January 16, 2008
What 50 Looks Like
The feminist icon Gloria Steinem, one of my heroes, made famous the phrase "This is what 40 looks like." She may have said it to chastise those who think being a certain age means being old, unattractive, past-it. I've certainly had those thoughts about myself and others. As a young woman, I dreaded turning 30. Forty was a nightmare.
I turned 50 on January 6th. It happened just the way I wanted it to; in the company of beloveds, in a beautiful place (Ojai, California). Though not shot at the most flattering angle, I love this photo (taken by my friend Celeste Gabriele) because it expresses the happiness and gratitude I felt that day.
I keep hearing, "You don't look 50." I've never lied about my age because I've loved to watch peoples' jaws drop. I greatly enjoyed it when, on my 30th birthday, I ordered an alcoholic drink in a restaurant and was asked for my I.D.
When I look in the mirror now, I do see 50. My lack of gray hair, which some see as a sign of youthfulness, is genetic; both parents grayed late, yet at 40 my mother looked considerably older than I do now. Of course, unlike me, she had a husband and a child; I suspect we aged her a bit!
This body has plenty of mileage on it, which to me is visible and palpable. I have more chins than a Chinese phone book. I've got less hair in some places and more in others. My body feels 50; I am now aware of having hip joints, something I never used to think about. My memory isn't what it used to be, nor is my hearing.
I see 50 in my eyes as well; in the early morning, they can look world-weary...or maybe that's just the droop of my nearly-blind right eye, coupled with a typical change-of-life decrease in the amount of hours I sleep through the night.
Emotionally and spiritually, I don't feel especially 50, whatever that means. I remember my aunt Evelyn remarking, at 60, that she couldn't relate to that number. In my late 20s at the time, couldn't see her that way either; she was more adventurous, and fun to be with, than many of my contemporaries. As for me, I'm essentially the same person I was at 15. Except at 15, I thought I knew it all.
So, this is what 50 looks like, and it has nothing to do with looks. Fifty without a story looks happy to be alive, feels relatively healthy and sane, experiences a lot of love, and is living a most fulfilling life, right now.
©2008 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.