Tomorrow, the 9th, I begin my second half century of life. It's a weird age to think about in the abstract. Folks tend to make a big kerfluffle about birthdays that end in zero, which seems a bit arbitrary to me. In reality a person is only one day older than the day before, but, in our youth-loving culture, the higher the number of birthdays, the closer we come to being seen as irrelevant by society.
Most of my birthdays ending in zero have been non-events. Twenty is lost in a haze of unhappiness and misdirection. Thirty was headed toward being not much of anything until it turned into thirty-and-haven't-finished-college, which made it a bit of a bummer. Forty wasn't much at the time either, but, in hindsight, I can see it as the beginning of my Great Awakening in which my life began turning into a more fulfilling direction.
And now it is fifty. I come to the number with neither excitement nor dread. In fact, the number has no particular meaning to me by itself. I don't know what fifty is supposed to feel like and doubt that I ever will. The only dread attached to the number fifty is the baggage that other people will attempt to attach to it and me. Of course, there is good-natured teasing about getting "old", which isn't a problem. The problems come when others assume you can't do things, like jobs, because of it. The gradual invisibility which descends on "women of a certain age." The dismissals that occur from others based on nothing but a birth-date. These are the things I am not looking forward to and plan to reject as much as possible.
It's mind-boggling how we collectively approach age. "Really? You look so much younger than that!" No matter what that is. "You're so young for your age." Whatever that might mean. And we're expected to take it as some sort of compliment. As though there is something wrong with the age that we truly are. As though they are surprised that we haven't fallen apart yet. And then there is the very real possibility of age discrimination in the work place, which is the only true downside to the number attached to our birthdays.
So, how do I approach this phenomenon? First and foremost, I refuse to let anyone categorize me as "old." Any young whippersnapper who tries to pigeonhole me is going to be sat down for a few home truths. As far as the world of work goes, I plan to omit any and all references or hints to how many birthdays I've celebrated. And, since I'm frequently told that I "don't look my age," I plan to take out stock in L'Oreal and keep those gray hairs that I've been collecting for the past quarter century well hidden.
Given that I have no idea what fifty is supposed to look or feel like, I plan to continue on in a way that suits me. And that includes becoming a bit more outrageous. Anyone who has a problem with that will be politely invited to go suck an egg.
I don't feel any different inside that I did when I was thirty-five. So I may just remain thirty-five. Okay, maybe thirty-six. Tomorrow will be the fifteenth anniversary of my thirty-sixth birthday. Given that I am blessed (or cursed) with long-lived genes, I could very well end up celebrating the fifty-fifth anniversary of my thirty-sixth birthday. And I intend to go forward as I have these past few years, grabbing all the gusto I can and having as many new experiences as possible.
"We are always the same age inside." -- Gertrude Stein.
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