OPINION: “40 Is the New 20” –– But It’ll Be Over in a Flash

Four-way stops, aren’t they really like the great whack-a-mole of intersections? Is it my turn? Your turn? Cars popping up, randomly out of nowhere, quickly and without warning. Really, mallets should be provided. Etiquette these days.

We were sitting at the corner of Belden Hill and Wolfpit Rds., “waiting our mole” and I was getting impatient.

“Just go,” my younger daughter, ‘S’ whined from the backseat.

“I can’t go. It’s not my turn,” I said, just as some guy blew by, blasting Metallica, passing me on the left. I leaned on the horn, muttering some delightful choice phrases. Somewhere a trucker was blushing.

‘S’ sighed, giving the back of my seat a swift kick, “not cool.”

“I know, right?”

“No. You, mom. I mean, so not cool. What if he was in a rush or having a bad day or maybe he just got out of the upside-down and a demogorgon was following him and he couldn’t wait. Did you ever think of that, huh? Did you?”

I took a quick second to slug my coffee, spilling most of it down my shirt. At least I thought it was my shirt. I couldn’t keep track these days, between policing wayward drivers and passing judgment on people who were clearly just having bad days (or being hunted by demogorgons), the shirt on my own back and its ownership had indeed come into question.

“Have you been watching ‘Stranger Things’ again?”

But she was gone, sucked back into that great upside-down they call the iPhone and I was passing go, shelling out an easy $200 on the way to my own alternate dimension: our passport appointment…at the post office.

If only Mr. In-a-rush in his Infiniti hadn’t robbed me blind of my patience (with a little help, undoubtedly, from our soon-to-be-dead washing machine) I might have been a little more excited at the prospect of running away to Ottawa, where I secretly prayed Milo Ventimiglia would be waiting with my cinnamon dolce latte, coconut milk, no whip. I hoped he wouldn’t mind, I was down to my last pair of underwear.

But it’s not just that blessed Belden Hill byway that leaves me bewildered or my constant quest for a commuter mug that doesn’t make me look like sepia Jackson Pollock. Everything irritates me. Every. Little. Thing. All the things I used to put up with back in the days when I didn’t steal shirts from my teenage daughter or use my three wishes on a clean pair of Hanes now drive me insane, around the block and to the edge of the Canadian Border again.

Sure, it always starts out simple enough. Some heavy-on-the-pedal, heavy-on-the-metal he-man cuts me off in my mom van, or the washer stalls mid-cycle, bringing the promise of clean unmentionables to a grinding halt. But then I can’t hit the brakes and suddenly I’m calling the entire family into question.

Exhibit A: An open bag of sliced white bread laying out on the counter. How? Why? “It’s not okay,” I tell anyone who will listen…Jon, the kids, poor Carl, the mailman. Finally, having exhausted my audience (and their patience), I phone my gynecologist, relaying the whole torrid tale of the sadist in the sedan, the dire need for more undergarments and the bread – how do they not know to use the twist tie? It comes with the bag for a reason! You twist it and tie it. Is it really that hard?!

I start to sweat, cracking a window, convinced now that I’m going through menopause (thus my call to the doctor). “I’m so old,” I tell her. “I don’t want to be 40,” I plead. Take the pain away. Kiss it and make it better, mommy.

She tells me 40 is the new 20, that I’m too young to be going through menopause and tomorrow is sure to be better.

I stop crying over sandwich bread and go back to my life, strapping the baby into the car seat; we go for a drive, leaving the stale bread and my questionably menopausal tears behind us. I turn up XM, “50s on 5,” and try not to get overly emotional listening to Bobby Darin sing, “Somewhere Beyond the Sea.”

This time no one cuts me off at the corner of Belden Hill and I’m wearing underwear, so I feel like that opens a whole new world of possibilities. There are no demogorgons on my tail and no twist ties tying me in knots.

Sadly, Milo Ventimiglia is not waiting for me on the other side of the intersection. More likely, I’ll get sucked into the upside-down, where Metallica’s always on the playlist and you have to stand in line close to an hour with a screaming baby on your hip, hoping you don’t end up looking like a deranged, sweat-laden criminal in your passport photo while the nice guy behind the counter tells you, “This’ll be over in a flash.” Wishing there really was somewhere beyond the sea where washing machines lived up to warranties and sandwich bread got put away (the proper way) and drivers knew to yield to the person on the right.

A place where 40 really felt like the new 20 and not at all like the retinol-researching, boxed-hair-dye-buying ball of agitation I’d recently become, wearing a side-part and skinny jeans because I was so not cool, turning 40 and in a rush and having a bad day, and feeling upside-down about it and out of patience. Where sometimes you just need a swift kick to remind you that there’s no use crying over stale sandwich bread or your passport photo where you indeed look like a (sweaty) deranged criminal.

I know, Bobby Darin. Without a doubt, this’ll be over in a flash. Tomorrow’s sure to be better.

Columnist Lesley Kirschner grew up quiet, in the woods, and devoid of siblings so her hobbies quickly became reading, writing, and talking to inanimate objects. She also spent a considerable amount of time doing voice-overs for her dolls and watching too much daytime television–channel 3, sometimes channel 8, if the weather was good and the antenna wasn’t acting up. She was in attendance at school, graduated from a very much not notable college not worth mentioning, and was transplanted to Wilton with her husband, Ambler Farm‘s Farmer Jonathan and their (baby makes) three children almost a decade ago. Although she never quite found her calling in life, other than perhaps the doll voice-overs, which in hindsight were eerily convincing, she’s happy to try her hand at writing and is thankful for the support and community she found on Facebook’s Buy Nothing Wilton. Lesley realizes while this is all very exciting, she’s not winning a Pulitzer so she’ll wrap it up and be quiet. She’s had a lot of practice. 

1 COMMENT

  1. Hoping that a book publisher snaps up Leslie Kirschner’s phenomenal musings (columns) and gets them the bigger audience they deserve. They bring such smiles to my face and joy to my life even tho I am way beyond her in age and life cycles. Thank you
    Heather for bringing her to us and thank you Leslie for sharing with us.

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