Elizabeth Gomez: New at 40 (as performed at the 2014.01.12 Self-Publishers of Chicago Reading)

When Nicki invited me to read, I was super excited! When I realized the theme for tonight was about “newness”, I completely panicked because I’ve never written about anything “new”. You see, I’m a week away from forty. The closest thing I get to new is noticing that one new whisker growing out of my chin or the new measurement of my ever expanding waistline. At forty, experiences and ideas are recycled, rediscovered, but not new.

I’m not sure when the things around me lost their shine. Maybe it was when my daughters became teens and I realized that I became my own mother, “You call that music? What’s that you’re wearing? What is this Instagram and will it flag the NSA?”

With curious eyes, I watch my daughters as they go through the same transitions that I did when I went from being a girl to becoming a woman. Starting with the “I Won’t Wear Dresses” phase, between ages 8 -10, when one realizes she has complete control of her wardrobe. It’s an age when girls stop being princesses and face up to the reality that life is full of hard knocks – like kissing boys might become a reality.

Assuming that my theory is right about nothing being new, the next stage will be the “You’re Embarrassing Me” stage. Required clothing includes, but is not limited to, Converse tennis shoes, textured stockings, dangling bracelets, and that OH-MY-GOD-IT’S-MY-FAVORITE-BAND t-shirt. During this time, mothers, especially, must be careful not to do anything, ever, and definitely never in public. My daughters will bring home their friends with the rule that I cannot talk to any of them or look them directly in the eye as both my daughters will surely shrivel up and die of embarrassment.

Raising a family isn’t the only the thing that gives one a sense of deja vu, there’s working. Working is like having to go to school except you get money in exchange for letting go of all your hopes and dreams. Go to bed early so you can get a full nights rest for a productive day. Sit in a small room with people you don’t like, doing things you don’t want to do, while still watching someone wag their finger at you and tell you that you’re doing it all wrong. At twenty, at least I had hope that I could do something useful in the world and make a difference. At forty, I give up before I get out of bed.

Making love is something that can be grand, even if you do it a million times. It always feels good but it also starts to lack luster. I love watching talk show hosts chatting with sex therapist about how the viewers can spice up their sex life. Unfortunately, having begun my sexual adventures at an early age, all of their advice is nothing new. Rubber onesies and spiked bras are all the rage, but not to this gal. The best revelation that I’ve had about sex is that it feels just as good in fluffy blue Hello Kitty robe as it does in thigh highs and high heels. Better than that, I’ve found that lovemaking doesn’t require candles and cans of whip cream, you simply wake up your honey and tell him to roll on top of you and then the magic begins.

Most of my friends are about 10 years younger than me. Between the ages of my daughters and my friends, I find I am able to stay current with trends, music, and celebrity gossip. Frankly, at this age, I don’t care about any of it except that I do want to be able to keep up with the conversations at dinner, or at least have something in common with the bartender before I start crying uncontrollably on my barstool.

I will say that technology always seems new. That’s why I’m currently astounded at how many people go into the porn industry. Actually, I may go so far as to say that the only reason technology continues to advance is because people need to find more ways to get off. If they only knew that all you had to do is put on a decent robe, then I’m sure we’d back to farming and sending mail by ravens.

Being forty is something new. Personally, I’ve never done forty, but it has been done before. As a matter of fact, everyone in my mother’s generation has turned forty. They didn’t think it was a big deal. I guess I don’t either. Though, my mother did get her eyelids tucked and tattooed her eyebrows. Maybe a mid-life crisis or maybe it was desire to continue to look 35, the same age she’d been for 6 years.

The other great thing about arriving at forty is I’ve learned that I don’t give a fuck. I don’t care if something is new or recycled or rediscovered if it’s still good. I’ve found out some truths about life and relationships. I’ve gotten rid of some of the ugliness that has weighed me down for too long. I’ve re-examined my choices and made decisions about how I’ll proceed from this point, as I’m sure many of you have done.

Finding routine and watching human beings do what they’ve been doing for hundreds of years gives me comfort because I have an idea of what could be ahead. As frightening as that may be, I am armed with the knowledge and experience that most people make it through. We are connected by our commonality and our struggles. We are connected by the love and support we show for each other. While none of this is new, it never gets old.

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