’t splurge on unnecessary things like drugs and designer shoes and Swarovski crystal ornaments (who BUYS those?!) and that dream African safari will be yours.

But the one thing Lucy has always wanted, infinitely more than any of these things, is Her Person, and yet it seems that no matter how hard she works, how many approaches she tries, how fiercely she perseveres, she just can’t do it. And that makes her frustrated and sad. Especially when, quite frankly, plenty of people who appear to be either outrageously dull or total cunts seem to manage it just fine with no struggle at all.

Of course, turning 40 is not the end. Statistically she could have another 50 years on this planet, which is still more than enough time to find someone so she won’t have to die alone surrounded by houseplants (cats are too much effort). But 40 definitely feels like the end of a chapter, the end of possibilities, maybe the end of her desirability. Just a cursory glance at the age preferences of men on dating apps confirms this: a large proportion of them set their upper age limit at 39, and Lucy suspects that those who say they’re willing to go higher only do so for appearances’ sake, and actually they’re swiping left on anyone over 40 just as quickly as the rest.

And why wouldn’t they? Men Lucy’s age seem to have no trouble pulling women ten years younger, many of whom actively prefer a more mature man. How is Lucy supposed to compete? She’s started finding the odd white hair sprouting in her lady garden, the creases around her eyes are less ‘laughter lines’ and more ‘sobbing uncontrollably lines’, and her skin is starting to resemble the wrapper of a Big Mac after the burger’s been eaten. Complete with the yellow grease stains.

So where does that leave her? On the shelf? Alone, unloved? A dried up old spinster?

But maybe that’s not how it has to be. Maybe, actually, it leaves her in a better place: finally able to accept defeat, move on, and focus on other things instead.

Because here’s the thing about your 30s. All around you, people are falling in love, getting married and having kids. The race is on, and if you’re at the back, tripping and stumbling, gasping for breath, struggling to keep up with the pack, it’s no surprise you’re probably going to have a heart attack at some point. But what happens once the race is over?

Finally, you can stop running. You can be gracious in defeat, congratulate the winners, catch your breath, have a nice hot bath, and then look around for something else to do.

They say life begins at 40. Historically that was because most people had their kids at age 20, so by 40 the little bastards had finally grown up and their poor knackered parents could finally get some sleep and leave the house. For today’s single woman, however, it means something different. It means she can finally throw off the terror of her ticking clock, enjoy the fact that Auntie Joan no longer asks her if she’s met someone yet, and say Fuck You to society’s expectations.

Liberated from the burden of racing to achieve that impossible list, now she can do whatever the fuck she wants – and without kids draining her salary and her energy she’s got the cash to splurge. Suddenly it’s OK to spend £60 on a jar of posh face cream – because why not treat yourself? Or skip the gym – who cares if you gets fat now? Or date inappropriate men who will never be The One, simply because they’re hot. Or spend an entire weekend binge-watching old episodes of Sex and the City, free from the FOMO that you ought to be going out, because you never know who you might meet. Lucy’s wiser now, and experience has taught her that’s even less likely than the chances of Tom Hiddleston finally calling her to confess his undying love. So she might as well just focus on doing things she actually wants to do, not things she thinks she should do.

Looking around her at her friends who are married and have kids, Lucy’s not sure she even wants their life anyway. Sure, she’d kill for someone to veg on the sofa with, or go on holiday with, but the rest of it? The sleepless nights, the cleaning up shit and vomit, the long drives with your spawn beating the crap out of each other in the back seat, the ferrying of ungrateful little twats from school to football to violin lesson, the horrors of cyber-bullying and teenage pregnancy and snapchat porn. Without offspring, Lucy doesn’t have to worry about any of that bollocks.

When you consider all of that, making it through the 30s race without having accidentally tripped over, fallen on someone’s cock, and getting knocked up could actually be classed as an achievement.

That’s not to say that Lucy’s done with dating though – far from it! Dating in your 40s could actually turn out to be way better than in your late 30s, because it’s an actual fact* that NO ONE meets anyone between the ages of 35 and 40. After 35 all the good men have been snapped up, and the ones who are left after 35 are either fuckboys, losers, or just downright weird. But after 40, well, that’s when the divorces start happening. The good ones finally start coming round again, and who better to console them after their difficult breakup than an experienced, slightly older woman, who isn’t going to ask them to have more kids, who has the freedom and cash to have fun, and who, thanks to a decade of extra sleep and gym visits, can still just about pass for 35 (in the right light)?

*I can’t prove this  

When Lucy thinks about it, every decade has actually seen her love life improve. From 0-10, she thought boys were gross and the feeling was probably mutual. In her teens she pined for guys who didn’t even know she existed, but she had her first kiss and managed to squeeze in losing her virginity just before the end of the decade. Her twenties were most notable for excessively long periods of man drought, but they did also bring her first proper boyfriend. In her 30s she met The Ex, and for five full years she lived the loved-up dream until, well, you know the rest.

