First and foremost, you must declare loudly and emphatically to any and all who will listen that you will NOT, under any circumstances, be participating in any sort of mental breakdown upon reaching the ripe old age of forty. You must scoff at such B.S. and brush it off as something left for only the weak-willed, pasty-skinned, limp-wristed babies of the world. You are tougher than that, and you still have plenty of life to live. You must shout this from the mountaintops! (This part is important so that later, when you are sobbing into your cheese puffs and licking your orange-stained fingers, you will seem all the more pathetic for having fooled only yourself into believing in your supposed mental stability.)
Next, cheerfully celebrate the BIG day with your friends and loved ones. They have no idea of the spontaneous mental combustion that is about to occur, so let them have their fun. Eat cake, open the lovingly-wrapped packages of Depends undergarments and fiber tablets, and laugh along with everyone as you welcome the beginning of the end.
It’s important to remember that during any and all festivities, you should have a smile on your face that resembles one of those spooky clown smiles, you know, the kind that is so huge and not-even-lifelike that it just barely hides the neurotic shitstorm that is swirling beneath the surface. You are going to look so damned happy it’s scary, and believe me, it’s about to get really, really scary.
Just about the time everyone is saying to themselves, “Wow, she handled that a lot better than I thought,” here’s what you do.
You flip your shit out. No one will know what hit them. At home you start to wail about so many different things that people don’t even know how to begin to help you make your life better. For example, sentences, should be really incoherent and disjointed and full of wailing and snot and tears, like this:
“I don’t know what to do my ass is too big and my boobs are too big and I can’t get the laundry all done and the cat won’t behave and I have to walk the dog and no one will empty the trash and the car steering wheel always pulls to the right and no one cares and my headaches are worse and I don’t think I’m getting enough sleep and I want to spend more time with the kids and OH MY GOD what is WRONG with meeeeee????!!!!”
By the time you approach the end of this sentence, if you have done it correctly, your family will be crouched together in a safety formation in the corner, each one of them holding a lawn dart aimed at you in case they should have to practice any immediate self-defense maneuvers.
It’s also important to remember that if you are a professional, you will need to repeat these steps at work, lest anyone there be under the impression that you are—or ever were—totally sane. It works well if you let several weeks pass after you reach the doomed age, once again letting co-workers and friends believe that you have very maturely and gracefully accepted your midlife status.
Once everyone has become comfortable with your “sanity,” that’s when you unzip the straightjacket and go all bat-shit-crazy on their asses. Oh yes, and it helps if you can do this in the most public of places, preferably the cafeteria or coffee shop or whatever central watering hole you may have—you know, wherever the entire world can see you lose your shit.
You will need to cry, and if you can let snot run down your face while someone else is attempting to eat his or her lunch, all the better. Run down a long list of your inadequacies, and you should also bring up irrelevant topics to your boss. Let him know all about the pony you didn’t get for your tenth birthday and how that made you a crappy writer, and tell him about how you always burn corn muffins so of course you can’t write an effing merchandising message and doesn’t he even SEE how those things go hand in hand in the whole grand scheme of failures??!
Finally, go back to your desk and eat cheese puffs and chocolate and repeat to yourself, “Dammit, I am a professional and a good mom, and I am successful.” (As you try to get the chocolate and cheese stains off of the work documents at your desk.)
Ok, so maybe I’ll have a little bit of a midlife crisis. I’ll let you know when I’m done.