Cougar. Hag. Empty-nester. Blue hair. Frump. Oldie Locks. Biddy. Old Lady. Bag. Old Gal. Menopausal Mama (OK, I made that one up). The names we use to describe women over 50 are not terrifically uplifting. We’re all aware of the perils of aging. But there are some awesome things about being my age, which happens to be 55.
10 Awesome Things About Being a Woman Over 50
Number 10: It’s OK to wear comfortable shoes.
I spent many years wearing high heels, beautiful boots, pointy-toed pumps, and strappy sandals. While I still appreciate (and sometimes painfully strap on) a beautiful and sadistic shoe, I no longer feel the pressure to do so. I’m not giving up on my appearance, and I haven’t turned my back on fashion, but I can wear a comfortable flat or a cute wedge with full confidence. God bless sneakers.
Number 9: I have finally grown out of the phase where I am extremely embarrassing to my kids.
When my kids were in puberty I somehow managed to grow more embarrassing with each day. I’m aware that certain parental actions can be expected lead to adolescent embarrassment: dancing, donning a Halloween costume, or crying when I see a marching band. But I seemed to surpass all normal benchmarks of embarrassment, humiliating my children by singing along with the radio, enthusiastically shouting “hello,” or, God forbid, speaking in the presence of my kids’ friends.
Whew, am I glad I grew out of that phase! I’m not sure whether medical studies can tell us when parents finally grow out of their embarrassing stage, but for me it was right around 53 (when my kids, coincidentally, were 18 and 20.) I seem to just be a normal, occasionally embarrassing parent now.
Number 8: It’s more fun to play cards in a friend’s kitchen than to go out to a bar.
Remember the days of getting dressed up (including the uncomfortable shoes mentioned in Number 10), driving to a bar, paying for drinks, breathing cigarette smoke, invariably having something spilled on you, and not being able to hear your friends speak? I now know that I’d rather wear my stretchy pants, pick up some takeout Chinese and a good bottle of wine, and play euchre around the kitchen table.
Number 7: I find simple joy in a good bowel movement.
Enough said. (Admit it, you agree.) (And as I wrote this one, I realize that I do still embarrass my kids.)
Number 6: I can find my beauty.
I know we should focus on inner beauty, or the importance of strong, healthy, functional bodies. But indulge my shallow side for just a minute, while I address physical beauty.
At 16, I was 5′ 6″, weighed 119 pounds, and was convinced I was fat. I carried carrot sticks and celery to school for lunch. At 21, I didn’t have the same fashionable clothes as my sorority sisters, and I always felt uncool and not very hip. At 30, on my wedding day, I was very aware that I hadn’t lost the last 5 pounds I wanted to lose. At 35, I had had two babies, and felt frumpy with an out-of-date hairstyle.
I look back on those pictures now, and I see that I actually looked OK, if not pretty good. But I couldn’t see it then. Now, at 55, I can see my own beauty. I’ve got a nice smile, and I’m quick to give it to people. I have nice blue eyes. I have outstanding gigantic teeth. I am tired of being hard on myself because every bit of me isn’t perfect or beautiful. And now I can see parts of me that are.
(I hope this isn’t read as vanity. I can write a whole second article about everything that is wrong with my appearance, and getting worse with age. But the point here is that even with all my imperfections, I can actually see some good things too. I don’t think I had that ability as a younger gal.)
Number 5: I can embrace my inner nerd.
I like to read. Walking is my exercise of choice. Playing cards is a fun and exciting social activity. I like to write. History interests me. And in the future, quilting, mah-jong or bridge might tickle my fancy.
I no longer care if anyone thinks I’m a nerd because I’m not interested in extreme sports or what the Kardashians are up to. And I am happy to report that I don’t care who did or did not receive a rose on “The Bachelor.” I am content to be a nerd.
Number 4: My Kids are Adults
Having little kids was a blast, one of the best times in my life. I loved every minute of it. But having adult kids is pretty awesome too. They’re smart and funny and articulate and charming. And I don’t have to be on high alert all the time, afraid that they’re going to break an arm or skin a knee.
We recently took a big vacation with our kids, and we had so much fun with them as adults. They were adventurous and energetic and up to try everything. It’s a whole new world, and just as fun as having babies.
Number 3: I know how to cook.
Until I was 30, “cooking” meant a pile of romaine lettuce with store-bought Caesar dressing. Twenty-five years later, I know how to cook. When you love food and the act of eating as much as I do, it is a true blessing to finally know how to cook yourself delicious food.
Number 2: I know who my friends are, and how lucky I am to have them.
I’ve had some wonderful friends who filled a specific need at the time, and then we faded out of each other’s lives. I’ve got some of those friends now, terrific people who are present because circumstances have brought us together. But I’ve also got about a dozen friends, long-time and more recently found, who I know will always be present for me. These are the ones I could call and say, “I’ve got an emergency; I need you” and they’d hop in the car or on a plane to come take care of me.
Younger people have friends too, and I’m not claiming that this is unique to being over 50. In fact, several of my true friends are gals who became my friends when we were kids. But I’m not sure I truly recognized their value and their constance in my life until recently.
And The Number One Best Thing About Being Over 50: I appreciate every day.
My childhood was happy and easy, and I didn’t give much thought to anything. Teenage years were filled with fun and friendships, seasoned with worry, embarrassment and awkwardness. As a young adult, I was stressed out, ambitious, and trying to find my identity. And then I had babies, and I was worried and exhausted, but also consumed by an overwhelming love that just didn’t leave room for self-reflection.
Now I am more calm, and more grateful. I thank God each night for this wonderful life I’ve lived, and the times I have now. I open my eyes each morning happy to be alive, and to have my family and friends, the roof over my head, a strong body and a mind that can still function.
My husband and I are lucky to have all four parents still on this earth, all nearing 90. We see the challenges of a long life: physical pain, mobility issues, health struggles, and a mind that doesn’t always remember correctly. I know we’re all on a downhill slope here. Fifty-five is pretty darn kick-ass, if you take a moment to appreciate it.
Just don’t call me “Oldie Locks.”
The Grown and Flown book is available now in paperback.
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