Well, of course, turning 60 is a privilege — anyone who was not given the chance to grow old would attest to that. But still, the thought looms large in many women’s heads. Each decade is a rite of passage but after fifty, that passageway seems to get narrower. Funny little things start happening. Like young people innocently asking if you have grandchildren on a day when you thought you looked smoking hot and not a day over thirty-seven. Or someone inviting you to be a mentor at work, “Because you are so wise.” (Cue instinctive removal of prescription glasses to lessen the owlish effect.)
Looking back, 18 and 21 were great. Though I remember that even hitting 30 seemed something to be ashamed of to some 24-year-olds. Forty possibly hurts the most as it’s an entirely grown-up number. Sort of the worst of all worlds as you’re expected to have made something of your life yet to be still young and adventurous. In reality, many people around 40 are in the toughest years of all, with family dependents and demanding careers jointly rendering them plain exhausted.
I threw everything up into the air in my 50s. Instead, choosing to get divorced and to give up a job I loved to go out on my own. I moved to restore a shabby old house and embark on a new relationship. I can say with a big smile that it all worked out brilliantly. But if I said I didn’t miss my pre-pregnancy waist, my pre-chocolate jawline or my pre-divorce pension expectations, I’d be lying.
I’m relaxed about 60 in a social context, (not least as many truly awesome friends got there long before me), yet I’ve agonized whether or not I should let people know professionally. The foolish motivation for this seems to that if I don’t tell them, they won’t be able to do the maths or believe the evidence of their eyes. My fear is simply that I’ll be seen as less able or less relevant because of a single digit change.
My poor mother spent a lifetime believing that her critical inner dialogue was unique to her. And while the words probably were, the earworm which constantly tells us we are falling short of some imagined ideal is fairly universal, in my experience. All of the above is tilted at my own insecurity as much as anything else. If anyone says a milestone birthday doesn’t give them at least one twang then they may be too far up the confidence scale for a mere mortal such as I to see them.
But if I’m making this sound grim, let me redress the balance. If you are still on the “right” side of 60 let’s dash any notions that the big 60 should necessitate putting a paper bag over your head and retreating to the shadows.
I’ve decided to keep it real. I’m going to spend the next 18 months before the big birthday rejoicing in what I have, what I have had and what I still want to achieve. I’m going to throw a party in 2021 and wear my “I am 60” badge with pride.
I am going to continue to learn new stuff. And cut down on carbs (at least on days with a “T” in them). I’m going to stop beating myself up about a larger number. From my dress size to my age, it is nothing other than a number. And I’m going to aim to be the best 60-year old I can be.
Sadly, I can’t get old and wear purple (not with my coloring). But I may opt for a little fuschia or sienna with sunburst yellow accents. After all, what is more important for a happy life than embracing it? Whatever the stage. Whatever the number. In whatever way we can.
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