Today is my 47th birthday. How on earth did I get to be 47 years old? I don't know. I think I'm just going to grab onto that cliché as it flutters by, contemplating its impending trip north this spring, and note that "time flies." I don't, however, want to grab onto the old cliché about how horrible aging is. To that effect, I am here to tell you some very good things about getting older.
1. I no longer feel ugly.
I wasted a good deal of my life (especially my youthful years, when society would have you believe I was at my most beautiful) thinking I was ugly. I looked in the mirror and found fault with everything I saw. Now, not only do I no longer feel ugly, but I feel beautiful. I still vividly remember about 13 years ago when a good friend of mine was turning 50, and she announced to a group of us that one of the great things about being her age was that she finally felt beautiful. I remember thinking, "Oh, my God, how do you get there?" (BTW, this friend of mine was not an Audrey-Hepburn lookalike or anything. She was just a "normal" woman: graying hair, weight where we all gain it, etc.) I didn't believe her at the time. I do now. The answer to 'getting there'? Nothing but time. The wisdom that comes with age has a lot to do with it. As I say, I used to see nothing but faults: too short, too white, too fat here, too thin there (no need to go on, right? We all know how the beauty industry makes us females berate ourselves, don't we?). Now, I embrace what makes me unique. I don't tan. I'm "petite." I wear hats well. It's all about attitude and not letting others define "ugly" and "beautiful" for me.
2. Speaking of beauty, it helps that I now feel good when I compare myself physically to my peers.
By "peers," I mean those plus or minus 5 years my age. When I was in my teens and twenties and thirties, I always felt inferior to my peers. They were always taller, skinnier, tanner, had better hair, had more fashion sense, had better luck with boys/men, etc., etc. Everyone always seemed to have a flatter stomach, longer legs, bigger breasts...I've discovered, though, that all my years of taking pretty good care of myself (exercising on a regular basis, eating mostly healthy food and avoiding junk, etc.) have paid off. Now, I, apparently, "look really good for [my] age" or "don't look [my] age at all." Sure, I'd like to lose a few pounds, but I'm not fat by any stretch of the imagination. The white skin I have always cursed has kept me out of the sun, so, with the exception of a worry line, I don't have many wrinkles. My hair is blond, so the gray looks more like highlights than gray. At this stage of my life, I very rarely meet women my age who make me feel like I need to eat nothing but lettuce leaves and exercise like an Olympic swimmer if I'm ever going to look like that. And fashion sense? Who cares? I wear what I like, what makes me feel good, and that changes from day to day (sometimes it's yoga pants and a fleece sweat shirt, other times it's a tailored suit). Then there are men. I no longer need to have "luck with men," but men seem to like me, so I must be doing something right.
3. I'm more self confident.
I'm not perfect in this regard, but oh my god, am I so much better than I was twenty years ago. I have so much less trouble disagreeing with people and stating my point of view than I did when I was 27. I'm convinced my opinion matters, and I don't easily back down when I feel something is worth pursuing. I don't worry so much that people may not like me if I disagree with them. If they don't like me, well...oh well. There are plenty of people in this world who do like me and who I like right back, so there's no need to worry about those who may not.
4. My hair has changed.
The hair on my head is nowhere near as oily as it used to be, which means I no longer have to wash it every day. I can go outside in public the day after I've washed it without feeling like I ought to be charging people $3+ a gallon. This may be because I've finally found the right shampoo, but after experimenting with various shampoos for 33 years, I highly doubt that. Meanwhile, how come no one tells women about the marvelous wonder known as "leg baldness?" I no longer have to shave my legs nearly as often (and I still can't quite get used to this fact). My hair just seems to have stopped growing. I remember, when I was 17 or so, my mother telling me she no longer needed to shave her legs. I, of course, didn't believe her. She must have been mistaken. How could she no longer need to shave her legs? (There's a lesson in here for younger readers. Believe older women when they tell you things.)
5. I can do so much more alone without feeling uncomfortable.
Can you believe that fifteen years ago, I'd never eaten out alone? I'd also never gone to a movie alone. Enjoyed a cup of coffee and a scone in a cafe alone. Sat at a bar alone. Okay, maybe there are those who wouldn't exactly call being with a book being "alone," because books are friends. Still, by most standards, I am alone. Oh, and I even go to the Ladies Room alone (then again, I always did that).
6. I pursue what I like instead of what I'm supposed to like.
I really don't care what others think if I know absolutely nothing about 21st-century pop culture. I watch very little T.V. and (with the exception of Mad Men) don't even really know what I'm supposed to be watching these days. I don't mind telling people I'm completely movie ignorant. I also don't mind telling people that I spend most of my down time reading. And I happen to think that most conversations are pretty superficial if you have to spend your time avoiding the three "taboo" topics of religion, sex, and politics. Anyone who brings up any of these topics in a conversation rises in my esteem.
7. Speaking of sex, it's no longer Sex.
Yes, it's still enjoyable. Yes, it still catches my attention. But, really, what was the huge deal when I was in my twenties? It's hard for me to fathom. This means that men have become so much more interesting on so many other levels, and I no longer have to worry about being tongue-tied just because some guy is cute (or even drop-dead gorgeous. In fact, my whole definition of "drop-dead gorgeous" has changed). This change has been extraordinarily freeing. I like to think that this isn't just a matter of having been married for fifteen years, that even if I weren't in a monogamous relationship, I would no longer make a fool of myself over men.
8. I have money.
I've been working full time and earning money for 25 years now. I've saved. I've invested. It helps that I never had children, but even if I had, I would not be in situations like I was at age 24 when I had to choose between an oil change in the car and groceries. I don't have extravagant tastes, at least, not when it comes to things like clothes and cars. I do like good, fresh, organic food, so that's where I am extravagant (and, really, that is a cheap extravagance compared to something like Jimmy Choo). That means that on the occasions when I want to be truly extravagant (taking a private sleeper car on Amtrak from New York to New Mexico, say), I can be so without having to worry that I won't be able to pay the rent (which, by the way, is no longer rent, but rather, a mortgage on my dream home in Maine).
9. I am aware that I am not old.
Okay, in fairness, I've been aware of this for a long time. When I was in my twenties, I figured out that no one is old until his or her obituary would no longer cause shock. For instance, if you were to read my obituary tomorrow (and you're not fifteen years old), my guess is that you would think, "Oh my God. She was so young!" Until someone has reached the age at which an obituary would make someone think, "Well, she lived a good, long life," she is not old. That means, in my book, you have to be at least in your early eighties to be old. My father, for instance, is now allowed to tell me he's old, but before he turned eighty, I wouldn't listen to him.
10. I can't think of a good #10.
Ten is a nice, round number, though. We mature folks like things to be nice and orderly and round.