It’s generally accepted that Americans live in a youth-driven society. Beauty in our country is defined by perky boobs, toned arms, and butts like tiny peach pits. We take our kids to college and reminisce about bright, open-ended futures. We envy the possibilities of youth as much as we do their smooth, unlined faces. It can seem like the young truly do have it all.
But do they really? Is 20-40 the best time of your life, after which every birthday is another day spent sobbing into two pints of Ben & Jerry’s Scheddy Balls and a box of wine?
While it’s true that during our twenties and thirties, it was possible to look fabulous in sweatpants and Uggs, and the world was pretty much our playground. But during that time, we also spent many years searching for “the one.” Countless awful dates, multiple crashed-and-burned relationships, and a few broken hearts, until we finally found that person we wanted to spend our life with. (Or at least the next four years, before you left his loser ass because he slept with Little Billy’s pre-school teacher.) Then the search began again.
After the second (and hopefully final) wedding, we began our new lives faced with mortgages, car payments, and massive student loans from that out-of-state college we just had to attend because our high school love, Biff, was enrolled there. (It didn’t matter to the Student Loan department that Biffy dumped us two years later. We still owed the money). We were building careers and juggling schedules. If we had children, there were 2,000 soccer games (1,999 of them in the rain), 18+ themed birthday parties (per kid), band lessons and ballet recitals, adorable toddlers who became uncommunicative teenagers seemingly overnight, their college expenses, and health insurance for everybody, including the dog.
Those decades were fun, but they were a lot of work.
This year, I will turn sixty. Nope, not fifty (the universally recognized middle-age birthday). 6-0. Sixty is not the new forty, or even the new fifty. It’s sixty. If I keeled over dead after breakfast, my kids would say, “She lived a full life.” But would I change it? Not a chance.
Old age brings its own rewards. If you’re not here yet, this is what you can look forward to:
Menopause. As in, it’s over. No more chronic fatigue. No more night sweats and sleeping on cold, wet sheets because you’re too exhausted to get up and change them. Again. No more mood swings that suddenly cause your Hubs to remember he has plans to go out with a buddy. Again. No more hot flashes. (You might consider circling through town and apologizing to all the waiters you screamed at because “It’s too damn hot in here!” I’m sending cards.)
Less worry about how things will turn out. By sixty, we pretty much know what we’re going to accomplish with our careers. We have a good bead on what our kids are going to be like as adults (since they already are). We’re either single or married, but either is probably by choice. Most of life’s Big Questions have been answered.
You don’t care as much about what others think. You can be you. Sing in your car. With the windows down. Funky dance in the park. Wear makeup every day. Or never. Wear yoga pants to church. Wear your motorcycle jacket with everything. Fly your freak flag whenever and wherever you want. Do you really care what that 50-year-old Zumba queen next to you is thinking as she watches you bust your goofiest moves? Tell her to lighten up and get out of the way, baby, because you do a mean gravevine.
You can wear comfortable shoes. Because we all know that life is better with happy feet.
You can ditch the minivan and get the car you actually want. A two-seater, bright red convertible sports car. Or maybe you think the neighbor’s tiny yellow electric car is the coolest thing ever. Yep, they’re both impractical as hell, but guess what? You’re sixty. Drive whatever the hell you want.
You never have to buy in bulk again. Cancel your Costco membership and start buying that wildly expensive, but oh-so-yummy fresh shrimp from the local Saturday market, because you’re no longer buying food for the entire Varsity football team. Added bonus: Your storage capacity will triple when every closet isn’t stuffed with jumbo-trons of toilet paper and ketchup.
You get to say No. “No, I can’t come over and help you find your son’s lost gerbil. I’m in the middle of Magic Mike.” “No, I’m not dog-sitting Sir Craps-a-Lot, because that’s what he does on my carpet every time he stays here.” “No, I can’t go out to dinner because I haven’t showered all day and I don’t plan to.” You’re not being selfish. You’re being honest. We can do that now.
We’ve come to terms with our bodies. In our younger years, we could measure the shifting of our body parts with the accuracy of a California geologist tracking the movements of tectonic plates. Now we know we can’t outrun gravity, and we begin to accept inevitable changes in our bodies. We’re more relaxed about what we can fix and what we can’t. And we’re over it.
You get to buy fun stuff. You already have a home, a car, and a savings account. And the kids have moved out (haven’t they?). Now you can buy all the cool crap you’ve always wanted, but had to back-burner because you were putting three mini-adults through college. It doesn’t have to be necessary. It just has to be you.
You get grandkids. Grandchildren, with that heart-melting clean-baby smell and those adorable faces. They love the bajeesus out of you, no matter what, because you’re…well, Grandma. You can love them, spoil them, and treat them like the little heirs to throne they are. Then you get to give them back to their original owners while you go get a massage. Best. Deal. Ever.