I recently turned 50. I didn’t want to turn fifty. I tried hard not to. It happened anyway.
Fifty is both a milestone and a mind fuck, and not to brag but I made it in one piece. I also made it without any unwanted pregnancies and no arrests. I didn’t marry any idiots, get embarrassing tattoos when I was drunk, or buy a lion on a whim. By anyone’s standards I’m a modern-day success story.
No matter how young you feel or how good you look, fifty is a tough pill to swallow. You can’t help but reflect back on what you’ve accomplished, or how you’ve squandered the last half a century. I know life isn’t necessarily a numbers game, but nonetheless here are some of the numbers.
I was born in 1970.
In 1973 I fell out of my highchair.
I lost my virginity on Super Bowl Sunday, 1987.
I’ve been to 30 countries and two rehabs.
I’ve had seven long term relationships, 11 one-night stands, and one broken engagement.
I haven’t had a cigarette in 17 years, and a drink in 24 years.
At 26 I was dating a 48-year-old, at 50 I’m sleeping with a 36-year-old. Happy birthday to me.
In the United States 3,731,386 people will turn 50 this year. This has no relevance whatsoever, but it sounded important. So what do all 3,731,386 of us do now? Are we congratulated for making it this far? Do we get medals? Gold watches? A pat on the back? Does anyone pay us for this hard work? Or are we considered half dead? Three quarters dead? Is it time to celebrate or time to cry?
I decided it was time to celebrate. I wanted to commemorate all my awe-inspiring accomplishments, and also distract myself to avoid being suicidally depressed by my lack of others. I started to plan a 50th birthday party. As soon as I sent out the evite one of my friends called.
“Fifty?” He said. “I feel like I’m going to your funeral.”
I laughed out loud.
But was it funny?
I think it’s a laugh or you’ll cry type of thing. I also think everyone should celebrate turning fifty, because it’s no small feat. You have to earn it. It takes decades. And I’ve had a very full life. I’ve had scabies, whooping cough, and PTSD from my feet touching the bottom of the lake at sleep away camp. I’ve dropped diamonds down the drain by accident. I’ve broken numerous glass bongs, one full length mirror in college, and too many boundaries to count. I once watched my car get stolen. I’ve been bitten by my own dog. Twice. I’ve only had one migraine, but lots of little headaches along the way. I learned not to go to the eye doctor stoned, or to polish my nails drunk. A policeman once told me he was afraid of me. I’ve had alcoholic boyfriends, psychotic pets (my goldfish once jumped out of its bowl), and both simultaneously. I’ve had teachers I didn’t listen to, therapists I didn’t listen to, and doctors I didn’t listen to. I’ve gone down hopeless existential rabbit holes rendering my whole existence meaningless and looped back around again. It’s a lot to celebrate!
The funny thing is that 50 is neither young nor old. It’s young to a 75-year-old and old to a 25-year-old. But at least you’re not waiting for it anymore. The best thing about turning fifty is that you’re no longer 49, which is the next worst thing to being 50. Once you turn 49 the countdown is on and the whole year is wasted with anticipation, anxiety and dread. Forty-nine shouldn’t even be an age, just like there are no 13th floors. Just get rid of it. Wine me, dine me, 49 me? No thanks.
If you’re lucky enough to make it to 50 you should at least give yourself credit for hitting the milestone. You should appreciate your life and the fact that you didn’t OD, fall off a junky roller coaster, or get swallowed whole by a snake like they do in Indonesia. I am truly grateful for those things. I’m also proud of myself for not giving up, because there’s so much to look forward to. The movies I won’t see, the meals I won’t cook, and all the men I still won’t go out with. At the very least I can be an example for younger women; a powerful role model to trembling 49-year-olds everywhere. And despite my best efforts to the contrary, I have evolved. For example, in 1978 Wednesday Addams was my role model, in 1990 Madonna was my role model, and today AA is my role model. Well, AA and Jane Fonda. And with AA being 85 and Jane Fonda being 82 I think I’ve chosen wisely.