The BIG 50
I am turning 50 this week.
Whoa. Seriously? The big 50? Seems like yesterday that I was bragging about not being 40 yet.
Not that I am freaking out.
My 20s were maniacal. My 30s, wondrous in discovery. My 40s were terrific — sorry to be leaving them. But I am truly looking forward to the 50s. My friends who have all turned officially old before me tell me that this is the best decade yet.
OK, yes, I am freaking out.
It’s not that I feel old. But there are just way too many reminders now of how life is passing me by.
Yes, there are the wrinkles on my face that suddenly — after I was reminded I had only a few more days left in the 40s — turned wretchedly prominent in the bathroom mirror.
And every strand of gray hair stood up straight, begging for a good dose of dark, brown hue. Praise be to my stylist Jaime Booth, who for years, has been trusted upon to ensure that my hair, at least, won’t give me away. (I’ve already made my pre-birthday appointment).
Barbie turned 50 three years before me. How come she still looks good?
Then there are the back aches and knee pains and other physical ailments that just don’t bother younger people.
Time races by with me wanting to make the most of every minute because suddenly, I have contemplated my own mortality — way too much.
The worst, though, are the reminders from others. Those are the ones that hurt.
Like soldiers I interviewed who said I was attractive enough but old enough to be their mother. Ouch.
Many of my colleagues can say that, too, in the CNN Digital newsroom, where most are young and energetic and full of ideas that involve smart phones and social media. What would they think if they knew my first news story was banged out on a 1930s Remington typewriter? Have they even heard of rubber cement and hot type?
They complain when technology fails them and they are not connected every single second. I think of how I grew up in India without television, without phone service at times.
I remember how to write a letter and post it and wait eight months for a response to return from the other side of the Atlantic.
To them, everything about me is as antiquated my parents were to me. To them, anti-apartheid protests, big hair and then-grounbreaking “The Cosby Show” as old and distant as the 1940s were to me.
I also have a yin and yang relationship with the AARP card I got when my husband turned 50 seven years ago. I whip it out at hotels, car rental places and the movies. The discounts are grand but how come no one says: “Wow. You don’t look old enough to carry an AARP card!”
They used to say that. I swear.
A few weeks ago, I renewed my Georgia driver’s license. Thank you to the lady behind the counter who found it hard to believe I was born in 1962. I am forever indebted to your kindness. Or maybe, it was just blindness.
I also detest moments when I inadvertently date myself.
I remember the day Martin Luther King was killed. And lesser events like when Skylab fell. I couldn’t tell if a co-worker knew what I was talking about. She just gave me a vacant stare.
Or how about when I sat on rickety wooden bleachers at the Florida State Universitybasketball gym and saw Prince perform with Vanity 6? He was nothing then. Nothing.
That’s how old I am.
I’ve heard folks say: 50 is the new 40. I don’t think so.
50 is, well, still 50. For me, it’s the true start of middle age. And the bridge to old age.
But I am better armed for this new era of my life than I was for any other. I am an improved judge of people. I’ve learned when to trust and when to walk away. I also have the comfort of walking through life with a boatload of experience. Sure wouldn’t want to be that green and naive at navigation again.
I have a lot to look back on. But I still have a lot coming my way. And I am excited.
So call me old if you like.
I say: Happy 50th Birthday to me. Bring it on!