On turning 50
I recently sent out invitations to my 50th birthday party – a Sunday ladies’ lunch.
While most people replied with great gusto – ‘Yes, I’ll be there with bells on – I can’t wait. There were at least a couple who replied – ‘Wow, you are brave!’
Brave? I didn’t understand? Why was I brave to have a 50th birthday party? I’d been having birthday parties since I was a child. There is always the worry that my diverse group of friends won’t get along or worse still that no one will turn up. These are age-old concerns.
And it’s ‘old-age’ that we’re dealing with here. One friend suggested it was brave as a woman to admit publicly turning 50. Ah – so here is the heart of the problem.
It’s not just the age of 50 that’s threatening to some, but that I am a woman turning 50.
I can’t change my birth date – that’s fixed. I was born in 1965. I’m fortunate to have watched the first man land on the moon on an old black and white TV set at my grandmother’s house when I was a preschooler.
In 1975 I remember my father almost falling off the ladder while he was painting the house when he heard on the radio that the Governor General had sacked our prime- minister, Gough Whitlam.
I took part in the debates at school and around the dinner table about Lindy Chamberlain’s part in the disappearance of her daughter Azaria in 1980.
Yes and I also recall the jubilation as the Berlin Wall coming down. I was living across the border in Switzerland at the time. I’d been to Eastern Europe in the late ‘80s during the Cold War – I visited family in Poland in 1987 and saw them queuing to buy bread and washing powder.
When I heard that Princess Diana had died, I was eating yum cha with friends in China Town.
I witnessed the fireworks on Sydney Harbour as we welcomed in the year 2000 and we held our collective breath waiting for the Y2K bug to make planes plummet from the sky.
During the Sydney Olympics I worked as a media adviser and fell in love with my adopted city all over again.
In 2001 we all remember where we were when we heard about the planes plunging into the Twin Towers.
Later I took part in an anti-war rally with a peace sign drawn on my naked pregnant belly.
All this is part of my history – part of my memories and my experiences.
Of course there are also the personal stories – the boyfriends, the break ups, the travels through India, Asia and Europe. Births, deaths and marriages – an IVF baby and a home grown one too. A book published and another one on the way.
Why would I ever want to change any of that? I love the life I’ve lived so far – and wouldn’t change anything – ok, there are a few things I may have done differently and certainly sooner – had I the courage or conviction – but that’s one of the great things about turning 50 – I’m no longer the people-pleaser – I no longer have to please the boss, charm a would-be boyfriend or impress the Land Lord to get the flat.
I have far more control over my life now. Would I go back to being 40 or 30? Good God no – life really does get better – it is for me anyway. And if the lines on my face are growing deeper and my skin isn’t as plump as it once was – then so be it. It’s a small price to pay for the joy of not worrying so much anymore.
Are we still so scared that we worry people will think – oh, she’s 50 – she’s out of the game, irrelevant, not hot anymore – or whatever the Gen Y and Zs say these days.
Do I care? Hell, no. There is so much freedom in not trying to be the dazzling girl – wearing the latest, being seen at the greatest, hanging out with the fabbest.
I’m happy to pass the mantle on to the next generation of girls – but with caution – do they really want to wait until they’re 50 to realise that trying to impress others is a mug’s game? Tying their self worth to their appearance is a slippery slope to low self- esteem and a waste of time. Their souls and minds are their greatest assets – not their cleavage and long legs.
Being out of the ‘so-called-game’ is liberating. I don’t want to be a games player – I want to be a game changer.
Mastery and experience is the name of the game now. And that’s what I strive to bring to my work and my clients.
So, come and celebrate with me and cast aside pre-conceived ideas of what it means to be 50 and a woman. Re-invent the term – 50 is really fabulous – it’s also about being fierce, fearless and free. 50 – bring it on!