A few weeks before every birthday I try to get used to my upcoming age.
I say the number out loud and slip it into conversation. Last year I said, “I’m 50” like it was my mantra.
If age happened to slip into the conversation, like someone said, “At my age I have no patience for….” I said, “Yeah, I hear you. I’m about to turn 50.” Shrugging off my age helps me absorb the shock of milestone birthdays. I also believe when women refuse to tell their age it tells society something’s wrong with aging women, like we’re less than the person we used to be at 49 years and 364 days.
There’s nothing wrong with aging women. We’re doing exactly what we should be doing, which is aging.
Lots of people told me Laura, you just think you’re blase about turning 50, trust me, you’re not. You won’t like how the number feels on your tongue. Half your life, done. And overnight you become an “older woman” where suddenly when people call you “Ma’am” as they’ve done for years, it sounds like they want to help you cross the street.
More gray. More sagging. More lines. Less libido. More and less of all of you.
For the last decade I’ve worked hard to insulate myself against negative age-related group think like “Getting old is a bitch,” or “I’m just old and can’t do things like I used to.”
It’s not that I’m in denial about what time plus gravity does to my body. But I don’t feel like my number, whatever my number is supposed to feel like. I’m healthy. I still exercise six days a week. I don’t have knee or hip pain. But sometimes my body laughs at me. It says ha! You’re 50 woman! Jogging on hard asphalt for five miles and staying up until 2am drinking wine with your husband on the porch is sort of stupid now.
I admit I’m vain enough to care about wrinkles and drooping flesh. I don’t care so much about the gray. Gray popped up years ago and my hairdresser helps me forget.
The truth is for the most part I expect aging to be glorious. Obviously because the opposite of aging is not so glorious. I’m alive. And every year I exist healthy and here, is the best year yet.
I expect good things to come. Different, but good. I admit however, that I have less patience with people who annoy me. I don’t say anything but I think annoyed thoughts about people all the time now.
But aging helps me feel less annoyed when I try to remember that people are cranky and sad and hostile and seething for a reasons that I’ve probably experienced myself. Aging gives me me a wider and softer lens for how I view others, that is, like me.
What strikes me the most about how I’ve changed is my threshold for the person-to-person drama against the backdrop of what really matters.
Small affronts don’t feel so tragic like they did when I was 25. Perhaps this is because I’ve lived through tragedy and hear about it all the time. And so when a friend tells me Missy is mad at Kathleen because she didn’t call her back or that that Jill is upset because the Johnson’s showed up late, this hits me with a who cares thud against the fact that a close friend is battling breast cancer or she just lost her husband.
Excerpt from my essay: “Aging out loud.”