I’ve grown up, and apparently, so has my taste in crackers. But, there is something special about these bite-size delicacies that can turn my hanger into sweet serenity. Throw in a glass of Rosé, and I’m totally, if temporarily, sated.
It’s a perfect and elegant pre-dinner nosh.
Here’s the thing about the cracker-app; it’s so easy to up your game, depending on your budget, time and guest list . Your basic cheese and cracker will do just fine, but if you want to go a step further, try a gourmet compote or savoury jelly, ask your butcher for some extra-thinly sliced prosciutto, and explore some cheeses. My favourite is Peau Rouge, a nutty-flavour, fine small batch cheese from Quebec, Canada.
The Ultimate Upgrade
A couple of years back, a friend went to Italy, and brought me back a gift I treasure – a bottle of artisinal balsamic vinegar from Modena, where ageing their balsamic is taken as seriously as their wine, and where brides will often be gifted a bottle of fine balsamic vinegar that was bottled by the family when they were born.It is exquisite. I dole this out carefully, but, a few drops of this sweet nectar on the top of a cracker piled with the perfect cheese, a melt-in-your-mouth prosciutto, and a swipe of compote will take this to the next level.
What are your favourite gourmet cheese and cracker combos? Share below.
step one: don’t be ageist.
So much of how we define ourselves , and thus end up silo’d, is determined by which age-box we tick off on a form. It’s a gravitational pull towards the norms. When we’re in the market for a relationship, one of the first questions friends ask is ‘what is your age range’. Typically, it’s within a few years either side of our own age. Unless, you’re a man, in which case, no matter what your age, you prefer 24 year olds. (To be fair, that only reflects men on OkCupid.) Truth is- and, ask any woman over 35 and they’ll have the stories to back it up – men are not afraid of dating older women, not as a weird fetish, but because they recognize what they bring to the table – strength, experience, wisdom, perspective. Don’t rule out the younger man, that would be ageist.
step 2: Think, don’t overthink
Finding love after you’ve had some serious life and relationship drama is different than it was fifteen or twenty years ago, when you didn’t know what you know now. So, don’t expect to approach it the same way. It might be a more serious consideration, involving kids, or strict boundaries, or some trust issues you’ve acquired. On the other hand, it might be a post-divorce taste of freedom that has you YOLO-ing all over town. Regardless of what you tell anyone else, be honest with yourself.
“But – and, ask any woman over 35 and they’ll have the stories to back it up – men are not afraid of dating older women, not as a weird fetish, but because they recognize what they bring to the table – strength, experience, wisdom, perspective.”
step 3: remove the deadline
Shockingly (to me, at least) is that the average time for remarriage after a split is three years. That doesn’t seem a like a huge amount of time for healing, regrouping and figuring yourself out. Maybe not surprisingly, the second-marriage divorce-rate is higher than the first timers. The lesson? Take all the time you need. Meditate, reconnect with girlfriends, make a life-list or a vision board and focus on what you really want for your life with or without a partner. For many women, this is a time in life when they pivot; they find their true north and put their own happiness back at the top of the list. This is incredibly important. As flight attendants have taught us, you have to put your own oxygen mask on before you help anyone else.
According to the Pew Research Center remarriage is still very popular, despite it’s very bad track record. The average age of divorce (erm, the first one) is 30, but that doesn’t make everyone gun shy. There’s a glut of couples on their second marriage between 35-54, and how about the huge number of couples 55+ tying the knot. The wedding industrial complex is alive and well.
step 4: remember, you’ll be fine
I’m not sure I’d call dating at any age ‘glamorous‘ (shout out to goop, but, no) considering the very high chance of endless first-date small talk, and, mismatched ideals, but, one thing I know is true, many women meet their soul mates in their forties, and have fulfilling, rich and rewarding relationships because they know themselves a lot better than they did when they were 24, and the ‘happy ending’ we’re looking for is centred on realistic goals and authentic connection, which may or may not include marriage. Either way, you’ll be good.
What has your experience been dating in your forties? Spill!
