In a recent article for The Awl , author Amy Sohn explains “The 40-year-old Reversion,” in which she talks about partying regularly with her Park Slope mommy friends, who semi-jokingly refer to themselves as hookers, sluts and drug addicts. I call my friends neat freaks, tennis junkies, and uber-readers, so I guess we hang out with a slightly different crowd. Then Sohn goes on to explain her – which, to be clear, is also my – generation of moms. To warn you, the language she uses is strong and I found her description shocking. In fact, my very own mother, upon proofreading this article for me, didn’t even want me to print Sohn’s words, worried that readers would confuse Sohn with me. But it’s important that you get just a taste of her point of view in order for me to then tear into it a bit. Sohn writes:
“We’re masturbating excessively, cheating on good people, doing coke in newly price-inflated townhouses, and sexting compulsively—though rarely with our partners. Our children now school-aged, our marriages entering their second decade, we are avoiding the big questions—Should I quit my job? Have another child? Divorce?—by behaving like a bunch of crazy twentysomething hipsters. Call us the Regressives.”
Now back to me.
I read the article and then skimmed through the 450 or so comments following the piece, in which Ms. Sohn and her friends were oft called selfish a-holes. As much as I was disgusted by the behavior of the people described in the article, I also had to admit that I recognized some of the acts and actions she listed from witnessing them in my own mommy world. Yes, occasionally, moms go out and have a fun Girls’ Night. The ones I know do not aim to get wasted every Thursday, but they do plan time away from home to socialize with girlfriends. But while Sohn goes for shock value in her recounting of these people, I would like to re-frame her understanding with a little bit of compassion.
Do we enjoy parties? Yes. Do we do it because we have regressed to our 20-year-old selves? No. We do it for precisely the opposite reason: because we know, by looking in the mirror at our wrinkled or Botoxed faces, how very far we really are from 20. We are not regressing and acting like kids. We are coping by acting out as adults.
We are adults who bury our mothers when they die of breast cancer in their 60’s. We bury our fathers who die quietly in their sleep. Sometimes, we bury our young husbands, and, incredibly, while somehow remaining erect, we bury our children. We bury a friend, who leaves behind small children that we promise to help raise. We console each other with hugs and tears and food and then pound it out at the gym and pedal fast at Soul Cycle to manage our stress and tame our grief.
And, occasionally, we spin down a pole on a party bus while slurping down Jell-O shots.
We are very much 40.
Our husbands look for work. We look for work. We sell off possessions while looking for work, and consider moving to a state that offers better lifestyle deals – lower taxes, cheaper property, better quality of life - than New York. We move to those states or we don’t.
We sing karaoke very loudly and off key while drinking Pinot Grigio from a pitcher.
We are not regressing.
We are very much 40.
We consider divorce. Our husbands come out of the closet. We definitely divorce. We get new breasts, and tuck in our tummies, and search for lumps. We manage our children’s homework and their ADHD and their demanding soccer coach. We take charge of family gatherings and dread Thanksgiving.
We attend a sex-toy party and look on in wonder and horror at all the things we don’t know while downing shots of some type of nameless alcoholic concoction that tastes vaguely like Children’s Tylenol.
We own it all and let it be a part of us: the good, the bad, the very real realities and the nights of drunken mayhem.
I am not trying to make excuses for bad behavior. Sohn mentions illegal acts and very large lapses of judgment that I think represent a fraction of the whole. I am merely trying to put occasionally outlandish nights in context by looking at them from my own, 42-year-old perspective. I remember being 20. 20-year-olds may party because they think they are immortal. I believe that 40-year-olds go clubbing and have a damned good time every once in a while because we know all too clearly just how human we are.
And so, I’d like to raise an imaginary glass and toast us moms. We have a lot of crap to deal with, quite frankly, and we need to bond together in a special kind of support group, not unlike AA. To the triathletes and cancer fighters, the boozers and the dancers, the PTA moms and dog-walkers, whether you are a karaoke-singer, pot-smoker, or pill-popper, whether you live for dermatological injections or despise those who do, Cheers. Whether you work in an office, from home, or not at all, Cheers. Whether or not you like your in-laws or even your husband, Cheers. If you are a mom, then you endure what we all do: the love, the heartache, the guilt, the worry, the stress. If you are a wife, then you know that sometimes you look forward to a drink with your husband and sometimes you crave one without him.
To all of you 40-year-old moms out there, good luck to you, and Cheers.
Columnist and blogger Julie Gerstenblatt writes with humor and candor about her life in Scarsdale, her friends and family, and the particular demands of motherhood and wifedom in modern-day suburbia. She recently published her first novel, Lauren Takes Leave.