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.