Another August birthday has passed and I still haven’t reached 50. I have been trying to turn 50 for some years now because I think for some reason 50 is the age we all “arrive”.
Arrive where? I guess the destination is different for each person, but as the youngest of five girls – I hope to arrive to the place of “I don’t care”.
I don’t want to care if each eyelash is not separated when I put on my mascara. I don’t want to care if a strand of hair doesn’t lie exactly where I want it to. I don’t want to care if I wear last night’s ice cream on my hips the next day. Actually – maybe the place of “I don’t care” was in my 40s – even though I do still care and I haven’t lost all pride - it is easier in my 40s to realize that “no one ELSE cares”.
Do I look to make sure that all of my friend’s eyelashes line up and each hair on their head is in place? I do well at 47 to even see their face (without a blur) much less to scrutinize their appearance.
For the last few years, I have noticed that I have let go of some of these absolutes that I used to have regarding my appearance. I remember in my 20’s that I vowed I would never let myself have a tummy and I would never ever “let myself go” (as the old people who were 40 and 50 years old were careless to let that happen)! They just ‘didn’t care’ and I had planned to always care. I would always be cool, I would always be relevant and everyone would wish they were like me.
After having children, my self-centered thoughts started to fade but I still worked hard to “not let myself go”. There were times I put on stress weight and times I kept it off and was in the best shape ever, but I always had the “I care” still in me.
Now I realize that 40 and 50 is not old, I think about when I will one day be old in my 70’s (are my 70-year-old readers smiling?) I see people that age and they seemed to have arrived at “I don’t care”. They don’t care if they have a tummy, a comb-over or if they don’t feel like getting all gussied up when they leave the house. I can’t wait until I am that old! I remember when I got braces at 40 – a person in their 20’s asked me “Why does it matter now?” and poof… my notion of thinking my appearance mattered at 40 was shattered. Perspective. I was old to my friend who was half my age, but I was still pretty young to people twice my age.
When people find out that I am a grandmother of grade school children, they tell me that I don’t look old enough. I guess that is a compliment, but I honestly am proud of being a grandmother and my age. I did not try to pick a ‘cool’ name to make me feel younger – I wanted to be called ‘Gramama’ and I spelled it that way because I wanted it to be easy for my grandbabies to spell and that is how they pronounced it.
I have never gotten Botox and probably never will. I like my age – I have said it before. But what I can still “care about” as far as my appearance is to exercise and watch what I eat and try to fix my hair the best way I can as it begins to thin (thanks Dad). I can wear clothes and makeup that are appropriate for a 47-year-old and I can accept BEING 47.
I actually like it and, when people ask me my age, I feel like a kid when I say, “I am almost 50!” The past few birthdays have been a blessing just because I have been getting stronger as I have been building a new life. I have my health and I have the love of my family and now… I have a man in my life that I love.
This weekend, my sister came down from Kentucky and my niece was also home from college. One of my sisters made my favorite ice cream dessert called “Buster Bars’. We had BBQ that one sister had smoked all night and we gathered at the dinner table telling stories of when we were growing up. It was fun for us all to be together and to have Brian at a family gathering and seeing him accepted so well.
Brian and I are still in transition as far as getting him acclimated in Chattanooga again and starting work. After celebrating my birthday with my family, Brian and I spent the next day being lazy and going to eat at Texas Roadhouse.
For my birthday dinner, I would have normally wanted to go to a nicer restaurant or one of my favorite places, but I already had a night of being with family and having to “care” what I looked like. This time, I just wanted to be lazy and not worry about perfect make up, perfect hair or dressing nice. I wanted to wear my jeans and a T-shirt and just be with Brian so of course I wanted to go where I wouldn’t see anyone that I knew.
When we sat down, I looked over the menu and Brian excused himself to the bathroom. I had a feeling that he would grab our server and tell him it was my birthday. Not only did I want to not be the center of attention while being my lazy-comfortable self, but I absolutely loath the loud clapping and singing that restaurants do when it is someone’s birthday. Since Brian and I are still learning about each other, I figured I had better mention that.
The server came to take our order when Brian came back to the table and we ordered margaritas. It used to not be complicated. I know I like it ‘on the rocks’ and not frozen, but what the heck is a Gold or Patron? I said that I wanted a ‘regular one’ and to make sure it had a lot of salt and lime – that is the whole reason to order a margarita for me. Brian wanted a ‘good quality margarita’ for me, so he asked the server to bring me the Gold. Ordering Patron would have been even more alcohol added and I did not want that. I actually like the flavor and don’t want to feel too loopy.
As we sipped our drinks and ate a cactus onion, I told Brian, “By the way, I can’t stand when people sing to you on your birthday at a restaurant. If you ever do that to me, just know that I will literally crawl under the table and leave you with the tacky, loud singers.”
The look on Brian’s face was priceless. I don’t think it was so much the “deer in the headlights” look… I guess the look was more of a man doing something he would be in the doghouse for - a man who would like to be kissed good night and now realizing that kiss could be in jeopardy.
Oh, I am not that mean, but it sure was funny watching him squirm and to ‘act quickly’. When the server came back to take our order for our steak dinner, Brian slyly said, “Let me ask you what this is right here…” he pointed to his menu and hid behind it, hoping the guy would join him in conversation as he mouthed “Forget it – she hates that.”
I could have let it go at that… okay, no I couldn’t.
As Brian tells me… “I bust his chops” - a lot. I “give it to him good”… but he loves when I do that. I think the fact that I don’t let him get away with something or that I find a way to humble him – he likes it because it is honest and I do it playfully and lovingly. Brian will ‘give it to me too’ – to which I pout (playfully).
When the server left our table, I said, “So what did you tell him?” Brian laughed at himself, knowing that I knew the whole time when I asked that. We had a good time, laughing and just being lazy.
Next week is his birthday, and who knows what I will come up with. Brian will be 51 but he doesn’t look his age, so birthdays are not impending doom for him either. He still has dark (and all of) his hair. I think what keeps us so young is our heart and our playfulness - staying positive and finding joy in each and every day.
I do feel young at heart, but at the same time – I am an old soul. I guess the ‘zen of Jen’ is that I keep a balance in life. Turning 47 didn’t hurt a bit and I am not scared of turning 50 – I am actually looking forward to it. Wait - did I write this same line on my last birthday? I can’t remember.
They say the first thing to go is your memory and …I forget what the next thing is…