Because of the Sept. 1 kindergarten cutoff date where I grew up, and because my birthday is in early September, I was the first of my high school friends to turn 16, get my driver’s license and start driving. I was also the first of my college friends to legally get into bars. On both occasions, I felt excited and free.

But this past birthday, I received cards from those dear friends who reminded me that I was the first to turn 40. Yippee. It’s not so much fun being the oldest anymore.

The other day, I found the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce 40 Under 40 insert in the Arizona Daily Star, and the headline “Rising Stars Discovered” was staring at me. Are there any 50 Under 50 programs out there? Or should my star have risen by now?

I know, I know. Keep things in perspective. The window for success hasn’t closed.

At 64, Diana Nyad recently became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage. Susan Boyle was discovered at age 48 when she sang the song “I Dreamed a Dream” on “Britain’s Got Talent.” Ronald Reagan wasn’t elected to public office until he was 55.

I really don’t think about my age very often. It’s not top of mind. But I do when people ask my age, or when I graduated from high school or college, which is essentially the same question. These questions come up more often than they should. I thought it wasn’t polite to ask a woman her age.

One fabulous aspect about turning the page to a new decade is that it gives you a reason to celebrate. My husband asked me what I wanted to do, and I thought about different options: family vacation, trip with my husband or with other couples, getaway with girlfriends, dinner in town with close friends or a big party at our house.

I decided on a couples’ trip to Las Vegas, and we had a wonderful weekend. The Saturday of our trip, as we were walking through Caesar’s Palace, we saw a group of friends wearing identical T-shirts. They read, “Give me a high five! Gloria’s turning 75!”

I gave a smiling Gloria a high five and told her it was my birthday, too. And I decided that when I turn 75, I’d like to embrace it and celebrate it, just like Gloria did.

Kelley Helfand is a Foothills resident and mom to two sons. E-mail her at