Growing up, we were one of the first families to have a color TV on our block. That meant everyone would come to our house to watch Ed Sullivan, Bonanza and every fall, after preparing a big bowl of freshly popped popcorn, we’d settle in to watch “The Wizard of Oz.”
Chatty Cathy, Nancy Nurse, Thumbelina and Barbie were the hot dolls to own. We played with Slinky, silly putty and Etch-a-sketch. There was no Sesame Street but we had Howdy Doody, Sonny Fox, Romper Room and The Mouseketeers. We danced the Twist, The Hustle and then the Electric Slide.
We wore dresses to birthday parties then wore bellbottoms with leather-fringed vests to dances. I remember girdles, paper dresses and platform shoes. There were no “Soccer Moms” most of us didn’t even know what soccer was. I had to walk or ride my bike wherever I wanted to go. Writing a report for school meant you had to go to the library. A bulky rotary phone wouldn’t exactly fit it in your pocket.
When I see a group of teens wearing pants half down their asses, tattoos and a multitude of face piercings, I think “Do they think that looks good?” Then I realize that’s exactly what the generation before thought of us with our long hair, headbands, tie-dye, jeans and sandals.
I was standing in line at the grocery store the other day when I overheard a gentleman telling the clerk that turning 50 was no picnic. I thought about that for a moment and interjected my own opinion. “I believe the first 49 years were practice and research. Life begins at 50.”
At fifty, a giant pimple on my forehead won’t ruin my weekend. I don’t care what Mary said to Betty about why she doesn’t like me. I will never again sit around waiting for a man to call (unless it’s for a tremendous opportunity with a very large financial gain).
In exchange for the above, I do find that I worry about cholesterol, life insurance and that flabby clump of skin that is oh so noticeable when you wave in a sleeveless shirt. I get frustrated when I can’t find my glasses and even more so that I can’t read the ingredients on the box. And, what can you say about those pesky hot flashes? Still, none of these will stand in the way of enjoying each day as a gift to be savored, explored and enjoyed.
I wonder why some people age gracefully and some… don’t. Sophia Loren is still a beautiful woman. How about Betty White? She’s 94, looks great and still flirting and working! Raquel Welch, Sharon Stone, Michelle Pfeiffer, Angela Bassett and Kim Bassinger are all beautiful and over 50. And those are just some of the famous people. You can look around and see many beautiful men and women over 50, 60 and more.
Real beauty is an energy and spirit that emanates from a person. It’s a state of mind. Yes, exercise and good eating habits are vital to your youth. But so are laughter, creativity and mental stimulation.
As I think back over the years, 30 came and went with ease. 40 blindsided me. I swore I wouldn’t let that happen again. I’d been preparing for 50 since 46. In my 40’s I said good by to my youth but not my youthfulness.
Being creative feeds the soul. Creativity isn’t limited to a beautiful painting or writing a poem. Creativity can be applied to cooking, bookkeeping and how you dress. Creativity affects the senses. It irks me when people say, “Oh, I’m not creative.” To me, that’s the same as saying, “I don’t know how to breathe.” I suppose some people don’t.
Challenging yourself mentally can be as simple as doing a crossword puzzle or learning to program your phone. Everyday you wake for some reason, to do something. Challenge yourself to do that something better. Or challenge yourself to find a new thing to do. Some people get so caught up in the day-to-day grind that they stop thinking about the things that once excited them. They stop dreaming. Shame on you; everyone faces responsibility and challenges. I didn’t say it was easy but it is necessary, at least if you want to maintain your youthfulness. Even in critical times there are moments of great beauty and joy if you only take the time to recognize them.
Laughter, creativity and regular mental stimulation are the fuel for happiness. Storm Jameson, an early 20th century English writer wrote, “Happiness is the capacity to feel deeply, to enjoy simply, to think freely, to risk, to be needed.” Change is the one constant in our lives. It contains risk. Allowing fear to slow you down or hold you back limits your ability to control choices.
As we age, our choices become so much more important. We realize we may not have enough time to do all the things we want. For many, it’s difficult to answer the question, “what do you want?” What you want is often confused with what you need. A wise friend once told me, “All you need are three things: something to do, something to believe in and someone to love.” Knowing I have all that I need makes it easier to decide what it is that I want.
I want to be the best that I can be at any age and the same for every year thereafter. I want to contribute. I want to show up and experience life fully. I want to taste, smell and embrace my world with passion, affection and humor. I want to keep moving forward, pushing boundaries and exploring new frontiers.
Life is full of kindness, surprises and growth. When you open your heart and your mind you will attract goodness and comfort. When you allow fear, greed and suspicion to dominate, you will attract the same.
Turning 50 means – I now know more. It’s when you truly get to know your authentic self. Over fifty means you have experienced more and have a broader sense of reference. It allows for discounts to matinees and early bird specials. Every year there are a few more gray hairs, wrinkles and laugh lines and I am thankful for every laugh line I own. But I won’t dwell on the so-called glory days because in my heart, I believe… the best is yet to come.