It signalled the end of the school year, the promise of warmer weather, and well, swimming lessons. It also meant the return of what a 9-year-old palette craves – piping hot salt-and-vinegar french fries, fresh from the canteen and inhaled after hours of play in frigid water. The pool was a 15 minute walk from my house, and sat in the shadow of the brick school that I attended from kindergarten through graduation.
Waiting for the Whistle
So it began. Every year, on the first day of Pool Season, kids in bathing suits would push to the front of the queue to claim bragging rights to being the first to plunge into the deep end of the ice cold water, pumped in courtesy of the volunteer fire department. It would be days, even weeks before the capricious summer sun would start to warm it.
The doors would open and we’d file in, speed walking along the rough concrete deck to get into position.
There I stood, punier, paler and younger than the rest, staring into the highly chlorinated shimmering water in nervous anticipation; silently wondering if I’d forgotten how to swim in the last 10 months. We waited, shivering pre-teens, lined up along the edge, legs cocked for push off; impatient for the the lifeguard to blow the first whistle of the season.
Before the whistle had finished we’d throw ourselves from the ledge, head first into the water, and emerge screaming from the cold water and the excitement.
Summer had begun.
How Not to Lie About Your Age
By the time I was 38 I was already obsessing about turning 40. Like many others, my notion of middle-age, especially for women, pointed to a loss of relevance, impending social invisibility and fading sexiness. I knew women in their 40s, 50s 60s and beyond who were relevant, brilliant and sexy. But, I was convinced they were outliers. It was that number, and a lifetime of unconscious judgments that I projected onto it that left me crippled with fear. If I couldn’t figure it out before forty, surely, I was doomed.
Blinded with determination, I devised a solid plan. I would throw a huge party for my 39th birthday. This would divert attention, so no one would notice when I turned 40 the following year (because, everyone was paying close attention to my age, obviously). The party fell on a warm October Friday night; a band played under a tent, there was dancing, a cocktail (the “Frantini”) was launched in my honour. I was surrounded by friends and, aglow on the love of friends and a few Frantinis.
Of course, I’d failed to see the hole in my master plan. Everyone assumed it we were celebrating my fortieth and that I was joking about still being 39. To this day friends who went to that party think I’m a year older than I am.
What followed in the next inspired soul searching, research, interviews and now, this blog.
I’ve done all of these things, for the record. But, this one is the scariest for me. This one is the closest to my heart. It’s letting you see me. And what if you don’t like what you see, or worse, don’t care?
Here’s the great thing about turning forty: in your forties you stop making decisions based on what other people think; rather suddenly, your own opinion about your life and your choices is the one that matters most.
Forty makes you braver than you’ve ever been. It’s a refreshing blast of ice water in your face; it’s a swagger earned only through experience. It’s a fresh start.
I don’t have kids, but I do have a mother. And, I’ve seen the sacrifices, the regret and the love that goes with the role. So, to all the women I know that are giving their all even when they want to give up, this is for you. You are so strong. Strength doesn’t come in a one-size fits all package. Your strength isn’t the same as mine, or your mothers.
You know how weak and incompetent you feel? It’s not true. It will pass. If no one ever says thank you, let me be the first: Thanks for showing up when all you want to do is give in. Thanks for sticking up for what is right even when it costs you.
Thanks for modelling friendship, self-love and empathy. Your strength is our salvation.
10 Things You Learn From Being Raised By A Strong Mother
1. You learn the value of independence. You don’t need a man to save you or anyone to take care of you, you learn by example that you are capable of living a full and happy life without having to share it with someone else. You learn that you can build a home, raise kids, cook, and do the dishes all while having a thriving career. You pretty much learn how to be super woman.
2. You learn the meaning of unconditional love. You saw your mom sacrifice her time, health and youth for you and your siblings, yet she never complained or gloated about how much she is suffering or how much she is doing. She always had a smile on her face and was happily giving more and more of herself. She taught you what selfless and unconditional love looks like, and you know you won’t be able to find that love anywhere else.
