‘Welcome to the club!!’
On my 50th birthday I received at least 3 Facebook ‘welcomes to the club’ from those already in it (being 50, not the British up the duff way). As with Costco it’s a club that I’ve been reluctant to join as it doesn’t seem that there’s anything for me. But being 50 isn’t even an optional membership. It’s like getting dragged to Costco against your will and having your cart filled with a 12 pound bag of broccoli florets and 400 foam dinner plates. Every single day.
I have been 50 for two weeks. I don’t feel terribly different to the way I did at 49. You know, tired, irritable, lazy and in need of mindless telly. My greatest fears of turning 50 (choking on a flaxseed, getting purple highlights) have yet to come true. In the last two weeks I have bought a skirt that is definitely too short for me and a dress that is slightly too small for me so I feel reasonably happy that things remain much the same. But maybe this is the point. My real greatest fear is that something clicks over in the brain on becoming 50 and the self-awareness part is erased.
Self-deception is a big concern. Just read all the smug articles on HuffPost/50 – 50 things I’ve learned / 50 great things about 50 / 50 things still to do / 10 reasons it’s fab to be 50. Nobody cares about other people’s lists. They’re like dreams or an improv show you didn’t go to. Meaningless to the rest of us. And it sounds more like the writer is trying to convince themselves of the glories of middle age. It’s like childbirth – as horrendous and agonisingly painful as it clearly is there seems to be a rule that mother’s can’t truly admit that to anyone who hasn’t given birth because then nobody would do it. Imagine a world where 130 million babies aren’t born every year. Impossible. John Lennon certainly couldn’t.
Which of course reminds me that I really need to prepare early for John Lennon’s end of year inquisition. He’s definitely going to expect something a bit bigger to mark being 50.
While not wishing to be all ‘been there, done that’ I do find that many of the things that people say they’re going to do in their 50th year are things I’ve already done. Like have a colonoscopy. A friend who has also just become 50 told me that her doctor prescribed one every 10 years from 50 onwards. She suggested we get twin appointments. Sorry to disappoint but I’m already ahead of you. I’ve had two of these.
The same goes for running a marathon (done four). Skydiving (twice). Stand-up comedy. Moved to another country. Sung in public. Done a Bikram Yoga 60 day challenge. Taken a flying trapeze class. The only things that I haven’t done are taken some big adventure trips and this is where the problem comes.
Trying to do something physically demanding like an ultramarathon at 50 seems like an awful lot of work. I’d like to do an Ironman some day but not until I’m at an age where people think it’s remarkable that I can even put on a pair of biking shorts. I’ve been thinking about climbing Mt Kilimanjaro but it just seems a bit cliched and more suited to women who like to quote passages from Eat Pray Love and experience minor lapses with incontinence. Plus a recent cold snap in Austin where we got down to 30 degrees has rather put me off sub-zero temperatures.
Also, I don’t want to go on a trip of a lifetime just yet because what happens after that? You can’t go on another trip of a lifetime, in the same lifetime. It’d be like returning to your office after you stormed out yelling ‘I quit, so long suckers’ because you forgot your phone. So then you’d potentially spend a lot of years doing very average things and taking only mildly entertaining trips to fairly ordinary places. I think your trip of a lifetime should happen right before you die.
In fact I think dying should be built into the trip so you should only really take it when you’re ready to pop your clogs. This would actually be better than euphemistically ‘going to Switzerland’ to end it all which is a bit gloomy (except for the good chocolate). You could actually go to Switzerland and enjoy yourself and wave at all the sad people in the Dignitas clinic, but still have the same end result. Ok you might have to shuffle off a bit earlier than you really intended but that’s the price if you want to go and do something spectacular. Think about it. Family would be happier knowing that you snuffed it while you’re having a nice time and could still enjoy the experience. And it would save people having to look at all your photos on Facebook when you got back which I think we can all appreciate. You’d just need to make sure you send your postcards early in the trip (or maybe there’d be an option to do this before you leave) so it doesn’t come across as some kind of creepy voice from beyond the grave.
I’m not sure what age I would plan mine for. It will probably be around the time I start saying stupid things like: ‘I look in the mirror and don’t recognize myself’. Cataracts or alzheimer’s withstanding, this is complete bollocks. Or ‘My husband still loves me, flab and all’. I don’t want Erik to still love me if I have batwing arms. He should at the very least point it out and jiggle my triceps a bit.
I will fight aging to the death. Possibly while suffering altitude sickness and singing ‘she’ll be coming round the mountain.’