“Are you taking those for your back, your neck, or your knee?” Kevin asked as I placed the super-sized bottle of Advil back in its place in our bathroom. The fact that we now carry a super-sized bottle of Advil is telling in itself, but more striking was the fact that my husband was honestly wondering which of my most recent maladies was causing my current need for pain relief.

Welcome to your forties, kid. It’s a bitch. For realz.

In this particular case, the cause of my discomfort was my neck. After spending the previous day on a particularly challenging rock climbing wall, I’d woken up with this very painful neck strain. Hahaha! I’m just kidding. There was no rock climbing. I went to sleep on a Tuesday night feeling fine and woke up on Wednesday morning with a debilitating neck injury. My pain was the apparent result of a condition known as “sleeping while 40.” It’s a thing. You can look it up on WebMD.

The best part was, unlike the old days when I would occasionally wake up with a sore neck from “sleeping wrong,” this time it lingered. For weeks. And it was weirdly localized to this one circular, dime-sized area above my collarbone, but the pain radiated out every which way, making each minuscule movement painful. It turns out with age, comes weirder and weirder symptomology.

In the meantime, I was continuing to deal with on and off discomfort in my lower back. You know John Cena? This is John Cena….

He’s a professional wrestler/actor.

Now imagine what it would feel like if John Cena were to wrap his hands around the lower third of your spinal cord and just squeeze the hell out of it.

That’s what it felt like.

Turns out with age also comes aches and pains reminiscent of unprovoked assault by professional wrestlers. And I don’t even watch professional wrestling.

Eventually, I realized my lower back problem stemmed from sitting, which is less than ideal on account of the fact that I sit a fair amount. Because I’m a human being.

But, what I later realized was, it wasn’t all sitting that was causing the problem; it was sitting “Indian style” or otherwise with my legs folded underneath me. All of which would have been fine if I didn’t always sit that way. Even when I used to wear suits every day to my old office, I’d frequently sit on my office chair looking like some sort of weird origami figurine. (My mother would not have approved, but she wasn’t there to scold me to “Sit like a lady!,” so I just did what I wanted.)

What I’ve now, unfortunately, concluded is that the only way I can sit in a chair without having to deal with John Cena is to sit like an ergonomically correct office worker.

And no one actually wants to sit like an ergonomically correct office worker because it sucks. (Though, admittedly, had I spent the last 40 years sitting like this, rather than like a human pretzel, my back probably wouldn’t hurt right now….)

In the midst of all this, I went to a dermatologist to get a skin check-up. If you haven’t noticed, I have a complexion that can best be described as “pallid ghost ” and over the course of many years coexisting with that great fireball in the sky, I have suffered numerous sunburns. Some were accidental (failure to re-apply sunscreen after swimming) while others were due to stupendous idiocy. Like the time in high school I went to the beach with two of my girlfriends, both of whom were Italian, and decided to use their baby oil rather than the SPF 60 sunblock I’d brought with me. “I mean, sure, they’re Italian, with naturally olive skin that grows incredibly dark over the summer, and my Eastern European skin has, at most, gone from “pasty pale” to “marginally less pasty pale,” but Eastern Europe, Western Europe…tomato, tomahto, right? Hand over that baby oil!!”

And that, boys and girls, is how I learned about 2nd degree sunburns.

A couple more burns (none so stupid, but most of which could have been avoided) have left me with the need to visit a dermatologist on a regular basis to make sure nothing has gone terribly awry on a cellular level. This time when I went, the nurse practitioner took note of a small dark spot on my stomach. She suggested a biopsy and, lo and behold, it came back “moderately atypical.”

If ever there was a euphemism for my existence, I believe that may be it.

As explained by the nurse, this meant: “it’s not cancer, but it could become cancer, or it could become nothing, so… your call.” Wonderful.

My call was to have it excised so I don’t have to worry about it… until the next “moderately atypical” or “completely atypical” or “Oh, that’s not good” spot shows up.

Rounding out my “Month of Painful Realizations Related to my Age” was Walmart.

Those bastards.

At Walmart, when you purchase alcohol, the cash register’s ‘check ID’ prompt appears on the customer’s side of the register as well as the cashier’s side. So, the cashier scans the bottle of alcohol, and the question “Is customer over 40?” pops up on the screen facing the customer. In my experience, most times the cashier will just hit the “yes” button and keep scanning. (While I’ve often found this automatic verification a bit disconcerting since I’m only JUST 40, I figure if you look well over 21, they are happy to just move the process along.)

But sometimes, oh sometimes you get a cashier with hate in her heart. That hateful grump will see the Check ID prompt, look up, activate her elevator eyes over the poor schmuck (that would be me) on the other side of the register, snicker, and THEN hit “yes.”

Oh yeah, there was a snicker. I saw it.

Last week we were in line with our purchases, which happened to include alcohol, when we came upon a cashier who, at least initially, didn’t seem very friendly at all. (I didn’t actually catch her name, but we’ll just call her “Jan.”) Well, Jan didn’t even say hello or acknowledge us when we first walked up, but as she scanned our booze purchase, she looked at the question on the register, looked up at me, and said “I need to see your ID.”

YAAAAASSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!

I was so happy! I broke into a huge grin and told her she’d made my day! She smiled broadly and then bowed her head toward me like she wanted to tell me a secret. Now that we were best friends I leaned in as she told me she was “just really worried about the ATF coming in” and busting her for selling alcohol to an underage person. Putting aside the fact that I’m reasonably confident the ATF has bigger problems to worry about than Jan at Walmart selling six packs of beer to 19 year olds, I told her I completely understood and went on to thank her profusely. I said it was just so nice to get carded because it was so rare anymore. As I continued to assume there existed a human being who honestly thought I could be under the age of 21, she helpfully explained that “the register asked if you looked like you were over 40 but I thought you might be as young as 35, so I figured I should ask!!!”

Thanks, Jan. That’s just great.

28 COMMENTS

  1. Lol!!!! Ahhhh, I can relate all too well. After hitting 40, I gained weight, had a continuous stream of running injuries, and people started calling me “ma’am” instead of “miss”. Seriously???? But life goes on and despite the malladies, 40’s are turning out to be pretty decent. We travel more, I lost the weight and am adapting to injuries 🙂 hang in there, it gets better!!

    • It is crazy how it really is a thing… like, people make a big deal about being 40, and I always kind of ignored it and assumed they were just joking. But no… they’re not kidding. Its like your body hits 40 and everything just starts going wonky. But, like you said, life can be pretty great when you’re in your 40’s too – it certainly has been for us this year – and that’s worth remembering as well.

  2. I sneezed In the shower yesterday and pulled a muscle in my back…….something to look forward to when in your 50’s. It’s all good…

    • It’s always great when you can manage to hurt yourself physically AND damage your pride in the same move, huh? I mean, you don’t lose pride by pulling a muscle moving heavy furniture or playing football, but when you pull a muscle sleeping, or sneezing, it really just makes it that much worse…. It’s a little insult added to your injury. Hahaha! Well, at least we are all getting some therapy today, realizing we are not alone.

  3. It sucks getting old. I don’t recommend it! 😁 I’ve been popping Advil like they’re M & M’s since I pulled my back making the bed … sigh! (ok maybe that was an exaggeration or my liver would be the next thing to go and we need to save that for the alcohol 😆)

    • The most important rule in life is: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The SECOND most important rule in life is: Don’t abuse your liver. That thing is super important. 😉

  4. ha hahaha! Suck it up, Laura! Ok, just kidding, maybe. It’s super fun when Alex asks my age. When I tell her I’m 43, her eyes grow huge and she tries to figure out how long it will take her to count to 43. Thank goodness the baby just thinks I’m one of her ageless toys… Can I recommend Tiger Balm? That sh*t works on sore muscles better than a Inga the Swedish masseuse … One more recommendation: Advil with a large glass of (whatever alcoholic drink you’d like). Kicks in immediately and you don’t feel anything for 6 hours. LOL. xoxo

    • Well, I mean, in Alex’s defense, 43 is a SUPER HIGH number! Hell, I don’t even know if I can count that high. HAHAHAHAHAHA! Put the knife down. I am hilarious and you love me. Anyway, I will look into this tiger balm of which you speak. I’ve never heard of it, but tigers are cool, so it’s at least worth checking into. Lord knows I will need it again soon enough!

  5. “With age, comes weirder and weirder symptomology”….ain’t that the truth!! Absolutely hilarious. My approach is generally to just ignore whatever’s hurting or feels weird in any way, and most important stay away from looking up symptoms on the internet. Because that NEVER turns out well. Now you have me worrying about the way I sit. I always sit with my legs crossed, yoga style. It’s comfortable!! “Moderately atypical” isn’t so good for skin stuff, but I’d say it’s just fine as a life diagnosis.

    • You could not be more right about the internet thing. When I broke my leg and looked up the particular fracture on the web, I convinced myself I would never be able to walk again. It was horrifying! So you’ll be pleased to know I did not start running around the internet looking up exactly what it means to have a “moderately atypical” biopsy. My doctor explained the options, I chose an option, and that was the end of it. No additional research. I mean, really, what did education ever do for anyone? Nothing. That’s what. 🙂 And I absolutely agree with your solution for random aches and pains. In fact, I often find “Ignore it, it will go away” to be sound advice when dealing with life’s obstacles.

  6. Getting old is definitely the pits but it good to be alive no matter how many Advil’s its taking. The dog and I (both in our 50’s) came up with idiosyncratic neck and back enuries about the same time. All I was doing was walking and , well he’s a bit crazier than I am …he was just playing ball.

    His vet bil was over $800 and he came away with a arsenal of meds. My chiropractor bill so far is $240 and there ar still more visits on teh agenda. HMM, maybe I should have taken his meds too!!!

    I feel bad for laughing at your post but Hey, you wrote it!! Feel better Laura!!!

