For women who are over 50 years old. What advice would you give your 40 year old self?
August 18, 2009 6:33 PM   Subscribe

For women who are over 50 years old. What advice would you give your 40 year old self?

I'm turning 40 in a few months and want the next ten years (and more) to be the best time of my life. If you are over 40 and are female, what advice do you wish you could have told your 40 year old self?
posted by kerby to Human Relations (17 answers total) 57 users marked this as a favorite
Stay flexible and keep the weight off.
posted by zadcat at 6:44 PM on August 18, 2009

Lift weights regularly -- do not give it up or take long "breaks." Studies (I cannot cite, but from what I've heard...) report that women who lift enjoy greater self-esteem. Plus, of course, it's good for your bones.
posted by jgirl at 6:55 PM on August 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I'm fifty.

I'd have told my forty year old self that she was about to enter the best decade of her life. Because it was!

And that exercise is the bomb-go forth and do it!
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:27 PM on August 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

I know what my mom would say: recognize when you're not getting what you need from your relationships, especially your marriage. Take steps to get your needs met.
posted by dualityofmind at 7:33 PM on August 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

Take chances. Don't think it's too late to do what your heart is longing to do. Spend a little of your time and energy on yourself. The kids will grow up, the job will change (and one day you will retire), so start to get yourself the life you want after the intense family raising period is over. Plan not to say "I wish I had..." later on.

Nthing what jgirl said. I've seen a study that said laying off exercise for 6 months means you will take much longer than 6 months to get back to where you were. I'd add: do whatever exercise you like and learn to use weights properly if that's what you choose.

Oh, one more thing: be prepared for every doc you meet to insist that whatever is wrong with you is because of menopause. Be prepared to verbally swat the doc.
posted by x46 at 7:46 PM on August 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

don't over indulge in anything...particularly alcohol
posted by naplesyellow at 7:47 PM on August 18, 2009

Best answer: I am not a woman, but I would tell a 40 year old woman to look forward not back. Most woman in their forties I know who spend time remembering what it was like to be 35, etc. seem stuck in a rut while those who are planning ahead seem invigorated and happy.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:47 PM on August 18, 2009 [3 favorites]

You know all those stupid little things you told yourself you couldn't do when you were younger?

Well now you can.

Write a poem, or a novel, climb a mountain, drive across country, tell someone off, make love to a younger man and enjoy it?

And you can take a belly dancing class, too, because at your age, you know how to move your hips and shake it.

I've done all that since I turned 40, and I can tell you, Kansas has awesome badlands, the Rockies look awesome at sunrise when you're driving up the spine, Mt. St. Helens is cool, and younger men are both passionate and grateful. Shaking your hips is a LOT of fun!

A lot of the time in between those things was wasted in worrying.

So what I would say is: stop worrying, shake your hips more, and enjoy life.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 7:56 PM on August 18, 2009 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: @St. Alia of the Bunnies - Oh, I hope I'm going to enter the best decade of my life! :-)

@JohnnyGunn - Good advice, but I think I'm the opposite and think and plan too much for the future. Though, sometimes, it would be nice to be 25 again as the years are going by faster and faster. Hence, the question.

@zadcat, @jgirl - I know that I have to exercise and watch my weight. It gets harder and harder the older I get. I used to work out with weights when I was younger and now I'm just lazy about it.

More information:

I'm single and I don't have any kids. It just didn't happen, didn't meet the right guy to have kids and now I think it's just not in the cards for me. Not sure if I even want them at this stage.

I work in IT and make good money and have disposable income and all that, but most days I just want to chuck it all and run away. Then I think that I will regret doing that as I've worked and sacrificed so much to be in my current situation and I don't want to be stupid and end up a bag lady when I'm older. Maybe I should just work for the next ten years and then run away?