So maybe, who knows, her 40s will take her up the next rung of the love ladder?

But if it doesn’t, well, it won’t be a total disaster. Right now Lucy feels like she’s in her prime. She may look a bit more knackered, and she may be a bit more jaded and fed up with the world, but she’s also more confident, she knows what she wants, and she gives way fewer fucks. As a result, she’s had more and better sex in the last few years than in all the rest of her life put together. And while she’d still love to find Her Person, she’s learning how to focus on enjoying all the wonderful things she does have: her friends and family, adventures, her home, and even, sometimes, the occasional man who, while not Mr Right, can definitely be Mr Right Now.

So here’s to being 40: to freedom, to confidence, to wine, travel, nice dinners, good friendship, great sex, and to everything else that the next 40 years may bring.

Now, can I ask a favour please?

I know it’s cheeky, but if a girl can’t ask on the occasion of her 40th birthday, when can she?!

Don’t worry though, it’s not for me. I’d never be that rude!  I’m asking on behalf of homelessness charity, Shelter, for whom I’ve set up a JustGiving page. I figure if one good thing can come out of me turning 40, that’ll make it all a lot harder to bear.

If you’ve enjoyed all my hard work on the blog, or if you just want to shut up my whining about turning 40, please consider throwing a few quid their way. If every one of my followers gave just £5 (ie. what you might spend if this blog were a book), we’d raise over £20k!

Click here to donate! 

And a HUGE thank you to the AMAZING people who’ve already donated! You’ve already made turning 40 a lot easier to stomach!

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16 Comments

  1. Dan E
    2nd March 2019 / 9:15 am

    Your new attitude is a really healthy one, and a realisation I came to myself a few years ago. It’s amazing how when you step back from doing what you feel pressured as what you ‘should’ do and focus on what you want to do how much your confidence and happiness grows – because you are being your real self. So good luck, embrace rather than fear those 40’s!

    • Lucy
      Author
      2nd March 2019 / 5:13 pm

      Thanks Dan. I’m not sure I entirely believe all of it, but I’m trying to be more positive. What else can we do, after all, but keep calm and carry on?

    • Sam
      10th March 2019 / 9:26 pm

      I love your logic regarding the good men coming round again in their 40’s! Never thought of it that way. I’m reminded of Bullseye – and here’s what you could win… If the date is right 😂

      Rest assured the 40’s are great and definitely prime time. In this decade we all get given a certain air of confidence, wisdom and a bottomless pot of sarcasm 😁

      Embrace life and thanks for another humourous read.

      • Lucy
        Author
        12th March 2019 / 10:45 pm

        Thanks Sam! I do hope you’re right. To be honest so far nothing feels much different, still waiting for this magic revelation!

  2. Lucy B
    2nd March 2019 / 9:17 am

    The last part of this made me laugh ALOT – I met my other half when I was 37 and he was 39 (he turned 40 five months after we met) and what was he doing – divorcing his then wife haha – he is my perfect man and we wish we had met first, but I have no doubt I’d have thought he was a dick and not dated him back then so time right now is perfect for us.
    He was child free (thanks ex wife for decided after they got married that actually she changed her mind about kids) so baggage was minimal once their house sold – and our baby is due once I turn 40 this year – fucking hell a 40 year old 1st time mum – but fuck it I’ve winged life till now so I’m gunna wing this.

    I spent my whole 30s since till I met him (and that’s not an exaggeration) countless internet dates – then met this one on POF 🙂

    I love your posts and blog so much – please keep it coming – apparently our 40s are a whole new world and is totally yours for the taking xx

    • Lucy
      Author
      2nd March 2019 / 5:15 pm

      Hi Lucy, thanks for your comment and congratulations on your big news! I’m so pleased it’s all working out for you. Please send some of your good vibes my way!

  3. Rose
    2nd March 2019 / 8:55 pm

    Dear Lucy,

    You are an inspiration for all girls that are not married, me included. I’m in a country where 28 is late to be single. All people do right now is introduce me to people, in the hopes that I get on with someone, marry him, have kids and that’s all. The first question after a recent dream trip, a recent graduation from a Master, a recent high recognition for my work is: Are you married yet? What a bunch of assholes are people these days. Not everyone wants the same and I refuse to settle with someone that’s less than The One for me.

    Please continue to be awesome at any age. Last days of 39 do not turn you into a completely different person at 40. You’re wiser and more confident now.

    I wish you the best.

    Rose.

