Several years ago, around the mid-70s, Gail Sheehy wrote a book called “Passages,” where she described the various stages we go through during the decades between our 20s through our 50s. It was wildly popular, and is still a top seller to people looking to understand the emotional process of aging.
Ms. Sheehy kind of wraps it up around 50, but I think that some of the most dramatic changes happen after that. We start getting senior discounts. AARP starts stalking us with monthly applications for membership. And menopause is keeping us busy with hot flashes, mood swings, fatigue, and chronic bitchiness to anybody within a 25-foot radius.
One of the most difficult transitions often occurs during late menopause, when we realize that we are no longer “sexy” to anyone under 70. Sure, they may call us “pretty,” or even “beautiful.” But flattering physical descriptions now end with the dreaded qualifier “for her age.” “She looks great, for 65,” or “She’s still gorgeous, for her age.”
It’s no secret that we live in a society that worships youth. Our social barometer for “hot” includes tanned skin, perky boobs, tights abs, cellulite-free butts, and legs like a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model. The only good news is that as baby boomers got older, we collectively raised the bar to include “cougars,” “MILFs,” and even “GILFs,” meaning sexually attractive women up to the age of 45-50.
But there comes a time when our 26-year-old son’s friends start seeing us less as Mrs. Robinson from The Graduate, and more Ms. Cunningham from Happy Days. Our match.com profile would primarily attract men who could lecture about prostate malfunctions and the merits of Cialis vs. Viagra better than the local pharmacist. Yes, we’ve reached the age where we must gracefully concede that our youthful hotness has left the building and is not coming back. (Demi Moore, are you listening?)
But how do you know if it’s time? Watch for these signs:
1. You buy your underwear for comfort rather than foreplay. It’s full butt, no frills, with a little spandex for firming your Buddha Belly and your jiggly butt. Hubs has seen you in them, and you don’t care.
2. You’re buying a new convertible, in black, because the red one makes you feel like a 60-something woman trolling for a job at Hooters.
3. You’re the oldest person in your office. And your age and medical condition raise your co-worker’s group healthcare premiums.
4. You’ve stopped flirting with the UPS guy because even thinking about an affair is exhausting. You’d rather take a nap.
5. You have 15 pairs of reading glasses, because you like your accessories to match your outfit.
6. Your grandkids set you up on Twitter, but you never use it, because to “tweet” someone sounds slightly pornographic.
7. You have grandkids.
8. You saw a nose/ear hair trimmer at Walgreens, and you considered buying it.
9. Pajama Pants begin to look like an actual clothing option. In public.
10. Your Saturday night plans take in to account Sunday morning. Recovery time becomes the determining factor in the festivities agenda.
11. $85 for a moisturizer that promises to smooth fine lines and “take years of your face” seems reasonable.
12. A night of board games, in your fleece jammies with Hubs, is more appealing than a night out on the town.
13. You got a Snuggie for Christmas, and you love it.
14. You’ve developed a sudden obsession with gardening. This is often accompanied, during the winter, by an uncontrollable need to collect Chia Pets.
15. The hair on your head and on your legs is thinning, but now you’re finding stubby black strays coming from your chin, your nose, and “OMG, is that one sprouting out of my nipple??” (see #8)
16. You have morning aches and pains, but you didn’t do anything physical the day before. And you’ve stopped telling people it’s “pulled muscle.”
17. Doctors, lawyers, and policemen all start to look 17. Seriously, were they all child protégées?
18. Daily naps take the place of daily workouts. Naps make you happy.
19. Shopping sprees that used to focus on LBDs and stilettos are now hunts for yoga pants and running shoes. Even though you already have eight pairs of yoga pants. In black.
20. Your Kegal exercises are more about bladder control than sex. Hubs is thrilled, but we’re not telling.
21. You can no longer pass the “Pencil Test,” (Place a pencil horizontally under your butt cheek and see whether it falls to the ground or if your droopy cheeks hold it up.) The last time you tried it, you could hold 3 magic markers under one cheek alone. Winning.
22. You must consciously resist the overwhelming urge to slap the next 22-year-old Barbie who insists that she wants to “grow old naturally.” Just you wait, Babs. Someday this body will be yours.
23. Your legs have more red and blue lines than the American flag, and you’re afraid to wear white because everyone will assume you’re a runway float ornament from the 4th of July parade.
24. You started keeping copious To-Do lists around the house once it became apparent that the only thing you can remember to do is eat.
25. You go to bed at 8:30 every night. Friends and family know that there’s no fire or blood, don’t call after 8 p.m.
26. You discover sex, in the afternoon and without alcohol, is pretty damn good.
When I turned 50, my father mentioned that “You know you’re officially old when you turn 50.” “No,” I replied, “you know you’re officially old when your kids turn 50.” Boom.