*Originally published in print and online for the Gabber Newspaper on January 10, 2013*
Turning 40 didn’t get to me. Not really. It was more that, as if on some unseen cue, my body started to turn against me.
I’m not incredibly hung up on age. I don’t care if you ask how old I am or how much I weigh. I don’t see the point in lying about your age, or, at least, lying to make myself younger. I see it this way: if I tell people I’m 30 when I’m really 40, they walk away thinking, “man, she looks horrible for 30” but if I say I’m 50, they (hopefully) walk away saying, “wow, she looks good for 50!”
Nevertheless, 40 has, thus far, been weird. You see, it started with me pretty much going blind. At least, in my mind I was.
Glaucoma runs in my family. My mom got her diagnosis when she was 37, by which time her eyes had already been rather damaged. Her mother had it, as did, we’re fairly certain, her mom before her. So when my local eye doctor told me last year that I had higher-than-normal eye pressure readings and might, given my spectacular family history, want to see a specialist, I promptly thanked him, took the referral, and tucked it in my to-do folder. For about a year. Smart, right?
Of course, right about the day I turned 40, I noticed my eyes hurt when I used them to read. Or watch TV. Or use the computer. I found myself holding the Gabber at a distance and wondering when we switched to a smaller typeface. Things started floating past my eye that weren’t really there (at least, I hope they weren’t). For someone who has a father who believes he suffers from every malady save hypochondria, this was not an auspicious sign. I figured I had advanced glaucoma, eye cancer, and maybe a detached retina or two. When I brought this up while my parents and I were celebrating my birthday, my mom wanted to know why I hadn’t made an appointment sooner. Because, I told her, I remember her putting drops in her eyes and not being able to read or drive afterwards. How would I work if I couldn’t write articles or drive to interview people? She asked me how I intended to do any of those things if I went blind.
Game, set and match, madam.
I made the appointment.
Turns out I have something that sounds like Presbyterianism. I’m pretty sure that’s not the right name, but I didn’t quite catch it when he told me and can’t bring myself to have my hearing checked right now, too. I do know this much: it basically means I need glasses because, as the eye doc gently put it, my eyes are aging. The solution? “Progressive” lenses, a fancy word for “bifocals,” even though the glasses guy tried valiantly to convince me they weren’t. He’s right. They’re so much worse. Instead of two types of vision, these seem to have about a zillion. Instead of having to squint when I read, I now stumble around like a drunk. And apparently they’re only for reading close up, a fact that really could have helped me out that first day. All anyone said was “use the bottom part to read” which made driving just a darn pleasure when I needed to find a specific address later that day.
So, to be clear, I went from 20/15 vision to bifocals.
Yup, hello, 40. My body’s no longer building bone mass, my lower back reminds me regularly I haven’t been to the gym nearly enough, and I weigh a good 35 pounds more than I did when I graduated high school. I’ve started to walk into rooms and forget why I’m there, and more than once I’ve turned to the person next to me, started a sentence, and realized I have no clue what I was going to say. If 40 is the new 30, I pity the 50-year-olds.
And yet… there are worse things. Not living to turn 40, for example. I turned 40 the day that waste of a human life walked into Sandy Hook Elementary and killed those kids. On my birthday I found out that someone I love went into rehab. Last week, we drove past a car abandoned by a 23-year-old jumper on the Skyway.
So turning 40 isn’t that bad. As I’ve seen, it beats the alternatives. So I’m older than I was. Big deal. Age, the saying goes, is just a number.
Of course, it’s one I can’t see without my bifocals.
Contact Cathy Salustri at CathySalustri@theGabber.com, preferably using large type.