    • Oh don’t worry – all of my posts are meant to be laughed at. I enjoy sharing these disasters with people because they are funny. So please, by all means, feel free to laugh at my expense! I am really sorry to hear about you and your dog though. We have more than a little experience with crazy vet bills, so I especially feel your pain on that, but we are all suckers when it comes to our pets, aren’t we? We’ll do anything to make them feel better…. Anyway, I hope things quickly improve for you both!

  7. Cathy and I can relate, in fact I need some additional skin removal on my nose due to an Abby normal reading, will get it done in early Jan in Alabama. Cathy still chuckles when she gets carded at Walmart….not bad when you are 57.

    • It is interesting how many people have these skin issues… I heard from a couple other friends today who read this article and reached out to say they had had the same thing. I had no idea how common it was. Probably should have listened to all that sunscreen advice for all those years. Oops. Anyway, it sounds like Cathy might be the go-to person for skin care advice. If she’s getting carded at 57, she must be doing something right!

  8. I’d take 35 at Walmart any day! I’ve heard that once you hit 50, “If it don’t hurt, it don’t work.” Just a little something to look forward to. 😀

  9. So, I’m 70. A long way from 40. Wait til you find out at 70 that those Advils you’ve been “popping like candy” all those years are now contributing to your new found kidney issue. Perfect health my entire life. Ran Cross Country in high school. Then 9 years in the Marines. Great shape, right? No! These “activities” contributed to both knees being replaced 5 years ago. Oh ya, and this year my middle toe has swollen up to the size of a VW beetle…twice. My Uric acid level is high, so doc says it’s Gout. But let’s take an x-ray anyway. It shows that it’s a broken and displaced toe which has now healed that way. “Do you know how you broke it”, the doctor asks? Yes, I stubbed it on the carpet…twice in 6 months. Broke it and then re-broke it, now healed that way. At 70, I apparently can’t even lift my feet higher than the carpet.
    Although you are a junior member, we all want to welcome you to the club. 🙂

    • But I didn’t even want to BE in the club!!! Dammit!! No fair!!

      I honestly love all these stories of people hurting themselves in stupid ways. It’s a like a therapy session for everyone who reads the blog. “You are not alone!!!” Your broken toe situation is crazy. My understand is that, oftentimes, when people break their smaller toes, the doctors don’t even do anything. They just tape it to the neighboring toe and let it heal on its own. So not only did you break it, but you broke it badly enough that it needed to be set. That’s impressive (in a terrible way.) 🙂

  10. Very funny post and comments!

    I remember the good old days when I was 40 and people would call me Ma’am. After I turned 55, young women started calling me “Dear” and “Hon” when they waited on me. Shoes, tires, coffee—-its all the same and I am still their “Dear”. It makes me feel like a tiny, grizzled great-grandma!

    Now that I think about it, I find young men (18-40) to be the friendliest and most comfortable in my aged presence! Getting old is weird!

    • Hahaha! It sure does sound like it. I guess it really is all just a matter of perspective. You include 40 year olds in your definition of “young men,” while here I am complaining that 40 is making me feel old. I imagine at some point, I’ll look back on this post and think “Ha! If I only knew…”

  11. Hilarious as always! I can relate and adding more years is a bitch and a blessing! Wait till you get 60! and Advil will continue to be your best friend. Happy Birthday!

  12. Your posts always make laugh so loud that Shoam demands to know what I’m reading. 😂 Cashiers all seem to think I’m 12 (cuz the pre-teens obviously have a thing for Pinot Noir), so I get the joy of being treated like a teenager while dealing with sleep-induced back pain. I refuse to take this as flattery – I think it’s just a sign that cashiers look deep into our souls to determine what will crush us most on that particular day.

    • Haha. I appreciate the depth of your cynicism. That’s not something that just develops over night. It takes years to get tired enough of everyone’s crap, you just assume the worst about random cashiers. That is some impressive stuff! 😂

  13. I think Celena is hilariously insightful: “I think it’s just a sign that cashiers look deep into our souls to determine what will crush us most on that particular day”.
    Again yesterday, a young woman cashier called me “dear” after handing back my change. I am 63, 5’10 and strong as a horse (?) I will never understand why this form of endearment/salutation continues to haunt me whenever I go shopping!

    • I’m thinkin maybe you should respond back with something equally inappropriate? I dunno, maybe refer to them as ‘Kid’ or ‘junior’ or ‘half pint’??? 😃

  14. Always get those spots removed!! I am a stage 3b cancer Melanoma survivor 🙂 I’m paranoid about it myself

    I’m 43, I pretty much agree with everything right down to the huge bottles of painkillers, lol.

    • Hi, Thanks for reading and commenting. I will definitely be making my yearly skin check a YEARLY skin check (I’d been a bit half-assed about it in the past). I guess I can’t take for granted my health anymore… Glad to hear you are a survivor. I cannot even imagine how scary that must have been (and I’m sure continues to be.) I just checked out your blog and really like your writing. I’ll be following along.

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