Celebrating Forty

After I wrote my piece about turning thirty, Rachel (Joan Hunter Dunn of the marvellous Flowers and Stripes) told me she’d like to send in her take on turning forty.  This is that piece.  I love it because it looks back with Rachel’s signature dreamy, hazy style, and because it asks questions about age, and our perfecptions of age, how we label people with a number rather than with who they are.  

Rachel, we want pictures of you re-wearing your wedding dress at that floaty, intimate garden party.  Happy impending birthday.  Over to you:     


I loved my thirties.

I started them single, and quite happily so. I’d just chosen to finish dating a short term boyfriend. Twin and I held a party in a pub in Clapham. I knew who I was. I really enjoyed my early thirties. I was happy. I was pretty much single but there were often ‘possibilities’, dates and dating. I had times of wishing for that someone. I bought a small central flat and painted it pink. Around 33 I thought possibly now I’d really quite like to meet that someone. I went to a lot of weddings (our wedding was number 49), was bridesmaid a few times, friends had babies and I collected a precious handful of godchildren. I kept checking in with Bridget Jones and the SATC girls – I’m still their age or younger, it’s okay to be single. I had the time to develop and mature friendships. I made dear new friends. My mother was more worried about my single status than I was. Then when entering my 35th year I met Warmth. Twin and I celebrated 35 this time with a lunch party, so friends could bring their families.

Now we’re approaching forty. What does being forty mean for me?

I’d been thinking how I was looking forward to forty.  I don’t feel forty, but yet know that I’m not thirty. Maybe it’s the need to define ourselves, label ourselves I’ll fit a label when I’m forty. Is it better for my ego to be a young forty year old than an old thirty year old? Maybe people will say ‘Wow are you really forty? You look young.’ And I’ll feel flattered. But that’s really vain and superficial.

I want a cocktail or three but I want to be able to hear my friends. I’ve never been one for clubs so that part of my life hasn’t changed or made me feel ‘old’.  I feel very old in Topshop, but am happy buying their knitwear and makeup. Whistles is perfect. Certain trends aren’t for me. Even though my legs are one of my assets, the whole shorts trend, even with 120 deniers isn’t comfortable. I have an increasing number of grey hairs and wrinkles. I’m determined to go grey gracefully and not hide it. I realise though it’s maybe just me who is worrying about these superficial things. We all worry about them just at different ages and for me it’s now. But yet having just written about these hang ups I know I’m comfortable and confident in my skin.

I’m still in the newly married phase of my life, so I fit into that world. I’m enjoying establishing our home together, making decisions on decorating together. I do sometimes feel a small pang of jealousy that I didn’t meet Warmth sooner, that we didn’t have the whole of our thirties together. But we did meet each other and that’s what’s most important. Our parents are that much older, we worry about them now as much as they worry about us.

Yet all these concerns aren’t linked to being forty. Some have them in their 20’s 30’s or 50’s.

It makes me realise that perhaps we worry too much about age. I spend a lot of time at work talking about stage of development not age of the child, and I need to remember that as an adult.

How will we celebrate forty? On the day itself in Mallorca with my parents, twin, our husbands and The Blessings. Followed by a floaty intimate party in our garden where I hope to re wear my wedding dress.


Categories: Family, Friends and Relationships, Life Experience
18 interesting thoughts on this


  1. Posted May 15, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    I know I still feel about 8 inside, so the label of 30 which will be slapped on me later this year does seem strange.

    I think it’s natural to feel like you wish you’d met your partner earlier, as if those years before meeting were somehow a waste or they just took too long. But, like you, I always find myself reflecting on those ‘other’ years and feeling glad I had them. There’s that Beatles song which I think of sometimes:

    But of all these friends and lovers
    There is no one compares with you
    And these memories lose their meaning
    When I think of love as something new
    Though I know I’ll never lose affection
    For people and things that went before
    I know I’ll often stop and think about them
    In my life I love you more

    Your birthday celebrations sound perfect. Yes please to more photographs of you in that gorgeous dress!

