As it turns out, I’m turning 50 this year. I don’t know why, but for some reason I’ve been thinking about it a lot ever since I turned 49 and someone reminded me that I’m now “in my 50th year.” When I turned 30 and 40, I thought in terms of what I was leaving behind. So, I guess the difference this time is that I’m using a much broader scope. What have I left behind? What do I have to look forward to? How important are milestone birthdays anyway, given the fact that chronological age is essentially inconsequential (or should I say “it’s as consequential as you want to make it” ).
Here are some things that I will never do, even if I reach 100 and my picture is on the “Today Show”:
• Wear “Mom” jeans. Super uncomfortable and unflattering. My behind is flat enough already.
• Let my hair go gray. Sorry ladies, but unless your name is Helen Mirren, there is no way that gray hair or “salt and pepper” (gag!) is your sexiest look.
• Stop listening to pop radio. Once I lose touch with what teenagers and 20-somethings are listening to, I can just officially kiss my youth goodbye. There is a place in my life for every genre of music.
• Get the “old lady” haircut. Unless I am mentally incapacitated, I won’t do it. I don’t care how bad my body feels. That’s one thing that my Mom never caved on and I won’t either.
• Hole up in my house 24/7. Even nursing homes have outings. The past few years have taught me that I am definitely not someone who enjoys sitting alone for any length of time. I think it would kill me.
• Stuff my purse with sugar, salt, pepper and creamer packets when I’m in a restaurant. I mean, really … if there’s a better way to scream “HEY LOOK AT ME! I’M OLD!” I don’t know what it would be.
Here are some things that I probably need to start doing. Soon.
• Get better about exercising and eating right. (Cue collective groaning noise here.) If I am decrepit and diabetic by the time I’m 60, then what’s the point of anything I’ve previously listed? The problem is that I have no discipline and all sorts of excuses. I need to work on this.
• Embrace AARP. How can senior discounts be a bad thing? Never mind the fact that I will probably never really be able to retire. If someone is offering me a discount just because I reached some magical age, who am I to deny them the gratification of making my cost of living a bit lower?
• Stop buying into the stereotypes associated with generations. “The Greatest Generation,” “The Me Generation,” “Boomers,” “Gen X,” “Gen Y,” Yuppies, Puppies, Millennials. It’s all a bunch of nonsense. An 85-year-old is just as likely as a 20-year-old to be a crabby jerk (and vice versa). And, no, I’m sorry Sir or Ma’am, you have not “earned’ the right to disrespect me just because of your age. And vice versa. And by the way, I now believe that every generation grows up with a distinct set of advantages and hardships. Nobody really “has it easy” or “had it easy.” Collectively, we all would be happier if we could get past all of that.
• Resist the urge to think that I’m too old to try something new. No further explanation required on this topic.
What it all boils down to is the ability to perceive myself and others without regard to age. Ageism pigeonholes all of us and limits our potential at any stage of life. This is a particular issue for women more so than men, I think. We women seem to automatically devalue ourselves and each other as we age. Popular culture trains us to do this with its artificial definition of beauty. Older women possess a beauty that women in their 20s and 30s are incapable of having, because it comes from life experience and wisdom. If we could do a better job of focusing on inner beauty and unique beauty, we could really be on to something.