Today, according to the calendar, my birth certificate and an inbox full of cartoons about ageing, I am 50. How do I feel hitting this milestone? Bloody angry as Hell, that’s how! And not for the reasons you probably imagine. This is why I’m angry about turning 50:
Before writing this post I tried to put myself into the shoes of women who were in similar, slightly seasoned boats. I must admit I’m pretty chilled about it, but what would a woman do if she was feeling uncertain about turning 50? The most obvious answer would be; talk to somebody and hopefully get some support. But not all women are fortunate enough to be surrounded by supportive friends and family, and some may feel awkward about sharing their feelings. So maybe she’d hit the internet and look for some words of encouragement there. So that’s exactly what I did, and boy did I get a shock – the articles I found were about as supportive as an overused, over-washed sports bra!
Good things about being 50
After keying in. “Good things about being 5o”, I was uplifted to see my Google results page fill with encouragingly titled articles. My optimism soon soured as I clicked through to these articles – let’s put it this way; if there existed a virtual slap button on my computer keyboard a whole lot of writers would be nursing slapped wrists.
Top of the shop was an article from The Huffington Post written by Emma Nicholson who, according to her Twitter profile, “loves to write about how awesome it is to be a woman age over 50.” So what was number one on Ms Nicholson’s list of “10 Reasons Being 50 is F**cking Awesome” ?
1. Get out of a lot of unpleasant stuff by saying “I’m too old.” When a wee sprout of, say, age 40 or less asks you to volunteer your nap time for some worthy cause or go zip-lining in Costa Rica, just say “I don’t do that anymore. I’m too old.” They usually fall for it because they have no idea you could actually run rings around them. If you say this to someone older than you, however, you run the risk of getting a “you’re full of shit” response – Emma Nicholson.
And straight in at number 5:
5. Acquire an invisibility cloak. I began to realize I was becoming “invisible” to the opposite sex a few years ago. Not that I really need that attention because my hubs is wonderful but it is nice to be noticed when you are looking all sassy in the pants. The positive flip side of this is you can saunter into the grocery store looking like death is upon you and confidently know no one will notice. Score. – Emma Nicholson.
Now before you hit the comment box, I do realise that Ms Nicholson is trying to tackle the subject in a humorous way and I have found some of her articles pretty amusing. But being as her offering to The Huffington Post came in at number one on page one of my Google search, I felt completely deflated and justified in having a sense of humour failure.
I then checked out The Mail Online’s “Golden age of happiness: Turning 50 is key to ‘content and comfortable’ life” which announced; “Don’t be down if you’re 50 today – you’re entering the age of true happiness.” Yay for me, but why is this magical birthday going to bring me the happiness of which they speak?
Apparently, a study was carried out by the insurance business Engage Mutual. A spokesman for the company said, ‘It is heartening that so many are finding that being in your fifties can be the most rewarding time of your life.”
All positive stuff until you reach the end of the article and find this:
According to the study, key factors for a contented old age included:
- Being in relatively good health
- having more time to enjoy life
- being in a relatively good financial position
- having a relationship stronger than ever
- being comfortable with your body
- being happy with life achievements
- having the mortgage paid off
- knowing what you want from life
- taking lots of holidays
- pursuing hobbies and interests
- becoming a grandparent
- having a great social life
- taking early voluntary retirement
- having more friends than ever
So lets compare my life to the golden list of factors:
- My health is OK – although I do have some issues ✓
- The time off I have I work really, really hard for
- Finances are pretty good – but again I work really hard to achieve my financial position ✓
- My relationship is topnotch – enough said ✓
- I actually kind of like my bod ✓
- I still wish I had achieved more when I was younger – but there are reasons why I didn’t and that’s a whole other blog post
- I still have a mortgage
- I believe that life is a journey and what I want today may completely change overnight – I’m OK with that
- I’ve had short breaks but no holiday for three years
- I do have hobbies but struggle to find time to persue them
- No grand kids and none on the horizon
- My social life is squeezed into my work / everyday life
- I work for myself so early retirement is out of the question
- I have a couple of close friends, but a stack of acquaintances ✓
Now I don’t live a ‘normal’ life so I wasn’t surprised to only put a tick next to 5 out of a possible 14 factors. So does that mean I’m not happy or content? Of course it doesn’t!!
- I work hard because I enjoy working which means when I have time off I appreciate it more
- I still have a mortgage, but so what? I’ve yet to meet anyone in their 50’s who doesn’t
- There’s nothing wrong with not knowing exactly what you want out of life, I don’t want my life mapped out – it would drive me insane
- I prefer short breaks to holidays, I get itchy feet if I’m in one place for too long
- My life used to be full of hobbies – but then I didn’t have much of a life
- I am at a stage in my life where I wouldn’t have the time to shower onto grandchildren, which is fortunate because my children are not ready to have any yet
- Again, I have a limited social life but what I do have I cherish all the more
- If I won the lottery tomorrow I would still work – early retirement is not for me
So there you have it, I don’t fit into their box of ‘Key Factors’ but I’m as happy as a pig in the proverbial. However I am aware that there are some women out there who may have hit that search page and been informed of how crappy hitting 50 is / will be. How invisible they will become. How life as they know it is over. All nicely interspersed with ads shouting about anti-ageing creams, senior discounts and cheap, medical-free life insurance. And some of these wonderful, unique women would have ended up gently rocking back and forth in the corner whispering over and over. “You can see me, can’t you?”
So enough already!
Celebrating half a century on this planet does have some drawbacks; it’s not dubbed the big 5-oh for nothing. But let’s take a deep breath and step away from the negativity. When we hit a milestone birthday we have reached a fork in life’s road and we have two choices:
1) We can spend the rest of our lives bemoaning the loss of our youth. We can obsess over every tiny change to our bodies, and with each negative thought we can make ourselves smaller in our own eyes and the eyes of others until we do indeed ‘disappear’.
2) We can take the road less traveled; the road that embraces midlife, the road that takes us on a journey to live our lives to the fullest, colour outside the lines and shout from the rooftops, “This is me, take it or leave it world!”
I’ll give you three guesses which route I’ve decided to take – want to join me?