This is not about “Fifty is The New Forty”.

In 58 more weeks, I will have lived for fifty years.

From Facebook ads to friends’ conversations, everything tells me that I should be preparing for The End: the end of reproductive life; the end of vibrant health; retirement from productive work life; the end of the illusions of youth.

Youth-obsessed American culture tells me  to lie about my age: to dye my hair more aggressively, to be ashamed of my Mom Jeans, to pretend my belly and knees and know-how and  spirit are the same as they were at forty.

Big, black birthday cards and buttons joke that beyond the cliff of fifty is the end of life itself.  Aren’t  women, at fifty, supposed to  simply disappear?

But more and more women I know are arriving at fifty differently. They approach it as a threshold, a place where life changes from one kind of journey to another.  An American woman at fifty has three decades of adult life behind her, and thirty more years before her, too.  No matter whether our nests are empty or lately begun, at fifty we are in the midst of  L’Âge Mûr, the age of ripeness;  life invites us to step into our sexuality and the fullness of our power,  and to reap the harvest of a lifetime cultivated on our own.

I write this to help me arrive at that gate with power, grace and intention. I am not afraid of the journey, but could use some companions who are familiar with the terrain. I’m turning intentionally fifty, and I’m  looking for good company to travel with me along this road.

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  • Blayne  On September 18, 2010 at 3:00 am

    I’ll join you. I turned 50 in August. I’ve never understood why women of any age don’t want people to know how old they are. We are what we are. Why pretend otherwise? But then, maybe that’s just me. I haven’t shaved my legs since I was 17, I don’t wear heels and I didn’t even wear make-up on my wedding day. I state my opinion even when it’s unpopular and I’m silly as hell. So I guess you could say that I’m not really swimming in the main stream. I’m off in some remote tributary somewhere.

    At 50 I’m becoming fatter, saggier, achier, more forgetful. I’m also more comfortable and accepting of who I am, limitations and all. My personal biggest fear about getting older is the possibility of not being there to usher my 5 year old son into adulthood, or to miss his major milestones, should he choose to be married or have children. I kind of miss what my body used to be able to do, but I watch it change with interest.

    That’s it for now. I’ve got to get to bed. I have a doctor’s appointment in the morning and I just know she’s going to be pushing me to have my first colonoscopy. THAT is something I am NOT particularly excited about. 😉

  • Dale  On September 19, 2010 at 1:15 am

    Mistinguette – I love this. I’ll join you as well, although with the chaos of my household I can’t say how often. When I was in my 20’s my university had a big marketing/strategic plan called “UNM 2000.” What would it be heading into a new century? I would ponder the same question, and had only stereotypical models to go by – married, kids, house, etc. Of course, I was nowhere near that in 2000 – and certainly not close to that “golden standard.” I’m thankful I escaped that trajectory and have carved a better path for myself. While today I’m of course married with kids and a house, I’ve done that on mostly my own terms. My 40 is much different than my mother’s 40, for sure, and I’m sure my 50 will be wildly different as well. Today I pulled three sqealing one year olds around the deck on a bobsled and scolded the moon with my two year old for following us home, and loved every minute of it. The rules are changing as we re-write them, and I for one am glad for it!

  • Pedal Paradise  On September 19, 2010 at 11:51 am

    2 years ago, I hurt my shoulder and couldn’t fully participate in my usual full-bore softball season. A woman on my team ribbed me about getting older, and it really stopped me in my tracks. Was this getting older, or was it an injury I could recover from? My ability to command my body in sport is such a part of my identity. I think for me this will be the majority of my work to understand who I am, now.

    • Laura  On September 19, 2010 at 5:05 pm

      I know what you mean about body changes requiring new understanding of self. I was life-threateningly ill in 2008; it took the majority of that year and 3 surgeries to resolve the issue. In that process I had to understand and acknowledge that, despite my super-woman self-image, I have limitations. That it’s appropriate to evaluate my choice to do this, not do that based on what makes sense to do with my energy rather than assume I can/should do it ALL. This was a powerful learning for me, as I formerly was self-critical and unforgiving of myself when I would over-commit and then not deliver to my own satisfaction. My new perspective allows me to take on new things or to pass on them comfortably.

  • Laura  On September 19, 2010 at 4:52 pm

    Thanks for starting this, Mistinguette.

    I’ll be 46 in a few weeks. My experience of aging has found each decade to be an improvement on the last. My stepmother once told me that she believes age to be a “badge of honor” and that has stayed with me. It strikes me as a truth that we would all do well to embrace.

