Friday, February 14, 2014

Theory 32: Forty is the perfect age.


My friends and family have enjoyed big chuckles all week, thanks to my 40th birthday, which is today, February 14, 2014.  My mother-in-law Bop sent me gross/funny cards with $5 bills inside. She, Dogwood Debutante, Balloon Girl and Cake also had a happy pink and red flower arrangement with three “Happy Birthday” balloons delivered to my classroom at the junior high. That delivery, combined with a school day shortened three hours for a minor “snowpocalypse” made for an eventful 3rd period with thirty-five freshmen! Friends have texted, teased, and treated me all week.

Feelin' the love.

Look, I LOVE attention like Gnome loves candy. And, unlike most folks, I actually enjoy public speaking and being the center of attention. But, I’m not big on birthdays. I am a terrible birthday card giver. Even though I mail notes to people all the time for all types of occasions, I usually forget to buy birthday cards. I think it’s because my birthday is not that important to me. That sounds awful, doesn’t it? Sorry. Selfish? Sorry again.

I think Tall Child is catching my fever of apathy. He turned 50 in May. Our friends and I wanted to throw him a toga party as a nod to his youthful adventures and baby-booming swagger. But, he declined, saying, “Let’s just let this one slide on by.” Also, every February 14th around supper time, I hand Tall Child a “For Husband” Valentine and he says, “Oh, Bug! Let’s trade cards later.” We eat supper. Then, Tall Child says, “I have to take care of something really quickly. I’ll be right back.” He makes a mad dash to Walgreens and comes home with a proud grin and two cards: a “For Wife” Valentine and a “For her” birthday card. Every year. Bless his Tall, kind, forgetful heart.

Maybe I have some disregard for my birthday because it’s on Valentine’s Day, and, except for Tall Child and my college sweetheart, Nixon Lover, who was, ironically, also born on Valentine’s Day in 1974, I never had a boyfriend on February 14th. The sting of an empty locker and no call from the office throughout high school never leaves you. It never leaves you. Why, male GP Highlanders, why? Was it my sharp tongue, hallway scowls, the fact that you had to pass Delicious’s 12th grade English class to graduate, or was it my proclamation of virginity? (I think it was the latter.) Why no roses? I should have sent myself flowers. I’ve learned so much since high school. I mean, I buy myself cases of wine nowadays just for getting a paycheck. What’s the difference?

This is a good time to introduce one of my favorite people in the world, “Downton Gams.” She has signature style; a classy, yet casual look consisting of long-sleeved shirts, corduroys, preppy-yet-colorful loafers, and fitted down vests topped off with pearls, honey. Pearls. Downton Gams is a mix of British composure, European style, Land’s End practicality, and Old South tradition. And, she has the most beautiful legs in 37919. She’s an intellectual and passionate mother and a fantastic sounding board for a loon like me. I confessed to her last week, “I’m afraid folks are going to make a big deal about my birthday.” Downton Gams coached, “Don’t you worry about that, Bug, just get through it. I was sooooo glad to see that number come and go. No big deal. No big deal. That’s that. Done. Done. Forty. Done.”

I love my girl posse. Another member is Agape Agave. She’s “Agape” because she loves circles around you! Her natural instinct is unconditional, country-style, custard pie love. She’s “Agave” because she makes a mean beverage with a plant product of the same name. Agape Agave can quilt and sew and can tomatoes. She’s Agape Agave Awesome!

So, Agape Agave and I discussed my turning forty just yesterday. (She’s next.) I asked, “What do you think is good about turning 40?”

Agape Agave said, “Let me tell you what my mama said. She said to me one time, ‘Oh, honey, just wait til you’re 40. You won’t give a [dang] what anybody says to you.’”

I asked, “Well, do you think that’s right?

Agape Agave said, “I don’t know; I’m not forty, but you are tomorrow! You tell me! Ha!”

Well, I reflected all afternoon about the wise counsel I got from Downton Gams and Agape Agave, and they are right about AGE 40.

I may not want a big fuss, but I am happy to be forty. It’s the perfect age! I’m writing, obviously, from my own perspective and experience, but I think many of you forty-and-overs will relate. The rest of you can anticipate landing on this happy number. What do I mean? Why is forty the perfect age?

As I turn forty, I have to say that almost everything makes sense.
And, if something doesn’t make sense, I don’t even care. Delicious and Pooh taught me well, but much of my newfound confidence and free thinking comes from two experiences. First, adopting Gnome and having an open adoption with his birth family. The eight year journey from infertility to meeting Gnome for the first time was embedded with enlightenment beyond anything I ever expected. Second, my dear friends (some of whom you’ve met, some not yet) give me license to be me, without judgment or criticism, and—bonus—with support! As Pooh said, “I always like the people who like me.” Amen, daddy!

