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Claire Chitham

ROAR-ING INTO HER FORTIES: GFU columnist Nic ponders what turning 40 today means for her.

ROAR-ING INTO HER FORTIES: GFU columnist Nic ponders what turning 40 today means for her.

 Our LA STORY gal pal Nicola Alpe recently spent her fortieth birthday celebrating at the incredible VOMO resort in Fiji. A beautiful getaway, close to Nic’s heart, she shares her thoughts and feelings on turning the big 4 0 , debunking how it truly feels and our perceptions on the ageing process in general.

This month I turned 40 and I can hardly believe it. I certainly don’t feel 40 most of the time (the rest of the time I feel like I’m 80 thanks to an inherently bad back), nor do I act the way I used to think a 40-year-old should act. What is 40 supposed to mean?

 Turning 40 is essentially the same as any other birthday once you have come of age so to speak. You don’t wake up feeling any different. You can already drive. You can already drink alcohol. You can already vote. You do however realise that your best friend you’ve had since primary school has been in your life for 35-years. You ponder that university was half a lifetime ago and you quietly shake your head and inanely say to yourself, how time flies.

 Having just celebrated my birthday with my Mum, she told me that she remembered 40 as the year her youngest of three kids, that was me, was off to school. Thanks to my waging strong resistance to being dropped off at kindy she had a sliver of time for the first time in over a decade before she went back to fulltime teaching and surrounding herself with other people’s children all day.

My Mum and I are living quite different lives at 40. The most obvious is that she was living just out of Cambridge on a farm with three kids, family living nearby, and commutes were mostly between Cambridge and Hamilton for the frequent tennis tournaments she was still playing in.

I am living in Los Angeles, no family nearby, and my very average mathematical brain is constantly computing how long it may take me to get somewhere at any given time and my even less able geographical brain is working like a live mapping system to make sure I take the right route. I am not complaining. We are in Los Angeles by choice and we really enjoy it. We don’t compare it to New Zealand because it’s so different and if you spend your whole time comparing the two, you won’t ever enjoy what is right in front of you.

Turning 40 in LA however brings about a raft of questions, mostly playing on long ingrained insecurities. Should I start getting Botox? Is it too late to get Botox? Has that ship already sailed, because the 23-year old selling me a hat told me that HIS Mum told him that he needs to start preventative Botox when he is 25.

All of a sudden, I’m looking droopy. Should I pop in for some filler or something, so I don’t look so droopy around my mouth? I mean, everyone has them in LA don’t they? Aren’t they all using organic skincare but having fillers every few months? One Mum at preschool had her boobs done on a Wednesday and was at pick up on Friday. I’m only having one child so should I get that done now? Should I start eating a vegan diet? I mean, look at that woman on Instagram who is a raw vegan and at 80 she looks incredible? Wouldn’t it be terrific to look like that at 80! I’d be the toast of the nursing home out there in my bikini wouldn’t I? And think of all those animals I had saved. God I wish I hadn’t started taking the pill so early, look at my thighs! How can I smooth those out so they resemble the thighs of everyone at Nobu this weekend? And why am I still getting hormonal breakouts at the age of forty!!

My husband used to threaten to cut up my credit card if I got Botox. Then I got a titanium credit card so ha ha. Yet, still I resisted. When this aforementioned 23-year old started telling me about how he is sliding downhill rapidly, I told him he is being ridiculous. I asked him why we exercise every part of our bodies from the neck down to make sure we stay toned and those muscles stay strong yet we paralyse our faces? He replied by exclaiming with genuine amazement, “But girl! You look amazing for forty!”. Seriously, he could not have used a more incredulous tone of voice like I should look totally haggard at my age. I went home and looked at a recent picture of myself and my parents. Every line on my face is the same as theirs. My expressive forehead is here to stay … for now.

 It will be a challenge to stay true to myself and to my values in an image-based city where it’s easy to constantly compare yourself to those who are more attractive, have more money or look younger than you. This decade I want to be the best version of myself physically and emotionally, not only for myself, but for my daughter too. I want her to continue to want to be strong and grow tall like Mummy. I love that she proudly shows me her muscles and I tell her that her growing feet, or her strong legs will take her to so many amazing places and will enable her to jump higher or run faster.

 Previous decades have all been about me. I want this decade to be about my relationships with the people I love. This will likely be the last decade I have both of my parents fit and well. My husband is older than me, so this also needs to be a decade where we enjoy each other and create really strong memories and family traditions. I’d like to get back to nurturing my relationships with girlfriends with a night away here and there now that we are all out of the small baby phase. I need to treasure this decade with my daughter because once the teenage years hit spending time with Mummy won’t be as exciting as it is right now.

Seven days in and forty is fabulous! My jet-lagged toddler woke me up at 4.30am and I shared the day with my Mum, my husband and daughter. I felt strong, healthy and euphoric thanks to a morning hike and I felt pleasantly floppy thanks to the breakfast Champagne. I’m excited for friends to join us later this week for my Family Friendly 40th and to start this new decade celebrating friendships that range between 2- and 35-years old. I’m grateful that I’ve learned about heartache, disappointments and even the ending of friendships. I feel I have wisdoms to share, some of which may help younger people embarking on their journey. I’m excited to discover my own brand of ‘me time’. I am open to life and to possibilities. And 40 feels fantastic.