It was my birthday this week. And although I don’t love that I’m eligible for the AARP, I am also told there are a lot of good discounts, so there’s that! Mostly, I am feeling grateful for fifty-five healthy years filled with love and fun and security and abundance. Blessed to have an amazing family and fabulous friends and meaningful work and blossoming creativity. It’s taken all fifty-five years to get here, so I honor that.
Guess who else is in their mid-fifties. Carrie Bradshaw, one of my favorite fictional characters. I was always a huge Sex and the City fan. I acknowledge that the movies, and especially the new reboot, are not as good as the original series. But few things are ever as good as the original. Still, I love the characters and their arcs and their evolving friendships (at least in the original series!). I love their struggles with love and security and meaning-making.
So here’s something you may know, or you may have heard and forgotten, or it may be shocking news. I actually knew it and forgot and then was shocked when I learned it again. Carrie and Charlotte and Miranda are about the same ages in And Just Like That as Blanche and Rose and Dorothy were in The Golden Girls series. Yet those characters always seemed like old ladies to me, and Carrie and company do not. Why is that?
It could be because I am the same age as them now and I don’t feel like an old lady. I mean, fifty-five still sounds old, but I don’t feel old on the inside. I don’t feel fifty-five. Which makes me wonder what it means to feel fifty-five. Which is precisely the point about The Golden Girls versus the SATC crowd.
Clearly, cultural messages of age are constantly changing as life expectancy changes. Fifty-five feels farther from dying than it did forty years ago, so that is part of it. But it’s not all of it.
I think there is both an empowerment and a disempowerment element to it for me. There are less societal rules about what women can “get away with” at older ages. I can’t shop in the juniors department anymore but I can pretty much wear a lot of the same clothes and styles that I wore when I was thirty and forty. In fact, I do still wear some of those clothes! My hair style has been mostly the same for decades (although the fun highlights are now paired with color to cover the grey). I have more freedom and flexibility in all of those choices, and I think that changes the possibilities of being fifty-five more than in 1985. However, it also ties women into this cultural imperative to stay young. To invest time and money in hair color and Botox and plastic surgery and weight management, all in the service of maintaining as youthful an appearance as possible.
But why? I actually like myself more now than I did at almost any other age of my life. I have wisdom and clarity and purpose and peace with myself that I didn’t have when I was younger. So why shouldn’t I look my age? Why shouldn’t I be proud of fifty-five and flaunt my grey hair and wrinkles and flabby tummy? Those things are evidence of all the years of learning and growth that brought me to this moment in time. Why wish them away? Why hide the proof of who I’ve become?
Let’s be clear, I am not ready to stop coloring my hair. I am not surrendering on that yet. But I am comfortable with this double five number. I am comfortable with myself, which is what fifty-five ultimately means to me.