I’m not saying that I turn 50 this summer but…I was born the same year the Beatles made their wildly successful U.S. debut. Also the same year and month that President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act. Not a bad time to come into the world.
In 1970, my family moved to Louisville, KY. I recall bussing being a hot-button issue then. Some kids were going to be bussed across town to the predominantly black elementary school and some parents were outraged…and scared.
When I was about 8 or 9, I remember listening to the Beatles with my neighbor friend and sister and crushing on Paul. (We also idolized Shaun Cassidy, Leif Garret, David Cassidy and Andy Gibb, among others). No, definitely not turning 50.
I’m not admitting to entering my sixth decade (gulp) but…I do have a keen recollection of Holly Hobby dolls, feathered hair, pet rocks, pastel clothing and actual LP records with fabulous covers. I loved bands like the Cars, the Go Go’s and U2. Not to mention Journey, ACDC, Pat Benatar and ZZ Top. I spent too much money on concerts and cassette tapes--remember those? (Today, hearing a favorite ‘80s tune while driving still inspires vigorous head and neck dancing amid embarrassed groans from my kids in the backseat).
Back in the day, I had brown hair and freckles and hopeful eyes and longed to be a sinewy blonde with a big chest. Or any chest.
My sister and I inhaled Seventeen Magazine and Glamour and even way-beyond-our-years issues of Cosmopolitan (carefully hidden from our parents). We wore frosted eye shadow (often blue) and used curling irons to give our bangs and the sides of our hair “weenie rolls.” Our lips were perennially shiny with Bonne Bell gloss.
Fifty? Who me?
If, as the old adage says, you get the face you “deserve” at 40, what do we get at 50? Besides a colonoscopy, of course. Perhaps you get the face you really, REALLY deserve. Or maybe at 50, the rewards are deeper and more substantial: Wisdom, kindness, more tolerance and the ability to laugh at oneself more easily. The realization that more than half of life is most likely over and to make the most of what remains.
The truth of the matter is that 50 is NOT the new 30 or the new 40. We tell ourselves these things to soften the blow but doing so erodes the fact that being alive (and hopefully thriving) for five decades is something to celebrate and honor, not cringe over.
On the other hand, there is no denying that mirrors can be traumatic at times. (Who is that lady with the dark circles under her eyes? And let’s not even talk about the lines appearing seemingly overnight, unpleasant bodily changes and all the rest.) But I can still feel like the freckled girl with the hopeful eyes when I laugh hysterically with a good friend or when I’m jogging in the sun and am feeling strong and healthy.
Sometimes I fight the demon that softly whispers, “the best years of your life are behind you.” This—more than anything—is what terrifies me. I would bet my childhood dol, “Deke” that this is what makes women of a certain age do those things to their faces that don’t make them look any younger, just tauter, shinier and considerably weirder.
So, assuming I truly am going to turn 50 in another month or two, I’ve come to the glaringly obvious conclusion that we either get older or we face the unpleasant alternative. The years have passed at warp-speed and it’s a shock to realize that an AARP card will soon appear in my mailbox. I guess my only choice is to go with the flow and embrace the new decade. I plan to take more healthy risks, keep writing and spend more time seeking ways to help others and less time dwelling on moi. Another goal is to finally learn how to grow a garden. Do a lot of yoga. Love my husband. And show my boys that having an older mom can be cool.
For all of you coming to terms with your own “big” birthdays, I wish you joy, acceptance and gratitude. Wherever you are on this incredible journey called life, safe travels!