BY MARY MALLOY
I have recently hit an important milestone, or more accurately, it has hit me.
I turned 50 years old, and it is a whole new experience. Add to the mix the birth of my first grandchild a few months ago, and you have a not-quite-former-hippie chick asking the age-old (pun intended) question of, "How the heck did this all happen?"
The year was 1954 -- Elvis just started shaking his famous pelvis, shiny new cars were under $2,000, bread was 17 cents a loaf, gasoline was 20 cents per gallon, and the average annual salary was $4,700 (well, not much changed there for me....) I was one of those "surprise" babies, born to parents who were already grandparents, and ten years after my brother, who was seventh in line, which made "Eight Is Enough" my mother's mantra.
I really was in the "make love, not war" era. Not politically charged enough to protest the war in Vietnam or burn my bra, and not hard rock enough to be a real "Dead Head", gratefully. (yes, pun intended, again.)
I settle for listening to The Archies, "Sugar, Sugar:" and hoping I looked cool in white, pearl lipstick and a shag haircut. And I said, "Far out!" a lot, which is today's equivalent for "Awesome......"
And I hear the word "dude" never went out of style. Some things just never die...
Unfortunately, I saw a lot of drug overdoses in my age group, enough to scare me straight to just alcohol for a while (remember drinking Mateuse out of those sheepskin bags? Or Ripple? Or Strawberry Wine? Or Tango in the bottle?) Luckily, that stage didn't last too long, because disco came into vogue, and that was all about looking good in a dress and high heels. And dancing well. John Travolta and Saturday Night Fever were the "in" thing now.
I came through those years virtually unscathed, and had many chapters to my life -- a teenage marriage, a beautiful son when I was 20, being a divorced working mom, remarrying a younger man, having three more beautiful children after I was 35 years old, and eventually a divorced working mom again (did I say chapters? I meant recycling!)
Done yet? No way, I dabbled in the arts, became a journalist, singer, actress (all without giving up my "day job, which actually paid the bills) -- and I eventually reconnected with my childhood friend after 25 years and married him. And now added to the rest of my gorgeous kids, I have a wonderful man by my side, and a stepson, a daughter-in-law, and a new grandson
So, I know how I got here, but how did "50" come so fast?
A decade birthday is very special, and they truly are landmarks. I don't remember ten, I was probably getting dirty and having a lot of fun. At twenty, I was a mother already, and didn't feel much of a change. At thirty, I was working, looking trim, and busy, but nothing earthshattering. I was looking forward to forty, since I had always thought forty-year old women were "hot" --stylish, sexy, experienced, knowing, worldy, mysterious -- I was ready for it. But, as life would have it, I was only hot from running after toddlers at forty -- I had just given birth to my son, and my girls were two and four years old. And sexy? Not if you consider the easy-open flaps on a nursing bra very "Victoria's Secret." Stylish? Well, sweat pants and oversized shirts never go out of style!
So, that leaves fifty -- where would I be at fifty years old? I hate to say it, because we all know that age is just a state of mind, but fifty sounds OLD -- even to me. Even the word "fifty..fifty..fifty.." Nah, doesn't flow out of my mouth easily. I have not yet had to volunteer my age (not that anyone has asked yet) but I can't see it coming out easily - "I'm fif...fif...fif...." Blubbering idiot already.
And while you're still 49, they start sending those AARP membership offers -- hey, I can get discounts on everything now that it takes me longer to get there!
Being 50 also upsets me because I cannot get away with my ditsy attitude anymore -- who at 50 acts silly? I think I'll just look foolish. Even Goldie Hawn gave that up years ago. Although she is still beautiful (with a little help from Botox) she acts her age. She's a cool grandma. But she looks uncomfortable in the role, as if she, too, did not know how she got there.
But being fifty really is different from our mothers and grandmothers. Every children's book I have looked at for my grandson Thomas has the child going off to visit grandma, and there she is, standing in the doorway, waving him in, wearing orthopedic shoes, wiping her hands on a very large, white cooking apron, and sporting a newly-permed crop of silver-grey hair. Why don't I think that's me?
We baby boomers have redefined "fifty." We were not very good to our bodies when we were young, and we're trying to make up for it now. We keep the vitamin and sports club industries in business (that't cause we kept the Twinkies and Pepsi suppliers happy when we were younger.)We can wear jeans (we invented those, too, didn't we?) and look our age. We can listen to Led Zepplin, The Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd and still be considered cool (did you see how old those guys look now, though? Wow...) We saw communes come and go, war protesters shot, and computers invented before our eyes.
There's not much I have missed in 50 years, and there's so much more to look forward to. There's no one way that I feel - some days I feel older, a few muscle aches here and there -- and other days I pass a mirror, and wonder why that woman looking back isn't 17, because that's how I feel inside. My mother was very youthful looking until she was, well, about my age -- and in her mid 70's, she said it was a shame our bodies have to age, because she still felt young inside, but people treat her like an "old lady." Only as time goes on, can I appreciate what she said. Some of us are worn down by life, by experiences, by working, by hardships, but I don't want to be that way. I want to flourish from these things -- learn from the experiences and get on with my life.
So, I'll take another 50 years and let you know how it goes.
Mary Malloy is a published writer, having written humorous, ongoing columns in local newspapers including The East Rockaway Observer,The Five Towns Forum, Nassau Tribune, Nassau Community Newspaper Group, & Long Island Woman periodical. She recently married her childhood sweetheart and is the mother of five children, ages 12 to 30 --and the grandmother of a lively toddler name Thomas. She experiences every day life by coping, juggling and living on (and loving) Long Island, New York and sharing the humor and the ironies of life with others.