Mental Hygiene for Women Past Fifty: 100 Years Later

In case anyone is wondering, life after 50 is not horrible. Yeah, you spend the first couple of years wondering how it came to be that everything sags, wishing for a lucky lottery ticket to finance facial reconstruction, envying the coworkers’ white teeth and thick hair and how stunning they look in contrast to the throngs of middle-aged pajama-wearing shoppers at Kroger.  You get past this.

No matter how often your mother told you to use moisturizer, wrinkles and dark spots arrive. You find yourself massaging your neck, stretching it out, pulling back the double chin; you convince yourself that this looks dignified, in an Eleanor Roosevelt kind of way.

According to “Mental Hygiene for Women Past Fifty” (The Relief Society Magazine) in January 1916, the “usual fear” of 50-something women a century ago was “apoplexy, paralysis, and nervous collapse.” How has life changed for women over 50 in the last century? Did they literally mean “apoplexy” (as in stroke or fainting spells) or was it code for being irrationally angry with the general store clerk? Is it analogous with wanting to punch a supervisor for speaking to you while enduring a hot flash?

It does get easier. You swat away the stupid stuff. That friend who tormented you for 20 years with passive-aggressive behavior? A big bowl of nope. Tick-fucking-tock. You have things to do, places to go. Maybe people to see…if you feel like it. Because maybe you would rather wear pajama bottoms and an oversized Gap shirt that you’ve owned for 20 years, sitting on the couch, watching reruns of Fox William “Spooky” Mulder and Dana Scully on X Files. Maybe you would rather listen to Frankie Goes to Hollywood while cleaning the bathroom instead of going to a barbecue. It’s ok to do these things and not feel guilty.  Maybe you’d rather do those things than go to a party where you only know five people and those five people are not your favorite people. The universe shrinks a little in some places (friends) and expands in others (hips, maybe, but also space—giving yourself room to be your best hermit self).

If you have a partner, you may find that you need less from each other but manage to love more.

(At this minute, I am writing in the living room while husbro is playing guitar in the basement. This is typical. He knows that all he has to do to make me happy is to make me laugh.  Hence, he pretends to imitate our cat Bennie talking. It sounds like Meatwad from Aqua Teen Hunger Force–a kind of lispy, slurry affect–saying things like, “Touch my belly and you’ll pull back a bloody stump.” I know all I need to do to make him happy is to laugh.)

You learn to develop realistic expectations. Exercise is something you do to get endorphins going, not to lose weight or curb cellulite. This is not a bad thing.

Gratitude becomes a habit. As you lose friends and family to diseases and accidents, mortality smacks you in the face. You have more to lose than to gain, and so you honor those people who are in your life with little prayers. I do this on my way to work. Maybe it is superstition, all this gratefulness. If I don’t say thank you, will it all disappear?  But it makes me feel better to give thanks, to recognize my good fortune in life.

Aging is not for the faint of heart (obviously) but it doesn’t ask for courage either. Humility, yes. Acceptance, most definitely.

39 Comments Mental Hygiene for Women Past Fifty: 100 Years Later

  1. Anonymous February 24, 2015 at 3:01 am

    Good
    I like it

    Reply
  2. Jill's Scene February 24, 2015 at 3:25 am

    So very well said. Age = licence to be yourself. I love it – your post, and getting older.

    Reply
    1. Meg February 27, 2015 at 1:17 am

      Thanks for reading and commenting. I’m still learning how to be myself…a work in progress.

      Reply
  3. Julie Henahan February 24, 2015 at 7:18 am

    Wonderful! And so very true. Thanks for the morning laugh, Meg!

    Reply
    1. Meg February 27, 2015 at 1:18 am

      Oh, I’m glad it made you laugh, Julie! Always makes me happy to see your name here. Thank you, sweetheart!

      Reply
  4. michellelongo February 24, 2015 at 7:34 am

    You make getting older sound not so bad. I especially liked the sitting on the couch part 😉

    Reply
    1. Meg February 27, 2015 at 1:19 am

      LOL. Yes, the couch may very well be the best part. Thanks for reading, Michelle. <3

      Reply
  5. Kat February 24, 2015 at 7:36 am

    So there’s still hope! Good to hear. 🙂

    Reply
    1. Meg February 27, 2015 at 1:19 am

      Most definitely, Kat! It’s all worth it.

      Reply
  6. mamalinda1905 February 24, 2015 at 7:57 am

    Sixty is even better! Great read, thank you for sharing this.

    Reply
    1. Meg February 27, 2015 at 1:20 am

      Good to hear this, Linda! I’ll be there before I know it. Thanks so much, as always, for reading.

      Reply
  7. kalpana solsi February 24, 2015 at 2:25 pm

    acceptance is the keyword.

    Reply
    1. Meg February 27, 2015 at 1:20 am

      Indeed, it is! Thanks for the comment.

      Reply
  8. Jacqueline Bryant Campbell February 24, 2015 at 9:53 pm

    This is definitely when you learn true gratitude, but also when you learn to just say forget it. Thanks for the roadmap.