I think that I would have told my 30 year old self to save even more than I did, not to buy into retail therapy, not to stay in that soul-sucking job as long as I did, to stand up for myself and ask for raises every year, to exercise more, to travel more, to worry less. Oh, and to actively look for partner, rather than think that it would just happen. (it hasn't). The ten years just went by too fast and now I'm turning 40!
posted by kerby at 8:22 PM on August 18, 2009 [4 favorites]

Menopause gets bad press, do not read it.
posted by woman at 8:29 PM on August 18, 2009 [3 favorites]

Take good care of your skin - I started using Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair Serum when I was about 44, and at 50 my skin is (boasting here) amazing for a woman my age. I use a sunblock moisturiser and at night, over the Night Repair, I use Vitamin E oil.

Never sunbathe. If you smoke, give it up. Eat well, eat right. Exercise. Smile. Have a positive outlook. Have lots of sex, even if it's only with yourself. Travel as much as you can or want to. I learned to scuba dive when I was 44, something I wish I'd been able to do decades ago. Don't give in to fear. I've learned that taking a risk will often pay off in unexpected ways.
posted by essexjan at 1:35 AM on August 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'd love to ask my younger self why the HECK I didn't max out my contributions to my 401K...I know that's not really the sort of "live free" advice that others are giving, but DAMN when I think of how much further towards retirement I could be.....
posted by legotech at 2:42 AM on August 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: @legotech - I can totally relate. I have RRSPs but I could have put so much more into them when I first started making good money. Instead I was buying myself toys that things that I didn't have when I was growiing up. I don't moisturize and I guess I should. Thanks for the recommendation.

@essexjan - I would love to learn how to scuba dive! It's on my list of things to try before I die :-) Oh, and I don't smoke - that's one thing I learned early in my life and never took up the habit. So glad that I didn't as my sisters all smoke and now can't quit.

@woman - I have to think about menopause in my 40s?? It never even entered my head.

Thanks for the advice so far and keep them coming.
posted by kerby at 6:50 AM on August 19, 2009

Best answer: Go for it. Run away. Minimize your risks as much as possible first (save some money, maybe try "running away" for a shorter stint as a test, set it up so you can possibly return to your job if it doesn't work out?), don't do something totally insane that will screw yourself over if it fails, but seriously, just go for it.

If it sucks, or is too much money, or you discover that you really just want to live your life the way you've living it - hey, sometimes you need that difference and distance to realize that! - you can always come home.

I'm not 40 - I just turned 32 - but I've felt that same urge most of my life. I tried a brief stint last summer where I travelled to exotic locales, and yes, even climbed a mountain (you should totally do that if you haven't yet, it's amazing)! It was the most incredible experience of my life. I regret: nothing.

Now I am working towards structuring my life to allow me to do that more often, and longer-term.

I know I will just "go for it" soon. I can feel it :)
posted by jacquilinala at 8:44 AM on August 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Do NOT cut your hair really short and start wearing ugly polyester clothing. I have no clue why so many women, as their estrogen starts to dry up, seem to want to do their very best to look like ugly men. The way I figure it (I'm 52), this is a time in my life when I want to make a point of looking (and feeling) *more* feminine -- not less. Certainly, most women over 45 can't pull off the same look a 25-year-old can, but that's no reason to give up entirely.
posted by rhartong at 8:50 AM on August 19, 2009

OUCH! I'm 40, but I don't wear polyester, yet.... I look damn cute with short hair. Get whatever haircut best frames your face. Long hair is not appealing if it doesn't fit your face - whatever your age.
posted by goml at 2:34 PM on August 19, 2009 [3 favorites]

Everyone thinks women of a certain age should cut their hair off (35, 40, once you are out of your 20s). In real life, I hear this complaint recent college hires in their 20s with bad hair color and run-down shoes, but they get the idea from TV and magazines.)

My office has a lot of older Latin and South Asian women who have long hair and I'm hoping they will build a trend. (Granted, these are women with lovely, thick, healthy hair. There are 19-year olds out there with horrible looking shoulder length hair.)

No one who isn't 22 should try to look 22, but that doesn't mean you have to become a dowdy nun.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 1:15 PM on August 22, 2009

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