I don’t give a dang when people criticize me.
I wrote my book, The Eye of Adoption, to help other women affected by infertility and adoption. But, when you write a book (or a blog) you subject yourself to bad reviews, critical commentary, and ridicule. It’s especially hurtful when it comes from family who probably haven’t even read the book. If someone has a problem with my writing, my goals, or me, that problem is his/hers. Trust me, when you slap an essay like this into the blogosphere, you get all kinds of feedback. I embrace it, or I wouldn’t dare call this blog Theories: Size 12, Go on and get mad, but you know I’m right. Guess what? I know why I wrote the book. If someone doesn’t “get it” or like it, I don’t give a dang. If I were twenty-two years old and “put myself out there” in the writing world, a bad review would demolish me. Now, I just laugh, read the good reviews again, shake off the sting, and keep writing.

If I want to dance, I dance, thanks to inspiration from my smart, well-formed friend “Elaine.” “Elaine” loves the stage. She belongs on the stage. She’s not shy. And, boy oh boy, can she bust a move in her own special way. She is also really good at stretching. When “Elaine” takes the dance floor, she elevates the entire party to a new level of interest and excitement, especially when she’s joined by “Smokin’ Scrubs,” our gorgeous blonde friend who is a natural born tambourine player. She has a soulful, healing laugh, and is never shy about hopping on stage. Anywhere.

I don’t give a dang about material things.
I grew up in an old farmhouse and, for some crazy reason, bought another old house. At twenty-six years old, I wore myself out trying to make my 1956 plumbing nightmare of a house pretty and perfect with the “right” touches. Now, I don’t give a dang. The oddities no longer make me drive to Home Depot. They make me laugh.

Gnome and Jake splash under some lovely tile work.

I desperately need a laptop (mostly to dodge Gnome, Sharky, and Tall Child when I write), but I love the sentimentality of using my sweet late father-in-law’s computer.

Big Red is only my third car. She grunts and groans and is stick with duct tape, but we just crank up and go. She’s okay. I’m okay.

I don’t give a dang about my appearance.
Well, I am a girl. Let’s just say I don’t obsess, and I’m quite forgiving. I wear make-up because there’s no such thing as natural beauty and if I didn’t douse myself in Merle Norman, my students would think they had a substitute teacher. But I don’t worry about finding the “right” clothes like I did in my twenties and early thirties. Actually, I’m looking to embrace a uniform wardrobe. Think Diane Keaton or Simon Cowell. I want to look appropriate, yet be comfortable every day, but I don’t want to have to think about my clothes. I need to be professional, but prefer some eccentric flair. Ya’ll let me know what I should wear. Please read the rest of the post so you’ll know what you have to work with, ahem, around.

My precious, precious friend “Flower Child” is also inspires me to relax about looks. Flower Child and “Elaine” (her sister) are neighborhood leaders in compassion, philanthropy, and kindness. They just flat out know how to love their friends. And, they have their own kind of “uniforms.”

I told Flower Child I was contemplating a uniform, and that I needed two pair of shoes for each season, one black, one brown. She said, “Shoot, I only wear two pairs of shoes ever. Flip-flops if it’s warm. Uggs if it’s cold.” So free. So, so free.

I don’t give a dang about perfection. I just survive and thrive at work, at home, in school, in my writing. I don’t stress over mistakes. As a student, I competed against others and myself for higher grades and recognition. In my twenties and thirties, as a bank manager, I was frantic and ambitious.

Now, I just do the best I can and do no schoolwork at home. I also, as Delicious likes to preach, “always anticipate the incompetence of others.” I focus on preparation and then deliver the best goods I’ve got. I don’t get mad at others’ mistakes like I did years ago.

I am terribly flawed, yet self-aware.
I’ve watched myself for a while now, and noted a few things that bother me (and likely bother others). I’m loud in classrooms and restaurants and houses. I throw temper tantrums and toss Tupperware.  I’m quite destructive. I’ve always been this way. Delicious says I always rushed and “screwed up one side of the poster board” when I did science projects and she always had to drive back to the store for another poster board. I always wondered why she didn’t buy two poster boards in the first place. Whatever. Anyway, throughout my life I denied these flaws. Now, I embrace them, write about them, and try really hard to control the impulse to sling a light bulb at Tall Child. Knowing oneself is liberating.

I understand that I can’t control other people. So I don’t try.
If Tall Child doesn’t won’t get a checkup, shame on him. Other than Sharky and Gnome and myself, I am not responsible for another person’s healthcare. That’s all I have to say about that.

I love the idiosyncrasies of people I know. I’m not annoyed when they disagree with me like I was when I was younger. Instead, I try to learn from them, because anyone can learn from anyone. 

Speaking of, I’m less inhibited and more plain-spoken in my “old age.”
Even the book description of The Eye of Adoption on Amazon, reads “Dyer tells it like it is….” I figure folks are worn out guessing and trying to figure things out, so I just write like I speak, with flaws and all, but mostly, honesty, so readers can RELATE!

I trust myself. I know why I write what I write, and I write from my soul. Simple, trite, genius, spiritual, funny, dull, who knows? I just write and am flattered if anyone reads my work.

I’ve been accused of saying “whatever comes to mind” but friends, I hold about 80% in. Be warned. Why do you think I have to crank out the long blog posts every week? Yes, because I have so much nonsense to share with the world!

