I’m writing this on my birthday, September 11th. Today I turned 57 years old. I’m feeling a little “Yikes!” but also a little “Yay!”
The publishing world is full of books, articles, and blogs on the frustrations and seemingly inevitable downfalls of aging. Whether we look at it from a humorous perspective or something to approach from a fetal position, sobbing into an oversize decanter of Cabernet, there’s nary a woman alive who can’t recount tales of aging woe.
Our body parts shift downward, our skin fights loss of elasticity (often combined with menopausal acne), we become human space heaters, and our weight moves into our bellies and hips like a squatter on the back 40 of The Ponderosa. (Someday, God and I are going to have a little chat about this.) By age 50, many of us look better walking on our hands with our feet in the air. Only then does gravity work in our favor.
But today I got to thinking about the beauty of aging. Yes, I’m aware that my boobs are no longer up around my clavicles (in fact, they haven’t been in howdy-neighbor proximity for severals years), but honestly, would you be 23 again?? Yep, all smooth skin and perky boobs, but often in exchange for angst and uncertainty. Middle age brings with it a certain peace. A letting go of the anxieties and perspectives of youth, which is ultimately liberating.
So on my birthday, to balance the scales of publishing, I decided to write down my Top 10 Fabulous Things About Aging:
1. We learn to accept our bodies. Gone are the days of puking, pills, eating nothing but grapefruit and tapeworms, full-body Spanx under everything, and workouts that leave us shaky and exhausted instead of energized, futilely trying to beat our ancestoral gene pool into submission, to create a body we were never designed to have. I’m 5’3″ and curvy. I’ve also had a baby, but my son says that since he’s now 24, I really must stop blaming the jelly belly on him. Ungrateful brat.
2. The world is less black and white. We’re less quick to judge. By 50-something, we know that there are three sides to every story: Yours, mine, and what really happened. When we hear that Aunt Bitsy ran off with Uncle Bud’s Krav Maga instructor, we’re less likely to assume Aunt Bitsy is simply a tramp who likes martial arts and more likely to reply with “There are probably pieces of this story that we don’t know.”
3. You get to wear what you want. At this age, fashion (which tends to target the young and anorexic) is more about what we know works for us than what’s on Project Runway. Low-rise jeans are, inexplicably, still hot this year, and they make your fuller figure roll out of the top like a Ball Park frank that plumps when you cook it? Guess what. We get to skip that one.
4. There’s less drama. By age 50, we begin to realize not everything is worth fighting over. As my Grammy used to say, “In another 50 years, we’ll all be dead and none of this will matter.” Okay, a scoach morbid, but I’ve avoided many a battle by asking myself if this will matter after I’m dead.
5. We get grandchildren. We’ve had the responsibility of raising tiny humans into socially acceptable adults. Now we get to simply love the crap out of our offspring’s mini-me’s, with our primary role being something between Obi Wan Kenobi and Santa Clause.
6. We reconnect with our spiritual side. Whether this is because we don’t have the growing families to tend to, or we’re no longer busting our butts in 24/7 careers, or because we’re getting, well…closer to it mattering, we start taking a closer look at our faith. There’s a reason women over 50 make up more than half of the nation’s church membership rosters.
7. We learn to cherish our girlfriends. By this age, we’ve been together through Sally’s four marriages, Missy’s 3 divorces, a rooter bus of 50th birthdays, and Susie’s husband’s affair. We’ve supported Jenny’s new business, bailed Karen’s son out of jail (again), and cried together when Linda got cancer. We’ve shared all the messy experiences of living. We have history.
8. Our marriages are stronger. There’s no way two people can spend several decades together and have every day be a lust-filled day of mutual wonder and adoration. Not. Possible. By now, we’ve had rough times, knock-down fights, disappointments, and days when we’d unhesitatingly sell each other for a frosty margarita from the closest taco wagon. But you’re still together. No matter what. It’s that kind of love.
9. We laugh more. We see the silliness in things more easily. We’re not as easily offended. Simply put, we’ve lightened up.
10. We’ve discovered passions we didn’t know about, and now we have time to pursue them. Boomers are being called “The Reinvented Generation” because we’re going back to school, changing careers, learning new languages, traveling to new places, running marathons, writing novels. We’re not retiring. We’re living longer than ever, and we’re doing it in a red convertible.
And so, as I kiss 56 goodbye forever and face my life as a 57-year-old, I feel good. There’s so much left to do, and with my cheering section of Hubs, kids, grandkids, family, and girlfriends shouting from the grandstands (Thanks, gang. I love you too!), I’m going out there to kick some ass.