TURNING 40
CHICKEN FEED - CHICKEN FEED By Robina Gokongwei-Pe () - July 22, 2001 - 12:00am
The day before I turned 40 (which was sometime this year), I decided to clean out this particular closet of mine at home that contains tons of things from the past, from newspaper clippings to albums to yearbooks to souvenir programs, plus a 25-year-old stamp collection which I haven’t checked out in years. I decided to do it not because I was getting sentimental about getting old, but because I wanted to see if my joints could still take all that bending and climbing.

In the course of doing so, I got hold of the yearbook and the program of the commencement exercises of Batch ’85 of the Ateneo Law School, to which my husband Perry belonged. Perry also turned 40 this year, our birthdays being only two weeks apart. We were baptized by the same French priest in the same church in Pasay City one week apart. I don’t know how that happened, but let’s get back to the yearbook which gave me two surprises.

One, Perry was half the size he is now, but his hair was twice the volume. He wore huge owlrimmed glasses that covered a third of his face, but due to the magic of laser technology, two years ago, he threw his glasses away.

I had forgotten that Perry was editor-in-chief of the Ateneo Law Journal, or so said the yearbook, and when I saw a few copies in the closet, I couldn’t imagine how people could have read such boring stuff. But then I am not a lawyer so I guess it is unfair of me to judge what is and is not boring. Perry finds the stuff I read boring, too, anyway, but that is the reason men are from Mars and women are from Venus (with apologies to the author of this bestselling book).

The second thing that surprised me was a familiar name I saw in the program of the annual commencement exercises of the Ateneo de Manila University School of Law held on March 28, 1985. Listed under "Honors and Distinctions" was no less than Edward S. Serapio of the Erap Muslim Foundation fame. Perry had mentioned to me that Atty. Serapio was his classmate but I had totally forgotten about it until I saw the program.

Atty. Serapio had topped the class and was awarded the "Gold Medal for Academic Excellence." In the yearbook, he was described, jokingly, as someone with "multiple personalities," one of which was "Ed, the philospher" after he had apparently said, "What am I doing in law school?"

"Multiple personalities" was what intrigued me because now the guy is being accused of being such, specifically, fronting for an ex-president in some housing deals and a foundation. Actually, Atty. Serapio’s wife is a talented interior designer, and she did my parents’ condominium unit a few years ago.

Moving from one personality to another is what you have to face as you grow older. Turning 40 for me wasn’t as hard as turning 21. When you turn 21, it’s like you’re forced to move from childhood to womanhood, and I simply couldn’t get away from childhood. Childhood is the time when you can laugh as loud as you can and people will say you’re a happy kid. If you’re an adult and you do that, people would think you’re uncouth or a lunatic.

At 40, I still haven’t gotten away from childhood. Like a child, there are a few things I still refuse to take seriously. As my favorite gay friends like to say, be careful with those wrinkles, mader!

Turning 30, on the other hand, wasn’t bad at all; anyway, during my time all they bugged you about was when you were going to get married. And then when you get married, the next agenda was when you were having children.

It was quite annoying but at least they nagged not only the women but the men particularly on the procreation agenda.

What is it like then turning 40? I do not know who started the line "Life begins at 40." I honestly do not know exactly what it means, although for a lot of men, it means frequenting more bars to prove their machismo, I think. For married women, it’s the start of being a DOM (dirty old maid).

It was George Orwell who said in 1949, "At 50, a man gets the face he deserves." At 40, a woman gets the waistline she deserves.

At 40, some women go back to childhood in the sense that we start imagining things. I was in Hong Kong last week to attend a retailing seminar, and over dinner, a lady from Malaysia who was in her mid-40s and myself found ourselves as the only women at the table. Out of boredom we started talking about men in this particular country in Europe who like to pinch the behinds of women strangers on the streets whom they find attractive. I knew that I was 40 when both of us agreed that it was our secret desire to be pinched at this age.

At 40, men become crazy, like my husband Perry who organized a birthday golf tournament recently with his friend. They called their tournament "RAPE Golf," and its tournament participants "rapists." Disgusting name, indeed. No women allowed, thank goodness. Actually, RAPE stands for Recreational Activity for Professionals and Entrepreneurs and is supposed to be the prominent golf tournament for men between 40 and 50, or so they say!

Going back to my cleaning session, I managed to clear out the closet but ended up with a masahista the following day. My only consolation about being 40 is that I have not yet been mistaken as my husband’s mother.

ACADEMIC EXCELLENCE ATENEO LAW JOURNAL ATENEO LAW SCHOOL EDWARD S GEORGE ORWELL GOLD MEDAL HONG KONG HONORS AND DISTINCTIONS MANILA UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW SERAPIO
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