Today is my 55th birthday.
That's the age when state governments let you retire. (Too bad I haven't spent my life working for the state.)
It's also another of those "five" birthdays that lets you know that you are closer to the next decade milepost than you are to the previous. It's one thing to say that 50 is the new 30. (It isn't.) It's quite another to try to get away with saying that sixty makes you still a kid. (You aren't.)
I've never been one to lie about my age. I don't care how much plastic surgery you have, or how much botox you have, none of it is going to make you one iota younger. Sooner or later, you are going to make a reference to the Beatles appearing for the first time on the Ed Sullivan Show and you're going to give yourself away. When I was laid off in 2008, I put my year of college graduation back on my resume. The way I figured it, I was going to be depressed enough about job-hunting; why create a situation where I'd get all dressed up and hopeful about going to an interview and then the minute the 25-year-old interviewer got a look at me and his/her face fell, knowing that I had zero chance at the job and had to go through the interview anyway. If a company was going to rule me out because of my age, I wanted to know up-front, before I waste my time. (P.S. I got a job anyway.)
For the last fifteen years, I've kind of reveled in being middle-aged. When I hit 40, I realized that I was finally comfortable in my own skin. It was as if I'd been forty since I was twelve, and my chronological age had finally caught up with my mental one. The forties are great. You still look relatively good, you feel good, and you can still delude yourself that you have some youth left. At fifty-five, you can't.
That's not necessarily a bad thing. For those of us who were never "hot babes", losing our looks is less painful than it is for some others. Most of us have had to develop a sense of humor, or a musical talent, or a nurturing nature, because our packaging wasn't going to serve us to draw others to us. The invisibility of being an aging woman isn't all bad. I used to feel unable to go out without full makeup, or be unwilling to be seen in a Pathmark alone on a Saturday night. How silly is that? Aging gives us the freedom to Just Not Give a Shit. Except that we often still do. We do because we're still human. We do because if we allow it to, experience gives us wisdom. And there are worse things to be than the cool old lady that younger people go to for advice, or to just talk to. Society may wish us to just go away, but that doesn't mean we have to.
And so I am not depressed today. It is sometimes disconcerting to realize that "It's all downhill from here" -- and not in a good way. There are real worries about getting older in our society today, not the least of which is the financial one. In true "Nixon goes to China" fashion, our Democratic President seems bound and determined, as Sam Seder notes in his latest podcast
, to prepare for his post-presidency Wall Street job by sucking up to those who would eliminate Social Security. Participation in a 401(k) is one thing, but you're trusting your money to the same people who brought down the economy in the first place. There are health care issues. People in my family have a habit of living into our nineties. That doesn't mean we never need health care. Being old in our society is not something to look forward to, but it's better than the alternative -- or so we can hope.
But today I have made it in this God-forsaken level of reality for fifty-five years. I'll take that deal.
Labels: personal musings