I recently celebrated a birthday, something I’ve done more than 50 times in my lifetime. I’ve lived more than half a century, more than half my life (unless I turn out to be one of those folks who reaches triple digits). That’s a sobering thought.
These days, birthdays seem to whiz by, but not before we get the chance to ruminate a little. It’s my opinion that there are a lot more pros to celebrating another birthday than there are cons, but I have to hand it to Bette Davis. She was right when she said, “Old age ain’t no place for sissies.”
Let’s take a look at the "cons," since I always like to end things on a high note. There aren't many, but the ones that have surfaced are formidable. First, I hurt. For no apparent reason, at least one thing on my body hurts at any given time, night or day. I know I've shared this before, but I feel betrayed by my body. I take pretty good care of myself, and I feel as though my body should appreciate that.Apparently it doesn’t.
Second, I find myself consoling my girlfriends now that I've passed the “50” mark, about the fact that I have passed age 50. I was at a Christmas party recently, and a dear friend of mine pulled me aside and whispered of my approaching birthday, "Aren't you scared?" I told her that no, my 50s don’t scare me any more than my 40s did. My fear, in fact, would be of NOT having another birthday. I never understood the “fear of birthdays” thing.
Third, I find myself struggling with the statement, "Wow! You look terrific for your age." What does that mean? In my mind, you either look terrific or you don't. The woman sitting next to me in the pedicure chair yesterday was 65. She was beautiful. Period. She was strong, clear and healthy. That's beautiful at any age. Not surprisingly, I hear this backhanded remark more often from men than I do from women. I have a theory about that. Beauty, to some men, is defined by firmness, brightness, perkiness and perfection. I guess the fine print - "for your age" – means that, for an old chick, I've held onto as much of that beauty as gravity and time will allow, but it wouldn't hurt to start price-shopping wheelchairs and nursing homes.
Fortunately, my husband’s opinion in this department is the one that matters to me, and he truly believes that I am beautiful. He thinks I'm beautiful when we're dressed to the nines for an occasion, and he thinks I'm beautiful when I first wake up looking like Don King in drag. He loves me completely, and for that I love him dearly.
Now, for the “pros,” the good stuff. I loved my 40s and so far, my 50s haven’t been too shabby. I like myself, and I love my life. I remember my 20s and 30s, jockeying for corporate position, being ever-mindful of what others thought about me, what I wore, what I said, how I performed. I remember all too well, as a working mom, thinking that I was an awful mom and an awful employee. I don’t miss that emotional tug-of-war.
I wish I could revise that history. I would have been 40 from age 12 on. Gone are the days when someone else's opinion, gossip, emotional slights could ruin a whole day – or days – for me. At my age, I care very deeply what a handful of people think. The rest is simply white noise, sometimes entertaining, more often just static. I don't mean that in an uncaring or callous way at all; I have simply learned to prioritize using the right yardstick.
Men and women age differently. I think that, as a rule, men tend to look better with the years - another of God's little zingers He threw out because I believe He has a great sense of humor. Women spend billions of dollars annually, even going to the extreme of being cut, sliced, lasered, injected and extruded, all in the name of looking younger and more beautiful. Men just naturally age well. Go figure.
Women tend to BE better with the years though, and if I have to choose, I'll choose the latter. It makes for sound sleep and good days.
I appreciate the stuff I’ve never seen before. I love the ages that my kids are, love seeing them become the adults I prayed they'd be. I finally get that serving others is the best way to be better myself. I get that the boundaries in life - set by my faith - are there to hold the good in and protect me from myself, not to keep me from having fun or fulfilling dreams. And I know without a doubt that my husband is exactly the man with whom I am supposed to walk into this next phase of life. Maybe for the first time ever, I am the woman I always wanted to be.
And I really, really appreciate Tylenol and a good heating pad.
Carole Townsend is a Gwinnett author and freelance writer. Her fourth book, BLOOD IN THE SOIL, was named Finalist for 2017 Georgia Author of the Year in the Detective/Mystery genre. Her previous three books are written with loving humor about the South. Carole often appears on network television talk and news shows, as well as on national radio shows. Her books can be found in bookstores, on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com, and at www.caroletownsend.com. When she's not writing, Carole travels throughout the southeast, talking to groups about women, writing, family, and life in her beloved South. www.caroletownsend.com. Follow Carole on Facebook (Carole Townsend-Author), Twitter @caroletownsend, or Instagram @carole.w.riter.