    • Posted May 15, 2012 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

      I want a like button for this comment!

      K x

      • Posted May 15, 2012 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

        me too. Lucy, those lyrics are lovely, brought a tear to my eye.

        • Posted May 15, 2012 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

          Lucy I don’t like The Beatles (yes I know That could be seen as a crime) but I do really like those words. Thank you for sharing them.

  2. Posted May 15, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    This is lovely. I was having the ’30′ conversation with 2 friends over the weekend – one is determined to ignore it, the other to go all out on a massive party, I was the one in the middle going ‘I’m not at all bothered either way’. Funny how we all see these things so differently.

    And for what it’s worth you do look flipping amazing!

  3. Zan
    Posted May 15, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    Great post, very though-provoking. And I totally agree, we worry far too much about age. I know I have done in the past. I’m going to turn 35 this year and I’m probably the happiest I’ve ever been in my life, so it’s hasn’t felt like ‘a big deal’ in the same way that 30 did. In all honesty other people seem to be more bothered about my impending age than I am – I feel great :)

    • Posted May 15, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

      Zan I often think ‘other people’ make issues up for us when we’re quite happy with our own thoughts & feelings.

  4. Posted May 15, 2012 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    This is beautiful Rachel – I can’t wait to see some pictures of your wedding dress getting a well-earned second outing!

    I really believe that age is just a state of mind. I look at the ladies who come into my workplace who are 70 and up, see how full of life and vitality they are, and get excited about how much life I have in front of me. We’re all only young beans yet!


    • Posted May 15, 2012 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

      I’m so looking forward to being a stylish 70year old. Hoping my hair goes the right sort of grey, sleek bob like!

  5. Sandra C
    Posted May 15, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    I recently turned 40 and had no problem with it. I, also like you, are happy in my skin and recently married. It seemed everyone around me had more of a problem with it than I did. Its just numbers and is no reflection on my outlook or being. Im just being busy being me and don’t appreciate having my whole life reduced to a number. You look fab, btw-have a gorgeous time!!

  6. Posted May 15, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    Ahhh Rachel I love your beautiful, positive, inspirational writing. Lots of this struck a chord with me, especially what you said about stages of development not ages – you are SO right. Happy happy 40th!

  7. Posted May 15, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    I have some of the concerns now, age 26, that you mention having as you approach 40, those concerning parents and their continuing health. Life is a journey, no-one reaches the same stages at the same times, everyone progresses differently. This sums it all up perfectly, your words are a joy. Happy happy 40th.

    K x

  8. Posted May 15, 2012 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    I quite agree – age is but a number…I think most of us are still 16 on the inside! I’m 41 and having the time of my life….I’m about to get married and I was wondering what I’d do with my wedding dress afterwards – I think you have inspired me to keep it and wear it for my 50th…here’s to the next 10 fab years eh? :-) x

  9. Posted May 15, 2012 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    Rachel you write in the most beautiful way and sum up the whole age debate perfectly.

    My father in law recently turned 50 and had a bit of a melt down about it, which I really couldn’t understand. Provided you are able to look back on happy memories and take pride in your achievements then what’s to worry about? Life is so varied and exciting that we should all look forward to the next stage of our adventure. We shouldn’t waste our time mourning the past as we can’t do anything about the passing of time. I just think it’s such a waste to be downbeat about getting older (although perhaps when I’m on the brink of 50 I might feel differently…)

    Have a very, very happy and special 40th – can’t wait to see the dress! xx

  10. Posted May 15, 2012 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    Thank you all for your very warming & as ever thoughtful comments.

  11. Posted May 16, 2012 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    Wow are you really forty? You look so young!

    No really, you do. This is, as ever, thoughtful and lovely. I hope you have a wonderful birthday.

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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