    I don’t generally feel “old”, except when I’m achey; then I’m aware that the mileage on my body is an indicator of the time that’s passed on this journey. Today I feel richer than ever before – materially, spiritually and emotionally -and enjoy the wealth of my long-standing friendships for the treasure they continue to be.

    At the same time I’m congnizant of the fact that American culture (the only one with which I’m familiar) says that I’m undesirable, unnattractive and increasingly less employable. Yet my daily experience is often different. I get “play” on a regular basis; I work a job where I’m valued and respected. I generally experience myself as someone who commands attention when she speaks. Perhaps I’m unusually fortunate; maybe I’ve got blinders on or my image of myself overshadows that of the world around me. I know that my job searches since age 35 have been largely unsuccessful and that a big part of the reason is my age, combined with the fact that I’m not a size 6 with straight teeth and perfectly quaffed hair. Of course I wasn’t those things at 20 or 30 either. Perhaps what’s changed for the better is in me; a valuation of myself that continues to be more about content than packaging and which gets stronger with the passing years.

    I recognized that I’m fortunate. I’ve had strong women who’ve gone ahead of me and who continue to light the way, my step-mother Carol and Mistinguette among them. I am all for sharing our experiences and our perspectives on this road. Doing so enriches and strengthens us.

  • Jillian  On September 19, 2010 at 10:21 pm

    I’m with you, sister – 50 looms (in a couple years) and I don’t feel it. Am extremely uncomfortable with the way it is defined for us by popular culture. So I’m wanting new, more spacious definitions of being a woman of years and power. Am looking forward to the ongoing conversation! Love you for doing this (and for lots of other reasons).

  • intentional50  On September 20, 2010 at 3:28 am

    Oh, how wonderful it is to have the company of good women as we embark together upon this great adventure!

  • Stacey  On September 22, 2010 at 1:56 am

    Write On! glad to see that you are being deliberate about your transition into a new decade. But the truth is, you’re not meeting power, grace and intention at the gate–you are bringing them with you THROUGH the gate. Like the Wizard of Oz (or Glynda the Good Witch, or somebody) said, “everything you need was within you all along.” You just need to access it. Perhaps Fifty is when we discover that we CAN and WILL access it. I’m looking forward to joining you ( a wee bit early) on the road–getting my limbs ready for the journey–hopefully, helping you along the way. And hoping that you will reach back and help me when I am squarely on it.

  • jude angelo  On September 24, 2010 at 4:12 am

    i’m 61 this year – the age my ma was when she died – and it is much more significant to me than 50 could hope to be. truth, 50 meant nothing. neither did 30 or 40. or 60. The only time my age startles me is when i realize how much older i am than most of the folks i try to relate to – age is not a barrier for me, but the perception of age really can be.

    i have been sexually invisible for years in both straight & queer circles, but more with lesbians. I still get (rare) offers from men, which is weird. Butches look right through me. Sometimes i toy with the idea that it’s because i’m not high-femme. Most of the time i think it’s just cuz i’m me.

    My real griefs about aging have nothing to do with relationship – i mis myself the most – memory, vocabulary, associative powers – but mostly memory – specific names, filsm, books, quotes – the things that make conversation exciting. It’s made me a better listener, but I miss the person people who meet me now will never know.

    None of which is on your topic, but it’s what i thimnk of when i think of aging. I don’t know what it feels like to have the number mean something -seriously ( well except for getting my golden buckeye card and going fine-free at the library and getting into movies cheaper ;->) – so i want to pay attention to those of you who care, instead of being dismissive.

    OH! just got my question about notification answered below. cool!

    love you. jude

  • happyflowerwordzoo002  On September 25, 2010 at 2:34 am

    Recall when my mother said she was half a century old. Now I too. You have a year to still be forty-something, and, hope it is not just a year of anticipation of half-centurian but a consolidation year. Like Jude, the numeral starts to lose significance and understand more the aging process and no 50 is not the new 40. It is 50. Will look forwards to your posts. Don’t know if you’ve read Gail Sheehy’s books about adult (primarily American research) lifehood passages but I enjoyed. Also enjoyed Brehony’s Awakening at MidLife.

    • intentional50  On September 25, 2010 at 5:39 pm

      “A consolidation year”. Sometimes I only know the truth when I hear it. That certainly sounds like a useful one for me. Thanks.

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