How I Spent My 40th Birthday

2017: Holly and the Sports Bra turn 40.

With aging comes self-discovery. In the past year, I discovered that I am the type of person who is a bit anxious about her impending middle age and all that comes with it. The "all that comes with it" includes but is not limited to: gray hair, people calling me ma’am, the sudden inability to digest lactose, and that unsettling moment my husband said we shouldn’t have more kids because I have (and this is a direct quote) “old-ass eggs."

My anxiety surrounding my 40th birthday has spurred a lot of conversations like the following:

Holly: Marlon Brando was 40 once.

John: So?

Holly: Now Marlon Brando is dead.

John looks perplexed despite Holly’s sound logic.

(In other news: watched The Godfather for the first time this past week. Perfectly plotted film. Very short on laughs.)

Yesterday, my birthday arrived without a whole lot of fanfare. The husband and I had decided to take the kids to see a movie that morning. We trudged through the wintry tundra to the theater, where we stood in a longer-than-expected line for the 10:15 am showing of Jumanji. We were shocked to hear that the theater was mostly full and that the six of us would not be able to sit together. This made me sad.

I conveyed this information to the ticket agent:

Holly: It’s my birthday. My 40th birthday. I just wanted to sit and watch The Rock and Kevin Hart banter while sitting with my family on this cold and snowy day. Now I can’t, and I feel sad.

Ticket agent: I’m so sorry- there’s nothing I can do.

Holly: Well, you could AT LEAST say happy birthday and then tell me that I don’t look old enough to be 40.

Holly gives ticket agent a toothy grin. The character of Holly is an old lady, but still has a full set of teeth.

Ticket agent breaks into a smile.

Ticket agent: Oh you don’t! You really don’t! You look WAAAY younger than 40!

Ladies and gentleman, that was the incredible moment when I realized how I could best spend my birthday: by demanding that everyone whose path I crossed that day wish me a happy 40th, and by insisting they tell me I looked far too youthful to be 40. I would have fanfare. I would stoke my own ego by forcing others to pander to my insecurity. I would embarrass my children, a happy byproduct of all the fanfare.

As John finished purchasing our tickets, I demanded that the people in line behind us wish me a happy birthday and tell me how young I looked. Then I announced that in honor of my birthday, all 10:15 am Jumanji tickets were on me!

“But there are no more tickets…” said the ticket agent.

“Rats,” I said.

The line people did not seem sorry to see me leave.

We watched Jumanji. (Dwayne Johnson is no Marlon Brando, but Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is yet another example of a perfectly plotted film.)

After the movie, we stopped by Home Depot for a new shovel and some clearance Christmas lights. The man stocking the lights and the cashier both happily wished me a happy birthday and feigned astonishment at my age. I garnered similar responses from the kid who made our pizza at Salvatore’s and his cohort, kid #2. 

My younger sister came by later that afternoon to babysit so that John could whisk me away to a nice hotel to celebrate the fact that I was one year closer to death. Upon leaving, I might have screamed at my sister incoherently about her youth, my lack of youth, something about crow’s feet, and what she could feed the kids for dinner. “EAT THE LEFTOVER HAM! WE HAVE SO MUCH HAM! I’M 40!”

We checked in at the hotel, and I informed the staff of my age and maniacally demanded a response. I think that was when John decided I should not be around people anymore. So, we retired to our room to watch Game of Thrones. (He watched Game of Thrones. I occasionally interrupted in between naps to ponder whether I’d rather have a dragon or a direwolf, to accidentally reveal a major plot point I’d read on the internet, and to marvel at Cersei’s cheekbones.) I snoozed on and off until dinner time because that’s what 40-year old mothers do when they get away with their significant others. They nap. Then they eat and drink and go to bed at a reasonable hour.

At 7:00, we ventured to the hotel restaurant where I ordered the scallops, which were set dramatically atop beet puree, served with king trumpet mushrooms, wilted spinach, and something that was described as “emulsified”. It was almost as good as the Salvatore’s pizza I ate earlier that day. As we ate, John noted that the waitstaff seemed to be making a big deal out of one of the men seated behind us.

“It takes a lot of confidence to wear a hat like that,” John said of the man. “I think he might be famous.”

So, I turned around and had a gander.

“I think that’s Garth Fagan,” I whispered. After a furtive google image search, we confirmed the identity of Mr. Fagan and, admittedly, I became a little giddy.

The great city of Rochester is tall on snow, short on celebrities. We have, like, three of them. There’s the guy from Foreigner, Olympic soccer star Abby Wambach, and famed choreographer Garth Fagan. If one happens to come across any of these three, one naturally feels compelled to introduce oneself.

I wanted to introduce myself. But what could I possibly say to Garth Fagan? What intelligent words could I emit that would a) make up for interrupting his dinner and b) endear myself to him forever? These were my ideas:

I loved your work in The Lion King! (I’d never seen The Lion King, and I didn’t want to start out our budding friendship with a lie.)

You are such an asset to our community! (Horrible. Just horrible.)

My daughter takes dance. You should meet her. You’d like her! I always thought she’d make an excellent gazelle in The Lion King. Or hyena. We’re not picky. Here’s her headshot. (Better… a little weak, a little desperate, but coherent.)

Hey Garth Fagan. It’s my birthday. I’m 40. Do you think I look 40? Do you? Do you? DO YOU?


Our families are skiing together next week. Great 40th birthday.

I would totally share the selfie I took of us, but you can see my crow’s feet, so you’ll have to take my word that the events I have shared happened in the way I have described.*

*I did not converse with Mr. Fagan. He was spotted, but not approached. If it had been Lou Gramm, though, I would’ve definitely walked up to him. I imagine the exchange would have gone something like this:

Holly: Hello Lou Gramm. It’s my birthday. I’m 40. Do you think I look 40?

Lou Gramm: You know, I’ve been waiting for a girl like you…

Holly: I’m taken.

And scene.