For those of you who haven’t heard, I’m celebrating a big birthday this year. How big, you ask? Let me give you a hint: I turned ‘Plenty-nine’ last November. Need more clues? This next one has a zero in it. And a six. You know that I’m not still in kindergarten so…fine. Fine. I’m turning sixty this year. There. I said it.
In our mothers’ generation, no woman in her right mind would have admitted that. Our elders were ‘women of a certain age.’ Exactly what age, though, was never revealed. Back then, a sixty-year-old tinted her hair blue. Nowadays, she paints her toenails blue. One could call that progress, I suppose.
Sixty is a beautiful number. 60. Look at it. Round and jolly, just like me.
I’m fine with it, truly I am. You might not believe me, but I’m genuinely looking forward to the celebration. As far as I’m concerned, birthday rhymes with mirthday, which isn’t actually a word, but that’s okay.
I wasn’t always this giddy. In fact, much like grief, I traversed the five stages of turning sixty:
Stage 1: Denial… As in, there is no way I’m not still 37
Stage 2: Anger…. Whoa: who stole my 37?
Stage 3: Bargaining… Can I at least tell people I’m 37?
Stage 4: Depression… Wahhhh…..why can’t I be 37
Stage 5: Acceptance… Oh, thank goodness I’m not 37
The denial piece was embarrassing. As much as I would like to think of myself as cool and up to date, I’m often the most unhip person in the room. I still think that being ‘woke’ is what I did this morning in bed…and ‘bougie’ is simply ‘boogie’ misspelled.
Perhaps boogie isn’t even a word anymore, and I’m embarrassing myself by revealing my disco era proclivities.
Though I may not converse in the current vernacular, most days I feel young, except after a Power 45 class at the gym. Then I feel closer to 107. Unlike the thirty-somethings there, I tend to station myself far from the instructor and even farther away from the mirror. By the way, have you seen the lighting at the gym? I told the owners that I would gladly replace the overhead fluorescents with votive candles. For some odd reason they declined my generous offer.
If you walked into my house at this moment, you’d never think I was on the back side of middle-age. Of course, you would have to look past the Cologuard kit that arrived last week and the filched packets of Splenda on my counter (yes, I’ve become that person). Other than that, I’m young….ish.
Friends and strangers alike have been sympathetic when I share my birthday concerns. I’ve come to accept their platitudes as gifts, as one day I may need to re-gift them.
A perfect example is when people say, ‘Mimi, you look great for your age.’ Couldn’t they have ended at ‘You look great,’ full stop?
Maybe just this once, we Americans could give credit to the French. For one moment put aside their obsession with Jerry Lewis, and consider how they revere the well-aged: a ripe Camembert, a 1945 Chateau Pétrus, Catherine Deneuve. Je suis en good company, n’est ce pas?
Have you noticed that when you hear the claim ‘You’re as young as you feel’, the speaker is usually 15-20 years younger than you are? Smug little whippersnapper….
The same holds true for ‘Age is simply a number’, in my case, a mighty big number. No doubt it’s meant as encouragement (as in, ‘don’t stop now, keep going’), but when your abacus is running short on beads, you’re bound to feel some degree of concern.
I have pondered how best to approach this impending big birthday.
Perhaps a trip to the Fountain of Youth is in order. I have toyed with the idea of running off to LA to refresh and renew. Without fibbing to extreme, I could tell people that I’m flying out to visit loved ones on the west coast. That part is true. My parents and sister do live in California. Honestly, whose business is it that my cherished uncle happens to wield Beverly Hills’ finest needle? And by ‘uncle’ I mean dear friend’s husband who is no relation whatsoever. No matter.
Loving pals will attempt to dissuade, but when I see the ghost of Richard Nixon gazing back at me in the mirror, can anyone blame me for considering bold steps?
For the past few years, I’ve finessed it and gotten by with gentler methods. I discovered that smiling helps lift sagging jowls. That seemed to work until last week, when my neighbor tearfully recounted her cat’s recent demise. Reasonably, she became agitated as she watched me sympathetically nod and idiotically grin at the same time. She asked if I was suffering from severe Felinophobia or simply off my rocker.
I’ve employed other techniques, as well. If you have seen pictures of me lately, you will observe that one or both hands are cradling my cheeks in an, ‘oh me, oh my’ pose. I’ve deployed this method to trick people across from me into believing that I’m truly fascinated by what they have to say. If anything, they’ll be focused on their own cleverness and not notice Newton’s law of gravity in action.
The truth is, I’m weary of faking it. Looks are fleeting, time is passing.
Life is a gift, and it’s time to unwrap the precious package.
After the Cali trip, I’m planning even bigger adventures as I gratefully march to November. Goals to achieve, avenues to explore…
Why don’t you pack your suitcase and join me on this journey toward Six-Oh?