Club L

birthday cake

Image by freakgirl via Flickr

A friend turns fifty today. It’s one of those “milestone” birthdays of which are scare once a person passes the infamous twenty-one. Passing from one decade to another though ceases to be momentous after a certain point because, in my opinion, many of us peak in terms of knowledge base and ability to add to existing skill sets.

My friend is not one of the stunted folk, which isn’t a surprise in a earth sign. In fact, I’ve only known one earth sign in my life who was a tool and my assessment is based on his rather twisted personality rather than a lack of innate intelligence.

Being female, however, this friend rather lamented the run up to her inaugral year in a new decade. The AARP didn’t help with it’s welcome wagon membership privileges either. Fifty is harder on women than men though my own darling husband is hurumphing and grim-faced about his own fiftieth later this year. He, at least, has the decidedly unfair advantage of the myth that men improve with age while women merely get old.

There is nothing “mere” about what happens to women as they get older nor is it appreciably different than what happens to men, but in a society that worships youth in the female form and exhorts women to look to 12 year old actresses as beauty standards, it’s understandable that many women dread and even fight aging with everything in their arsenal.

Being of a certain age myself, I am torn between grace and battle. My hair has been graying since my late twenties – it happens with redheads – but I’ve hidden it with highlights because I am blessed with that pure white replacement rather than the steely variety, but there isn’t enough of it to allow it dominance. Blonde simply lightens me in a way whitening red does not.

For the moment, I do nothing, but I think about doing something and that is maddening. Because why should I think about doing something anyway?

Not long ago I ran across an article bemoaning the fact that Elle Fanning is the new fashion “it” girl, the one designers love and hype as the “perfect female form”.

She’s twelve. And who wasn’t sparkly and full of feminine promise at that age?

Of course it’s her rack that attracts both filmmakers and haute couture pimps alike. She’s coltish with a ballerina body type, blond and fair. She’s the fantasy. The idea that for some reason maturity ruins females. Roundness and hair in the wrong places, and oozing once a month render us worthless. Not to mention that it is the beginning of the end. Age will take us and if it takes us – it can take men too.

Maybe that’s the real appeal. Men look at scandalously young females and see themselves in a way that defies the mirrors they ignore.

But why should my friend lament fifty? Why should anyone?

It’s not like many of us would willingly relive twelve. No one but the most stunted long to be teenagers again in any way. And, for one, resent the suggestion that I should emulate a 12 year old. It’s insulting and not just a little creepy.

In mythology, women travel from maiden to crone, but crone is powerful. The form she takes is of her choosing really, and that is the beauty of aging. Choice. And the wisdom, experience  and means to make ones that suit us. Let a 12 year old claim that.

At twelve, females are objects. Too young to know that, they smile and accept inappropriate and dangerous to them ideas and attention. At 50, not so much.

Happy Birthday then to my fabously fifty friend, who is wise and wily and wonderful.

3 responses to “Club L

  1. Thanks for the (albeit anonymous) good wishes, Annie.

    It’s not turning 50 that bothers me: Fifty is nothing but a number and age is a state of mind. And I’m wise and wily enough to know that numbers and minds are eminently changeable.

    What bothered me was turning 50 as a widowed, unemployed mother of two young boys in a community where I have no network of friends. If Nick were alive, turning 50 wouldn’t have bothered me at all, because he would have pampered me and made me feel special and loved. If I were able to be pursuing my career, it wouldn’t bother me because I wouldn’t feel like I wasn’t “doing anything” with my life. If my boys were older, it wouldn’t bother me because I wouldn’t feel like the odds of my meeting someone to pamper me at my next milestone were so small. If I were in Maryland, it wouldn’t bother me, because I would have thrown myself a big party with a couple dozen friends.*

    As it turns out, it’s been a lovely day, and my darling boys conspired to help me start it with love and a smile. And really, who could ask for anything more? Fifty itself doesn’t bother me, and if the rest of the year goes as sweetly as today, I will count it a very good year indeed.

    * You know why I am where I am, and you and I know that am doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing, so I won’t spell that out here.

    • The physical aspect of aging while female is the most obvious one and the one that the mainstream focuses on because it is promoted as way to fix or forestall all the things you mention though the reality is that being alone and anchored with responsibility can’t be cured by maintaining the illusion of 12 year old beauty.

      You ARE special and loved, but I know too well how much it sucks not to hear it from someone who values you beyond reason.

      I am glad to hear the boys filled in and the day has been a good one.

      • Right … and the aging-body thing doesn’t bother me at all. I made peace with mine a long, long time ago. I wouldn’t WANT to look like a 25YO anymore (let alone a 12YO???!!!). I carry the signs of age with pride: I earned them and won’t hide them.

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