3. You learn how to love yourself. You learn how to walk away from the things that are not meant for you, you learn how to keep going even when the whole world is against you, and you learn how to believe in yourself when everyone is doubting you. You learn that bad grades, heart breaks and failures don’t define you; what defines you is how you bounce back from all the setbacks and how hard you fight for the life you want.
4. You learn that you can be both strong and soft. Strong mothers are usually very sensitive they just hide it better, but you saw your mom silently cry over your pain, or stay up all night taking care of you when you were sick, or the nights she couldn’t sleep because something was troubling you. The way she hugs you when you are down shows unmatched compassion and tenderness and sometimes in a quiet corner you saw her shed a few tears.
5. You learn that it’s not easy being a woman. You learn that your opinion will be discounted, that you will be taken lightly when you’re being serious, but you will also learn that you can stand out in a crowd and force everyone to listen to your voice and accept your ideas. You learn that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
We’re in the studio recording a brand new podcast with incredible guests and information to help you redefine your forties so you get what you want.
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How do we talk about something if we don’t have the words?This difficult question has presented itself to me before I’m half-way through my first coffee. I’m standing in my socks, staring at a wall of sharpie-covered sticky note chaos in my office. It’s an early winter morning. I’m mentally willing the pastel cloud of research staring back at me to organize itself.
Language That Empowers
I’ve spent years investigating the topic of women turning forty from every possible angle. The notes are sorted into colour-coded categories that I’ve been digging into on the topic of women in their forties – Neurology, Biology, Psychology, Sociology – with dozens of sub-headings mixed in. It had become a point of practicality. I needed a shorthand to describe what I was doing.
I took a sip of coffee, looked at all the headings, and mumbled, “Fortyology.”
The Fear Whisper
Without exception, whenever the topic of my research came up, any woman over 35 and within earshot perked up, looked me straight in the eyes, and whisper-pleaded with me to publish my book before their fortieth birthday.
Turning forty was obviously on their minds, and despite a life that looked really good on Instagram, they were having a small (or in my case, large) freak-out. At the very least, they had some legitimate questions about life after forty.
Perhaps, it is because this is a truly complex time of life for women. It’s a time when we
are so much to so many in our lives, yet struggle with our own identity. Many women in their late 30s and early 40s feel profoundly unfulfilled, or disillusioned with the life they’ve built, irrespective of what it looks like on the outside.
It’s no wonder we lack a meaningful language to talk about this stage of life. Our words are borrowed from our younger selves, and more often from the media messages that we willingly and unwillingly absorb, and have for our entire lives.
The Age Gap
There is no lack of bite-size reading material on the subject of turning forty. Most of it social media clickbait, full of tired, patronizing advice, or lists of 40 Things To Do In Your 40s! Or, the truly gag-inducing Forty Is The New Twenty genre.
But, what I have found, despite research chops honed in national newsrooms, hundreds of conversations with scientists, psychologists, women (and men) of all ages and countless magazine articles and research papers is this: a common language to describe the era of your forties does not exist.
In fact, serious study of women between the ages of 36-50 is hard to come by. For decades, if not millennia, women in this age bracket have been dismissed as less than noteworthy in scientific terms, except for very specific exceptions, such as fertility.
But, finally there are signs of change in that gross overgeneralization.Research in the fields of biology, psychology, neurology, is opening new conversations and revealing valuable data.
To Have A Voice, You Need A Language
Which brings me to the name of our new language, and blog – Fortyology.
Forty, refers to the age bracket between 40-49, and ‘ology’ is the study of.
Yep, that’s me. World’s first Fortyologist.
Fortyology is the umbrella under which we will explore data, stories, sage advice and culture of being forty(ish) in a Boomer – Millennial world.
I’ve spent several years researching Fortyology from a place of passion, science journalism, self-interest and above all, the desire to share this with you. It’s no coincidence that I’ve also been embedded in the world of my forties and have learned much from my own experiences, research and wisdom from those who have come before.
I can’t wait to share this language and the world of Fortyology with you, and for all of us to expand our vocabulary.
Leave a comment, or send an email to share your thoughts on the language of forty.