Thoughts on turning 50
I met Anita one evening at a family birthday party. Over drinks and canapes this lovely young woman asked me if I’d like to write a piece for her blog. She has plenty of writers, but few in the ‘mature’ age bracket i.e. over 50. Bless!
The realisation that I’m now 50, and hurtling at lightning speed towards 51 has been a mind-boggling and totally bewildering fact to digest. I’m at a loss to explain it, except in simple mathematical terms: I was born 50 years ago and as a result, have been on this Earth for five decades. For my own sanity, I’ve chosen to adopt the positive and self-affirming approach that I’m lucky to still be here, as in the old joke: birthdays are good for you, statistics show that people who have the most live the longest. Ha!….wise words, written no doubt, by someone with years of ‘maturity’ on their side, a self-managed super fund, and a regular account at Specsavers.
However, there’s no getting around the fact that 50 marks the distinct foray into middle age (there! I said it!) and although there are days where I still feel 25, there’s no excuse now for not doing serious ‘adulting’. It’s easy to slide through your twenties, stumble through your thirties, and muddle through your forties, but let’s face it, by fifty at the very least, a facade of respectability and enlightenment is expected. If not simply to save face, then to assure the younger generations that there does come a point where we all know what we’re doing (or that faking it gets easier). And yes, with age comes experience, sometimes even knowledge. And understanding, compassion and tolerance (although this last one is dubious and can often swing in either direction).
This makes me think of a black and white photo I have of me as a toddler with my Grandmother, my beloved Yiayia. It was taken at a studio, as was customary in the late 60s, no doubt for someone’s wedding. We are wearing our best clothes, me in a pretty, handmade white dress, her in a brocade dress with matching jacket. Although very stylish, what strikes me is how OLD yiayia looks. Doing the maths, it occurs to me that in this photo she would have been a similar age to me now, maybe even younger.
This realisation is mind blowing to me on a few levels. It’s not that I don’t realise I could be a grandmother…with a nearly 22-year-old daughter this is more than possible. It’s more that as a society we have progressed to a point where nobody needs to look old anymore. The whole concept of middle age seems to have been eradicated by social media, healthy living and cosmetic procedures. At the very least a colourist can take years off a woman’s face, whereas in 1969 (or any year for that matter) it was unthinkable for yiayia to dye her hair.
In 2018 it’s not uncommon for mums and daughters to share clothes, shoes and makeup. We stay young by having access to a raft of modern conveniences not available to yiayia, thus avoiding hard manual labour. ‘Wash day’ back then was a big deal, scrubbing linens in the steaming trough and the sheer physical exertion of the mangle. The dishwasher/microwave/robovac has left us with more time to pamper ourselves. Weekly hair, nail and beauty sessions have certainly become the norm for many.
And exercise…who hasn’t seen, or been, one of those mums in gym gear at the school gate, a full face of make up, and hair done at 8am? A filler here, a boob job there….A male friend laments the fact that you used to be able to tell a woman’s age by walking behind her. Now it’s getting harder to pick mothers from their daughters, front on, in full sunlight. When we look young, we feel young, which is great…but, it makes me wonder what 80 year olds will look like in the future. Not like yiayia, I’m guessing!
Getting my head around the big five-oh has been a slippery slope. Mercifully, I have 10 years to adjust to life as a quinquagenarian. Now, where is that number for Specasavers?