I spent last evening at dinner with my “post-50 posse” (that’s what I call that special group of special friends in my eBook You Gotta Have Girlfriends). We have been meeting once a month since 1989, and over the years we have come to count on each other more and more, until, like almost all the women I interviewed about their friendships, “I couldn’t have gotten through it without them” — “it” being any of the challenges, delights and disappointments of navigating a new stage of life.
Back in my thirties I didn’t have time for friends. I was too busy with work and family. But since I have entered the age of self-discovery and adventure — anthropologist Margaret Mead called what feels so good about being over 50 “post-menopausal zest” — I have made new friends, reclaimed long-lost schoolmates, and rediscovered people whose lifestyle (late nights, lots of travel, dating) made it too hard to stay in touch back then. I can’t imagine the rest of my life without them.
That is just one of the reasons I would never want to be 30 again.Thirty is so good riddance. Fifty and beyond is where the action is. I have yet to meet a woman who wants to trade her life at 50 or 60 for an earlier one. Sure, I’d like to have my waist back — and my memory — but weighed against all the rest, it is a no-brainer.
Why would I never want to be 30 again? Let me count the ways:
I am happier now. I have become much better at taking things as they come; no longer does a minor mix-up ruin my whole day the way it would have in the past. Several recent studies confirm that we get happier as we age, because of that mellowness and ability to roll with the punches. In fact, according to neurological findings, as we get older, the brain literally filters out minor annoyances and disappointments. Who needs them anyway?
I’m less popular now. I used to be a people-pleaser. As soon as I found the voice to sing the “I don’t care what people think” anthem, I was off and running — talking back to anyone who was putting me down, taking advantage of me, or just wrong. I now take pleasure in being disliked by people I don’t like. It’s a refreshingly honest state of affairs.
I’m more forthright. I have figured out that I can take the truth and, even more important, I can tell the truth. Well, sort of. I’m still working on not sugar-coating bad news, disguising criticism as faint praise, and laughing when I really want to tell someone they have hurt me. Every time I succeed I feel closer to my goal — authenticity in everyday life.
I have let go of my prized collection of grudges and disappointments. I used to be the one who never forgot a slight — to myself or anyone I loved. So much so that I often found myself seething with resentment long after the offended party had forgiven and moved on. I just can’t be bothered with stale, old baggage any more.
I find other ways to spend my personal time than watching my body deteriorate. Unless it means sharing a good laugh with my friends. I like my body for what it can do and for being healthy and strong; back then it looked better and could do more, but, the truth is much of the time I liked it even less.
I am making a fool of myself. Dignity doesn’t seem such a priority any more. I am told that you don’t really lose all sense of shame until you find yourself frolicking with a grandchild, but I am getting there, trying out uninhibited behavior just for the fun of it — I sign up for a chanting (as in “Om”) workshop — and taking risks without feeling that my whole being has failed if they don’t work out.
I cherish the glass half full. I have a coffee mug that says “Today is a gift. That’s why they call it the present.” The precious moments in the day; my husband’s lovable qualities, which seem so much more important nowadays than the flaws; my own spirit and skills — and my “post-50 posse” — are all gifts I count every day.
As we often hear ourselves say about our circumstances, “It’s better than the alternative.” Even if the alternative is to be 30 again.