I don’t feel guilty for taking care of myself.
Agape Agave said, “All I want to do is diddle around on Pinterest, drink tons of coffee, and chase it with margaritas and I want everyone to leave me the [heck] alone.” Amen, sister wife. Do it. Women, at forty, I finally have the guts to say, “Hey, Tall Child and boys, I’m going to look for a bra and it will take a loooooong time. Suck it up. And, unless you want me to burn up our Verizon minutes in a pre-menopausal, big breasted rage, don’t call me while I’m sweating in a Dillard’s dressing room.” No. More. Guilt. Why, just yesterday I went to the grocery store all by myself. It was awesome!

I need other people to make choices for me.
I have terrible taste in clothing and accessories. I have complete trust in my friends and family who buy me treats to wear. As a matter of fact, they know and embrace this fact! Generous, thoughtful Downtown Gams gave me a Kate Spade handbag for my birthday! WHAAAAAT! It’s from New. York. City. And it’s beautiful. Isn’t that incredibly sweet? My last handbag was from The Walmart at the Walker Springs Exit on I-40.  I also asked her how to fix my hair for a Cotillion dance and she emphatically said, “We are curly girls. We can not go straight; it just makes us look tired.” Waves it is, Gams! Bop and Delicious like to buy me clothes. I don’t argue; I trust. I just put the new duds, hop into Big Red, and cruise to the junior high in style.


Consider: I’ve embraced my appearance and actually have lots of new things to celebrate!
1. Bigger boobs! Just when I thought my girls Atlantic and Pacific were normal, I visited Dillard’s to bra shop, as I said above. Well, I plopped one day’s worth of teacher wages on the biggest cup size sold at Dillard’s. Here’s the kicker/bouncer: I need the next size up. Really? Really? How much onion dip have I eaten? What gives? I am seriously considering surgery. I don’t give a dang what others think about A&P, but I am tired of being uncomfortable. Smokin’ Scrubs worked for a plastic surgeon; I’m gonna see what she thinks. I really want to Benjamin Button my breasts.

This is not an illusion.

2. Old white woman booty! It’s happening. I’m getting that white-lady booty where the fat moves up and out, just below the waist. Like a shelf over a giant coffee bean. Or, a Valentine heart! But, what a wonderful place for Gnome to perch. It’s all about attitude, ladies.

3. Bedazzled legs! I’ve gotten into constellations lately because Sharky’s learning the lunar phases and Gnome stares up and gasps, “Look, stars!” Well, I happen to have similar wonders on my body. So, if you are chipping in ideas for my “uniform” please stay away from colors that bring out blue and purple. See photo below. So magical. Sooooo sexy.

I can see Halley's Comet!

At 40, I am wise and happily share my wisdom.
For example:
Tall Child (aged 50 years with an oaky aroma) bragged that  “50 is the new 40.” I hope he’s right. I have a thing for proportional reasoning, ever since my math instructional mentor “Certified Genius” taught me the following formula. 
Part                 Part
Whole    =       Whole

If I apply the proportional reasoning formula, I am 30 years old, weight 147 pounds, and wear a 34D. Confused? Do the math. Construct a response. Common Core. Booyah.

Friends, master this concept and you’ll increase standardized math test scores by 20%. I promise. It works with conversion (inches to feet, cm to yards), cooking (tablespoons to teaspoons, swaparoo with measuring cups), and—for you teachers—similar triangles (not mine, but the ones in the textbook)!  For tutoring on this topic, contact me at jdyer415@yahoo. Remember, I’m a teacher hustler. Rate is $35 an hour; and please don’t tell the IRS because they’ll just give 28% to Joe L.  (my extra husband down in Mississippi).

Age 40 is awesome because I’m friendlier. I love meeting other authors and readers and making new friends online. I am a social media butterfly and don’t care what people think or say about it. I “like” freely and promote others’ work with great joy. Through writing this blog and publishing my book, I have made some awesome new friends, all over the country. My life is much richer for accepting their online friendship.

I’m much less shy in my alone time, too. I used to think inside my mind. Now I just go ahead and talk to myself out loud. I’m easier to understand that way. As my grandfather, Big Man used to say, “I can’t imagine anyone I’d rather talk to than me. I am so interesting and I never argue.” But, I do enjoy my conversations with me more when I/we have them out loud because I/we enjoy inflection and mood. Sometimes people at the grocery store interrupt me/us. So rude.

Delicious  said, “One thing that comes with being older is you learn when to keep your mouth shut.” Maybe that one will come at 50, Delicious. Until then, I have lots to say. For example, spring semester quickly approaches, which means yearbooks are coming out soon. Which means, the superlative votes will happen shortly. Times have changed. Which brings us to Theory 33: Senior Superlatives must be modernized, and should include teachers.

Just a couple of weeks after I posted this diatribe, my sweet friends threw me a surprise party. What a special night. I am happy to be forty if I'm surrounded by these jewels. Here are some photos. Top night of my life!









See you next post. Until then, think outside the barn. All you other old folks, what do you like about being 40+?

I dedicate this song to me.



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Just thinking outside the barn...

Just thinking outside the barn...