I was going to write this and be all “yeah, nothing” about it. You know. All zen about aging. That idea that you turn 50 and nothing much happens, you feel no different to the day you were 49 years and 364 days old, age is just a number… blah blah.
And to some degree that is true. You do wake up the same person.
BUT YOU’RE 50. Goddam. How did that happen?
And as for those three things?
1. RIB-NUDGING REMINDERS ABOUT ‘YOUR AGE’
You start getting warned about looking after your health and in turn, things start falling off. In my 20s and 30s we SMOKED, for crying out loud. But suddenly, pretty much the day after you turn 50, you have no choice but to face your mortality head-on (unless you’ve had a health issue before then, of course).
On your 50th birthday, you get health-related letters in the mail, kinda like anti-birthday cards.
I got two — my free bowel screen and my free mammogram. Honestly, not confronting in the slightest. Sliding into old age like a demon. One who suddenly can’t get off the couch without sighing “ooft” and who now says things like “my back is playing up.”
I live in Australia where we are privileged enough to live in a country where this health care stuff is given to you — so make the most of it.
2. OH YAY, MENOPAUSAL BIAS…
Perimenopause/menopause is suddenly all around you. Suddenly you and all your friends are going through it / have gone through it / are wondering if you’re in the middle of it.
Every woman I know is doing some or all of the following AS WE SPEAK:
a) Sweating uncontrollably. Flushing. Randomly. While shopping. Or on the bus.
b) Crying uncontrollably. About nothing. In the car. In the bathroom.
c) Throwing something. Anger is everywhere and rears its ugly head often.
And yet, pre-50 we don’t talk about it at all. We have no education about it as young women. We need to talk about it a lot and talk about it often — ffs, if men went through menopause, it would be a spectator sport.
3. THE ART OF NOT GIVING A F***
You run out of f***s to give. It’s weird. The calendar ticked over and all my f***s just vanished. Past their use-by date, obviously. I mean, see above for irrational anger and of course, I don’t mean I don’t have feelings about things AT ALL, but there are loads of things I no longer give any f***s about.
I don’t care that a woman I know doesn’t like me, for instance.
A few years back I would have DIED knowing that. Now I’m like, yeah whatevs. It’s SO liberating. And I seem to not care about how I appear to other people, generally. Which, to a 15-year-old painful teen me would be MORTIFYING.
I moved jobs three years ago and the woman who I went to work for turned out to be a nightmare. We just didn’t gel at all. And I would come home from work and say to my husband, “She is vile, I can’t get along with her, I don’t like the way she talks to me or anyone else!”.
Now if that was happening to me today, after 50, I’d tell her to shove her job RIGHT THERE AND THEN. I don’t care. But I didn’t… and it ended up being a bit of a nightmare because I tried to stop myself hating it, tried to second guess her, and ultimately drove myself mad with stress.
The lesson there is, by 50 she matters not. So lose those people right now.
But I digress.
I don’t give a f*** that I have become a bit Helena Bonham Carter in my dress sense. I’m proud of it. No ironing, for one. Also, if there’s one thing the delightful cocktail of midlife and COVID has taught us, it’s that life’s too short to wear uncomfortable shoes (or office clothes).
I don’t want to waste any more time. Time is fleeting – and finite – and there’s no point sitting around waiting to die. I have a motto of sorts, “Eat the truffles and be nice to your mum” – basically, grab life with both hands, do ALL the things… and make sure you give your parents quality time (if you’re lucky enough to still have them).
And lastly, I don’t want to keep saying sorry. Women over-apologise. Women are programmed to apologise for being too smart or too ambitious (whatever that is!) and we’re meant to be sensitive and empathetic because that’s our role, whereas men are rewarded for pushing on, never apologising on their way to the top. I’m sorry. No more. I am not sorry at all. I’m angry… and I’m tired, and a bit hungry, if I’m honest.
You know what, turning 50 is scary and weird, I mean, whoever thought you’d become one of those women, right? Especially when you “still feel like a teenager inside” (which is also true, even though you hated older people for saying it when you were young).
For me, it’s been a couple of years now. In that time I’ve launched a podcast, had a couple of different jobs, panicked about work, left jobs, travelled a bit, renovated my kitchen, written a book, started having perimenopausal symptoms like a boss, and am now, you know, going through Covid drama with the rest of the world.
And you know, it’s been fine. I’m still here. Wearing trainers like a 25-year-old, but fanning myself with the ALDI catalogue.
Let’s talk again at 60 though. Yikes.
Article first published on heyladies.com.au