    • Lucy
      Author
      5th March 2019 / 8:49 am

      Thank you Rose, that’s such a lovely comment to read. I’m not sure why I should be an inspiration, I’m just keeping calm and carrying on, having good days and bad days, and not always succeeding at looking on the bright side of life! And lots of it is very bright, so I definitely need to get better at that. Lovely comments like yours do help with that though. It sounds like you are doing amazingly well too so keep up the good work and try not to let the bastards get you down!

  4. 4th March 2019 / 4:33 am

    Oh, I’m turning 40 later this year…I’m nervous yet exciting. It’s going to be odd saying farewell to the 30’s…

    • Lucy
      Author
      5th March 2019 / 8:50 am

      It was horrible, I spent the last half hour of my 30s sobbing in bed. But then a new day dawns and life goes back to normal.

  5. christiane
    4th March 2019 / 11:23 pm

    Hi Lucy – wishing you all the best for your birthday, fun, love, and health:) I’ve just discovered your blog on a lazy March afternoon last Saturday and got totally hooked.

    I love the way you write! And it all sounds so familiar. Anyway, life is great with 40+ 🙂 Because, as you write: Here’s to confidence. That’ll just grow. Basically that’s the secret behind women getting older than men. The latter have to admit defeat. (I love men. Well, many of them.)

    Lots of love from Berlin! x

    • Lucy
      Author
      5th March 2019 / 8:52 am

      Thanks Christiane! I’m so pleased you found me and that you like the blog! And I hope you’re right. At least now I’m over the hurdle life seems to just be going back to normal.

  6. Anon
    6th March 2019 / 8:24 am

    Hi Lucy,

    Your attitude and boundaries are more important than your age when it comes to dating. On the one hand, I admire your courage and determination to live your life on your terms. But at the same time, we can see that you would love to meet someone awesome and it causes you pain that you haven’t yet. Believe me, we are rooting for you. We really are.

    When reading your messages to men, you consistently put yourself down. You also complain to them about the dating process. From a blog reader’s perspective, you don’t seem to be setting enough value on yourself. I think that a man who hears that you hate the dating process, even if he goes through the same, may (unfairly) start to think the problem is you.

    I felt sad to read about the ‘poly’ guy because again, if your sanity is to come first and to find a good guy that only wants to be with you, you know deep down that he should be kicked to the curb. I’m left thinking why you keep going back as he seems incredibly manipulative. If a woman waiting to answer texts or to expect advanced notice for a date is ‘game playing’, what do you think the guys are doing to get sex?

    Again, just from a reader’s perspective, if it is important for you to find a decent guy I would seriously look into working with a dating coach. Ideally one who works with “The Rules” as I think it the best book I’ve seen on setting boundaries in dating. It’s contraversial and old-fashioned, but I would never go back as I think it the ultimate ‘fuckboy’ filter. I don’t believe chasing men works and only leads to pain in the long run when the guy goes after what he really wants. A coach can help you with texts, dating photos and act as a good sounding-board before doing anything. I wouldn’t knock it until you try it.

    The best guys won’t want to use you for sex. They will want to commit to only you, will happily pay for your dates and think you’re awesome. Raise your standards – you are worthy of that. So cut off the losers that can’t offer you what you are worth.

    • Lucy
      Author
      12th March 2019 / 10:52 pm

      Hi, thanks for your kind words and for taking the time to comment in such depth. I’m not sure I do have courage and determination, I just haven’t yet found someone I want to be with who wants to be with me too (well I did, but then he changed his mine) and so I keep going because what else can you do?
      I wasn’t aware that I complain to the men I’m dating about the dating process. I don’t think I do, at least not in the first few dates while I’m trying to impress them. If I’ve decided they’re not for me, then sure, fine, I can be honest because I’m not trying to impress them any more and sometimes it’s a good topic when conversation is flagging and you just need to find common ground.
      Sorry if reading about Charlie makes you sad. He really isn’t so awful, y’know. Yeah sure, he’s poly, which isn’t for everyone, but I do get something out of it too. Not just sex, but attention, companionship, company. He’s obviously not Mr Right, but when you’ve been dating as long as I have sometimes it’s just nice to be able to take the pressure off a little. It’s all very well to say keep searching, and I am, but I’m tired, so it’s nice to take a little break.
      But yes, agreed that chasing men doesn’t work, and I think there’s a lot to be said for The Rules. Though I’m not sure I’d be able to stick to them. I’m incapable of playing games and I wear my heart on my sleeve. Both of which are incompatible with doing The Rules.

  7. Nick
    7th March 2019 / 7:08 pm

    Happy Birthday Lucy! 🎉

    As others have said, I think the trick to life is confidence. As I have got older mine has definitely grown. Hold your head up high, you are an amazing woman.

    • Lucy
      Author
      12th March 2019 / 10:45 pm

      Thanks Nick 🙂

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Names and some minor details have been changed to protect the innocent. And sometimes the guilty.
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