This year, I’m turning sixty. 6-0. As in “years old.”
How is this possible? Yesterday, I swear I was forty. I’ll always be forty. I liked forty. But I woke up this morning, and I’m twenty (count ’em…twenty) years older than I feel. That’s a whole lifetime for a college student. So I’m an entire lifetime older than the average undergraduate. Awesome.
Turning twenty was fun. You’re officially an adult, but you’re young enough to have your mistakes forgiven because you’re still a puppy to the rest of the world. Thirty was great. You’re more sophisticated now, and have started making “life decisions.” Marriage? Kids? A mortgage? A beagle or a dachshund? And forty is sexy. You’re a woman, not a girl. You’re interesting. You have things to say, and people actually want to hear them. At fifty, you’ve run smack into midlife. I’ll admit, fifty was a little tough for me. All that push to get an AARP card, remembering to ask for the Honor Menu at every restaurant, and deciding whether or not to go gray now that you’re a “senior.”
Sixty leaves me somewhat stymied. I have no precise words to express exactly how I feel about it. It’s clearly not “middle age”(unless we’re planning to live to be 120). We’ve been seniors for ten years already. So what are we now?
I recently attended my 42nd high school reunion. It was a wonderful evening of wine and laughter, with much to-do about getting older. Many of us expressed the same observation. Everybody looked great, but somehow older than we remembered them. Then when we saw the photos on Facebook the next day, we noticed that we all look exactly the same age as everyone else else. Boom.
The publishing world is full of books, articles, and websites about the frustrations and seemingly inevitable downfalls of aging. Whether we see it from a humorous perspective or something to approach from a fetal position on the bed, sobbing into an oversize decanter of Cabernet, there’s nary a woman alive who can’t recount tales of aging woes.
By sixty, our body parts have shifted downward, our skin has lost elasticity, we still experience occasional menopausal flashbacks that make us human space heaters, and our weight has moved into our bellies and hips like squatters on the Back 40 of the Ponderosa.
But I’ve decided that I’m giving myself a birthday present this year. I’m giving myself a break about the aging thing. Yes, I’m aware that my boobs haven’t been within howdy-neighbor proximity to my clavicles for at least two decades and that my butt jiggles like a Jello mold, even when I’m standing still. But maybe sixty is finally time to embrace the journey. Youth may come with smooth skin and perky behinds, but often in exchange for angst and uncertainty. (Honestly, would you be 25 again??) Middle age (and beyond) brings with it a certain peace. A letting go of the anxieties and often limited perspectives of youth. It’s liberating.
And so, for my birthday, to balance the scales of publishing, I’ve decided to write down my Most Fabulous Things About Turning Sixty.
- We’ve learned to accept our bodies. Gone are the days of puking, pills, eating nothing but grapefruit and chewing gum, 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 short and curvy, and I’ve given birth (although my son is now 27, and says I really must stop blaming my jelly belly on him. Ungrateful brat).
- The world is less black and white. We’re less quick to judge. By now, we know that every story has three sides: yours, mine, and what really happened. When we hear that Aunt Bebe ran off with Uncle Stu’s Krav Maga instructor, we’re less likely to assume Aunt Bebe is simply a tramp who likes martial arts, and more likely to reply, “There are probably pieces of this story we don’t know.”
- We get to wear whatever we want. At this age, fashion, which tends to target the young and the anorexic, is more about what we know works for us than what’s on Project Runway. Love leather moto jackets? We wear ours with everything we own. Hate trendy, low-rise jeans that give you Texas-size muffin top? We get to skip this one.
- There’s less drama. After six decades, we begin to realize that not everything is worth fighting over. As my grandma used to say, “In 50 years, we’ll all be dead and none of this will matter.”
- 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 somewhere between Obi Wan Kenobi and Santa Clause.
- We learn to cherish our girlfriends. We’ve attended Sally’s four weddings, got Missy through three stints in rehab, and lived through Susie’s douchy husband’s affair. We’ve supported Jenny’s new career as a nude art model, bailed Karen’s son out of jail (again), and cried together when Linda got cancer. We have history.
- 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. We’ve had rough times, disappointments, and days when we’d unhesitatingly sell each other for a frosted margarita from the local taco wagon. But we’re still together. It’s that kind of love.
- We laugh more. We see the silliness in things more easily. We’re not as easily offended. Simply put, we’ve lightened up.
- We’ve discovered new passions. Boomers are being called “The Reinvented Generation.” We’re going back to school, learning new languages, traveling to new places, running marathons, and writing novels. We’re not retiring. We’re living longer than ever, and we’re doing it in a red convertible.
So as I kiss my fifties goodbye and face a new decade, I feel…well…good. In fact, I feel better than good. I feel like getting out there and kicking some jiggly ass.