13 May, 2019

Turning 40 can strike fear into the heart of the bravest individual, but as Andrew Dickens gladly discovered, your 40s can bring all manner of pleasant surprises. Here are nine of them.

Generation gaps aren’t that big

harold and maude generation gap

Post-Brexit, much as been made in the press of war between the ‘older’ generation and the ‘younger’ generation (exact age criteria rarely given). It’s billed as if they’d actually fight each other in the streets if it wasn’t for the fact that neither generation likes to leave the house.

When you hit your 40s, you’re slap bang in the middle of these generations. People in their 20s still talk to you; sometimes they even ask you for advice because you’ve allegedly accrued some level of life knowledge. Older people talk to you because they recognise someone who’s used a phone box and a cheque book.

It makes you realise that, for all the social and technological changes, it’s not age that makes a difference, just whether a person is a massive tool or not.

Your body doesn’t collapse in on itself

I was waiting for this one. I was waiting for the aches and pains and needing to pee three times in the night and gradually filling out my baggiest of baggy clothes because my metabolism had slowed to the pace of a particularly lethargic sloth – but it didn’t really happen. My 40s have probably been my fittest decade.

It’s not all plain sailing. I pee more during the day, but I put that down to drinking more coffee (also a side-effect of hitting 40, cos I’m sophisticated now). And I probably do ache more, but that’s because I’m now married and only get half a bed to sleep on.

Walking is the best

will smith and dog in i am legend showing that walking is great

When you reach 40, you seem to work out that the best way to travel is the way nature designed us to travel. Weird.

When you’re younger, you have an aversion to walking. It’s either too much effort or not fast enough or too boring. Then, in your 40s, things change. Your legs and brain meet up and produce a PowerPoint presentation designed to teach you a few things:

  1. Walking really isn’t much effort.
  2. Walking is great for your mental health.
  3. Walking is really good exercise.
  4. Walking is really good exercise you can do without needing a gym membership or a shower.
  5. Walking is really good exercise you can do while enjoying scenery/music/sunlight/cake.
  6. Walking is often quicker than public transport.
  7. Walking doesn’t hate Mother Earth.
  8. Just because you can’t walk all the way doesn’t mean you can’t walk some of the way; you can kill the worst leg of commute by walking it.

The next thing you know, you’ve joined the Ramblers, got a dog, invested in some seriously nice ‘activewear’ and reduced your stress levels by 79 AAAAAAAGGGGGHHH points.

Read more: How to lose weight and get fit in your 40s

I like more food

No, really. I was a supremely fussy eater as a kid, with my diet pretty much limited to peanut butter sandwiches (still my favourite spread) and anything you could coat with vinegar (I still eat pickled beetroot straight from the jar and don’t even think about judging me).

Now, there is very little I won’t eat (goat’s cheese can burn in hell) and so, so much more I enjoy. I think this is pretty universal. As you get older, you get more adventurous. You travel more and discover ‘foreign foods’. You’ve probably been in more relationships in which you ate stuff to impress or appease the other person.

Also, between the ages of 40 and 50 you begin to lose taste buds, while the ones you still have shrink – so you can’t taste the nasty.

I can still wear trainers and hoodies

sylvester stallone in rocky wearing a hoodie and looking happy

Yeah, I wasn’t really expecting this one, but I didn’t have to make a full swing towards the boots, jeans and jumpers in my wardrobe. Maybe wear a lot of blazers. However…

It’s probably down to some collective Peter Pan syndrome – which I wholeheartedly welcome – but people over 40 dress basically the same as 20-somethings. Trainers, hoodies, sweatpants: all are perfectly acceptable and I can afford to buy more of them.

Which is great, because you also appreciate an elastic waistband more post-40.

My quality-quantity ratio is much better

Something at some point in the last couple of years went ‘ping’ in my head and I realised that my money is better spent on good things.

Yeah, revolutionary, right?

But that doesn’t always register when you’re younger and more skint and on the look-out for ‘bargains’. Then, £20 spent on five pints of generic lager seems like a cunning plan. Now I know that £20 spent on three pints of tastier, poncier, more expensive and – crucially – stronger craft beer is a much better investment. Likewise, I now know that a £100 jacket will look better and probably last longer than a £40 jacket.

‘Buy cheap, buy twice,’ is an old and well-known adage – it’s just taken me 40 years to pay it any attention.

Read more: 6 amazing things I discovered in my 30s that I never noticed before

There are fewer f*cks to give

john cleese nakes in a fih called wanda mid life crisis

I thought I’d worry more as I reached middle age. I thought I’d worry more about death and getting fat and making money and what I was doing with my life.

And yes, I do worry about these things, but less than I did before. Why? I don’t know. Maybe it’s accumulated wisdom or maybe I’m just too tired to care. But it’s probably because you realise that there’s very little point in wasting the next 40 years of your life consumed with more anxiety than is completely necessary.

There are also things you used to give a monkey’s about when you were young but don’t anymore. Things like being ‘cool’, being ‘ripped’ and, of course, your impending 40th birthday. There’s a whole list here.

‘Why not?’ becomes your motto

I think this is the most pleasant aspect of any midlife crisis. As mentioned, you don’t care about being ‘cool’, you can taste less, and you’re also aware that you’re around the halfway marker in life so, if you’re going to do something, you might as well do it soon. Worst comes to the worst, you’ve had some good years, eh?

I have my limits: bungee-jumping, skydiving, holding a giant cockroach, sleeping alone in an isolated Gothic castle near an insane asylum. But these are few and far between now.

I didn’t notice I was 40

tom hanks dancing on piano in big

There was no discernable overnight change. My hair stayed in, I didn’t become more right-wing, I didn’t start putting hashtags in my Twitter profile and I didn’t start dating a 21-year-old. It’s almost as if 40 is only a little bit older than 39.

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