    Reply
    1. Meg February 27, 2015 at 1:22 am

      I hope the roadmap is without too many twists and turns. Life is pretty magical though. You never know what’s ahead. Thanks for your kind comment, Jacqueline. <3

      Reply
  9. Nancy Lowell February 25, 2015 at 8:30 am

    Yes, yes, and yes. Thanks for this circumspect assessment.

    Reply
    1. Meg February 27, 2015 at 1:22 am

      Yes! Thanks, Nancy.

      Reply
  10. Cheney February 25, 2015 at 8:42 am

    This is all so good to hear. I am only 32, but I also notice the older I get, the more willing I am to give up the things that don’t serve me well, like certain people and habits. It’s a great, freeing feeling.

    Reply
    1. Meg February 27, 2015 at 1:25 am

      It is freeing. I won’t say that I don’t backslide but it does get easier to move on. I can say my 30s and 40s were pretty fine too. Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Reply
  11. Stacie February 25, 2015 at 1:30 pm

    I am right there with you, wrinkles and all! Loved this.

    Reply
    1. Meg February 27, 2015 at 1:26 am

      Thanks for reading, Stacie. Wrinkles, you? Bah.

      Reply
  12. freshhell February 25, 2015 at 8:01 pm

    Love this. As I approach 49, I am finding I give less of a fuck about most everything with every day that passes.

    Reply
    1. Meg February 27, 2015 at 1:27 am

      Yay! Less fucks to give! Good for you. Thanks so much for your comment.

      Reply
  13. Jenny P February 26, 2015 at 11:45 am

    This is so great. The freedom in letting go of the bullshit. And there’s lots worse ways to be than like Eleanor Roosevelt. I think she would have loved this one too.

    Reply
    1. Meg February 27, 2015 at 1:29 am

      It would totally make my year if Eleanor Roosevelt liked this. I miss her. Thanks for your sweet comment and reading, Jenny. <3

      Reply
  14. Asha February 26, 2015 at 2:27 pm

    This was fabulous, Meg! So many many truths, dotted with such moments of chortling. And I love your daily acknowledgement of all the good in your life.

    Reply
    1. Meg February 27, 2015 at 1:30 am

      Chortle is one of my favorite words. Glad you liked this, Asha. Means a lot. <3

      Reply
  15. Silverleaf February 26, 2015 at 3:47 pm

    Meg, you are my hero, my inspiration and my shining beacon of hope! At 2 months and change away from 40, I can already see my own thoughts and outlook in much of what you’ve written here. I like that. It’s comforting. What I like almost more than that, though, is how much of you I can see in this. I love the little peeks at your daily life, your happy home, your gratitude, your you-ness.

    Reply
    1. Meg February 27, 2015 at 1:34 am

      Awww, Silver, you always make me feel so much better about myself. I’m grateful to have your friendship and writing camaraderie and only wish we lived across the street from each other. I would be over at your house every afternoon for coffee and kvetching. Thanks for your sweet words earlier today. Lots o’ love, little sister.

      Reply
      1. Silverleaf February 27, 2015 at 9:42 am

        I will save a seat for you at my table in the kitchen 🙂 Hugs and much love, always xo

        Reply
  16. rumimonger February 26, 2015 at 7:06 pm

    Reblogged this on Lisa Schamess and commented:
    love it.
    a big bowl of YEP.

    Reply
    1. Meg February 27, 2015 at 1:35 am

      I couldn’t see it but thanks!! And thanks for the FB plug. You are the best, Lisa. xoxo

      Reply
  17. Natalie DeYoung February 26, 2015 at 9:14 pm

    So I am looking forward to this time now. Also, your relationship with husbro sounds like mine–he makes up songs about our pets to make me laugh, and it works every time.

    Reply
    1. Meg February 27, 2015 at 1:38 am

      There’s something about a man who sings to pets that just tugs at your heart, right? You have a long ways to go before 50, my friend, but I have no doubt that you will fill those years with love, especially if you save some time for yourself. <3

      Reply
  18. oldendaysk February 27, 2015 at 7:16 pm

    Well, well, uh, umm…this is me speechless. I just basked in the world you just painted. It is all so true but I did not recognize it until you wrote it down and shared it! I fucking hate it when people talk to me during a hot flash! Also talking animals and singing and just living for the laugh make me happy too. You are pretty Awesome.

    Reply
    1. Meg February 28, 2015 at 1:10 pm

      What a wonderful comment. Thanks so much for reading. I’m glad it struck a chord.

      Reply
  19. innatejames February 28, 2015 at 5:22 pm

    I’m already saying little gratitude prayers for people while I wash dishes. I feel very strongly that we have to acknowledge and appreciate the good times so we can use them when bad times are around.

    Reply
  20. Elinor April 27, 2015 at 1:04 am

    I think I’ll die a complete hermit… it’s what is looking like… 😉
    Happy aging to us both!

    Reply
  21. Maria Brinkley May 27, 2015 at 12:11 am

    In so many ways life gets better as I get older – I feel more calm, have gained life experience (wisdom even?) and the things that bothered me at twenty have floated away. Acceptance is a wonderful thing and it’s so great to be here anyway!

    You have written this so well, Meg.

    Reply

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