I have heard women say they have entered the threshold of 40 and along with it a whole gamut of emotions spilling. I have well crossed the 40ish line and although I have friends my age, I have broken bread with a lot more women younger and older than 40. The point is, do I feel any different now than when I was at my twenties or thirties? Do my peers feel different? Does my body feel different?
My teenage years were fraught with emotions of all kinds. I was thin, I was under-confident wearing a skirt and I had too many infatuations. Plus tagging along those years was a long steady girlfriend who was more a boyfriend material. We played, we studied together and we were inseparable. Then came my 20s. Armed with a Master’s degree, I set out for the big world – the notorious capital city of India - to get a job other than teaching. My hill town made way only for teachers and knitting aunties in their nighties, the sight of which depressed me. The big world saw my initiation into all things sinful – first taste of alcohol and a romance that would see me back and forth for a few years of my life. It was my first love affair with a loser, and not my imaginary figure from Mills & Boons – you know the tall, dark, handsome and old kinds with pots of money. On the contrary, I boasted of a lover – short, thin and so bloody poor! Yet I clung on to him as if he were the last man on earth, for a few years at least.
Through these years, my understanding of life and men were through spontaneity of actions and my skin. There was not a lot of thinking involved. I was caught in the mad rush of working, paying bills, going out, living in penury with roommates in the same predicament as me. The time just flew. I enjoyed life a great deal. I remember celebrating my 29th birthday on New Year’s Eve and thinking ‘Gosh I am turning 30 and I have not had a baby yet’. But the city squashed all my dreams of being a young mother. I did not find the right man and I could not afford to raise a single child. If I had the means, I would have defied norms, to hell with society that promotes extra marital affair but scorns at single mothers.
Thus began my thirties with a bang of realisation. A few more affairs and a great time travelling around the world experiencing life. By the time I was 35, I did not feel a day older, was still a hopeless romantic at heart just as I was at 16. An online romance provided a brief musical interlude to my life. I had a great time while it lasted. We shared a love of words and intense communication. You see, I have no qualms talking about it all and I feel frustrated by our culture that does not appreciate women having affairs, like it is just the prerogative of men to do so. So when you ask an Indian girl, how many boyfriends she has had, the answer you are most likely to get will be 'one or two'. When an English colleague met a friend and asked her the same, she replied “one”, at which the English friend laughed, “Oh I have heard that one before.” He thought it was a joke. But by the end of his few years’ stay in India he had begun to realise the numbers game. No woman wants to be the dysfunctional one in the big marriage market!
Happily married in my forties, I think I have found my Mr Right, albeit late by Indian standards. Everyone is married by the time they are in their 20s, are grandmothers by their 40s and sex and life no longer matter. Of course, some have extra maritals, on the sly. In fact I know of so many that do lead parallel lives. I do not judge, kudos to them! I am sure their partners are on the same boat.
I am in my 40s and I cherish the woman in me. I remain the same but if there is one thing that has changed, it is my confidence to embrace passion with new vigour. Is my first love stronger than my present? No. I continue to ache and long for all things exciting and I still continue to notice good looking man at the counters, on the streets or at a park. Like a bunch of flowers picked fresh I still feel the thorns, smell the scent and love the beauty that life offers.