I turn 50 this year. There. I’ve said it. That makes it real.
Well, how did I get here?
I remember the first time my birthday caused me anxiety. It was the day I turned 20. My father took us all to New York to celebrate. I wore an outrageously expensive Zandra Rhodes gown (that is still in the back of my closet) to the Columbus Citizens’ Club for the Columbus Day gala at the Waldorf Astoria . (This was before we were supposed to disavow Columbus Day.) I heard Mario Cuomo speak, and got Sophia Loren’s autograph. Since it was New York in 1983, I could even legally drink champagne. You would think that I would be ready to step into what certainly appeared to be an enchanted future and take on the world, but you would be wrong. I remember distinctly looking into the mirror looking into the mirror and saying “I don’t want to be twenty,” like I knew without knowing that everything would change. By the following birthday, my father was gone and my world had been turned upside down.
I spent my 20s dealing with issues that middle aged people face, like being first in line for death, and not having the same experiences as my peers, like figuring out what I wanted to do in life. (But that is another story for another day) The day I turned 30, I shed a few tears, but I was getting married and thinking that we would be starting a family, which I wanted more than anything, and I thought I had dealt with everything my 20s had brought me. Ha.
The next birthday to bother me was 39. Far more than 40, 39 was a killer. It was the last year I could claim to be young, except in a relative way. Relative to people in nursing homes, 40 is “young.” Hell, relative to 50, 40 is “young,” but a 40 year old is not a young person the way someone in their 30s is. They just aren’t. This took some time to accept, but eventually I did. My dear friend Stacie taught me that the 40s are the “I don’t give a fuck” decade, and she was so wise. There have been many, many fucks I could not give in the past nine and a half years. You could fill Three Rivers with them, if it still existed. Certainly both stadiums that stand there now are filled to the brim with fucks not given by women in their 40s.
Then I turned 45.
45 is the age when you have to admit that the best case scenario is that you have reached the halfway point. Really, who wants to get to be much older than 90? You’re lucky if you can wipe your own ass at that age. Maybe by then we’ll all have bionic replacement parts, but it’s 2013 now and we don’t have our jetpacks, so I’m not holding my breath. Better to face facts and admit that you are halfway through, at best (and that is awfully optimistic considering neither of my parents saw 60).
And now I am sliding down the back end of another year with 50 waiting for me at the bottom. I’m trying to be philosophical. “It beats the alternative,” I remind myself. But I am not ready.