Okay, Jeanketeers, deep breath: On Aug. 9, I finally hit the big four-oh (the "oh" is for "Oh, my God!"). I know this comes as a shock to many of you, as I've played very coy about my actual age for the entire 20 years I've written my column. And up until the day itself, I was quite content to conceal this personal milestone from the world!
On the night before Doomsday (cue the wavy flashback effect!), grouchy old Hubby Rick, who never wants to celebrate birthdays, or anything really (except for the end of the work week, when he goes out and gets even more blotto than the other four weeknights!), decided that if I wanted to celebrate, I'd have to do it on his terms. "You can't moan about your age," Rick said. "And you have to have your party at Tacky's, 'cause I ain't eating at some [note: I'm substituting what he actually said with other words, because I refuse to stoop to his level] brothertrucking restaurant full of spitdreads and brasspoles."
Tacky's Tavern? That crappy old watering hole where Rick goes nearly every night? No thanks! But my friend Patti was out of town on vacation with her fiancé Barry, and Fulgencio was busy sewing costumes for one of his dress-up friend's cabaret shows (just go with it), so I really had no other alternatives. And I certainly didn't want to stay home by myself. (Correction: My two kitties Priscilla and Garfield would have kept me company. But felines are not known for their empathy toward people turning 40, perhaps because they turn 40 in cat years when they're only six or so. I guess I'd be pretty darn bitter too!)
So I reluctantly agreed to Tacky's. "Meet me there at 6 and don't keep me waiting," Rick replied. (Isn't he a gentleman? He wouldn't even pick me up from our apartment!)
I managed to stave off the blues for most of the day by reminding myself that I didn't officially turn 40 until 4:48 p.m., the exact time I was born. Once the clock struck 4:48, I was kind of surprised that nothing remarkable happened. I was sort of fearing that my heart would explode, or that a tractor beam would burst through my window and suck me into a mothership, but I just felt the same as I always did. I told myself to crawl out of bed, change into my birthday suit (not what you're thinking, silly—a new pair of pink sweats!), smear on my favorite flavored lip-gloss, and debut my four-decade-old self!
Any hopes for a big surprise party dissolved when I entered Tacky's—it was as dingy and poorly lit as ever. Not a single balloon or streamer to be found, and I know Rick could have easily arranged it, because he's tight with Tacky, Jr. "Love the decorating job you all did," I grumbled, and Rick replied that he'd never share the same room with a "gay" birthday decoration if he could help it (to him, even immobile objects have a distinct sexual identity!).
It gets worse! All there was to eat were Old Dutch potato chips and patty melts from the bar grill, and my complimentary birthday drink was Coors on tap (Tacky, Jr. laughed at me when I ordered a Brandy Alexander). Rick's annoying buddy Craig hogged the jukebox and selected 20 bucks of Statler Brothers tunes. I did nearly bawl with joy when the barback emerged from the back room with a brightly lit birthday cake—Rick actually remembered that detail! But when I managed to blow out all the candles, I discovered to my horror that it was a bosoms cake from the erotic bakery! It was this odd grayish-pink color, and it looked nothing like real bosoms at all, just two fat mounds with red gumdrops on top. Mustering my dirtiest look at Rick, I said this wasn't an appropriate cake for a lady. "But you're a lady who likes girly stuff, right?" Rick said. "Well, that's girly." Har-dee-har-har, Rick! Oh, and the cake wasn't even chocolate!
The fun doesn't stop there! Rick joked endlessly about my age, saying things like how he was going to trade me in for "some younger tail." As his barfly pals yukked it up, I reminded our Mr. Teasdale that he was one year older than me, so if I was no spring chicken, he was a family-size package of Perdue frozen thighs!
I thought that would fix his wagon, but Rick had an instant comeback. "A man's age don't matter," he said. "Nobody makes fun of my age because it don't occur to them to. It's you broads who have the short shelf life. And you know it too, otherwise you wouldn't always be whining about how old you're getting."
That did it. I put down the complimentary beer I'd been nursing all night, and without a further word left Tacky's and walked to my car. Of course, Rick followed me with his usual "Just kiddings" and "Lighten ups" and "Not my fault I hit a nerves" and "Jesus I try to do something nices" and "If you're leaving, I suppose we'll just eat the rest of your titty cakes," but I wasn't going to let his manipulative behavior shame me into going back.
When I got home, instead of heading straight to bed, I decided to quell my anger by turning to my time-trusted therapy, writing in my journal. Soon, a novel notion popped into my head: Instead of giving in to the Ricks of the world and dwelling on the bad side of turning 40, I chose to jot down the things I had on my side. And darned if it didn't help me see things anew. Turning 40 isn't a time to feel ashamed about growing older, but to assess your many strengths!
First off, I think I look pretty good for my age. My face is full, which fills out any wrinkles. And my long hair makes me look younger, too. I suppose you whippersnappers think I should wear it in a bun and get a blue rinse at the beauty parlor every week, but defying Father Time is my stock in trade! I'm sure my pastel-colored fleece wardrobe alone knocks at least 10 years off my appearance!
And I always strive to keep a youthful outlook. Both my writing and my personality possess an ageless quality; I was once told by a casual acquaintance that I have the attitude of someone with no tangible experience, which is just about the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me! You've heard of 40 being the new 20? In my case, try 15!
Together, all these things leave me ideally equipped to make my next 40 years as fulfilling as the first 40. It's fun to look forward to what kind of world Jean Teasdale at 80 will be living in and what she will have achieved. Will I own a flying Rascal scooter? Will scientists have discovered that refined sugars are actually healthy, fully vindicating my lifelong eating habits? Will I still be scribbling away at my newspaper column, with grandchildren playing at my feet, a loincloth-clad clone of Blue Lagoon-era Christopher Atkins slowly fanning me, and a Pulitzer Prize sharing space with an urn carrying the ashes of my late hubby on my desk? I won't know until I've lived it, which I fully intend to do!
Jean Teasdale is on Twitter. Follow her @JeanTeasdale. Her new book, A Book Of Jean's Own!, will be published in October.