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Half a century

I woke up, breathing hard. My chest felt cramped, like someone or something was sitting on me, rendering me helpless to what was coming. What was coming? It was there in the back of my mind, looming over me like some hideous villain about to take my birthday away.

What was wrong? Why was I feeling so ominous? I was sweating profusely, fear enveloping my heart, causing it to beat wildly in my chest. Was I suffocating? I expected my life to flash before my eyes at any moment. It was still dark outside, but the morning was quiet; was I in danger? 

I stretched my legs out on the bed, listening to each bone and muscle snap and pop into place. I listened to the silence until I was sure there were no boogie men waiting under the bed to snatch my world away. I got up out of bed to shuffle to the bathroom, my knees unwilling to move properly, so like a penguin I waddled until I gained my daytime legs. Turning the light on in the bathroom, I glanced into the mirror. The previous moments of fear came crashing back to my mind. 

Oh yeah, I remember what was wrong. I turn 50 today. Fifty! Five decades! One half of a century! No wonder I was breathing hard. No matter how you sputter it, 50 sounds really old. Just yesterday I was still in my 40s. Now, I am 50. No denying it, everyone in my life seems determined to remind me of how OLD I am. I am old enough to get my AARP card, (which for some weird reason  they have kept up with my aging body?), old enough to be a Red Hat Lady. Which is not that big of a deal, I have met some Red Hat ladies I really admire and they are great, but at the same time, they are, well, for lack of a better term, OLD.

Why is 50 such a milestone? Why do we feel obligated to harass those who are turning 50? I always have. Turning 50 means I have to dress my age and my kids love that idea. No more low cut blouses and shiny gold jackets with earrings that hang down to my shoulders! Turning 50 means having an empty nest (although I have had that for a while now). Turning 50 means I get to have a mid-life crisis! Like I haven’t had enough crisis in my world already? Now, if I get to pick my own crisis, that will be a different story. I could pick a crisis that for once involves me getting money and being thin and beautiful, yeah, that is the crisis I am talking about.

Being 50 means I get to have bifocals which aren’t “bifocally” strong enough for me to apply mascara to my eyelashes properly and instead end up with goo on my eyelids. I can’t read the fine print on the groceries I buy to help my 50-year-old metabolism try to kick start my life. I get to have hot flashes, although they are nothing new, I have been having those since enduring my chemo period. Menopause, however, brings a new and improved version of hot flashes/spontaneous human combustion and menopause brings back the good old acne era. Yup, zits, erupting and disrupting everywhere. It’s like my skin has turned on me. Pimples and wrinkles, what joy!! I woke up to wrinkles where I didn’t think wrinkles would dare to go. My epidermis decided somewhere along the line that it was not going to age gracefully; instead it has entered the not-so-Golden age kicking and screaming, and it shows. If 50 is supposed to be the new 40, my skin declined the invitation.

It’s not like I think life is over at 50. Some articles I have read say life begins at 50, while the next page states, “it’s all downhill from here.” The later statement proves true because every part of my body has decided to travel several inches south, except my new post-breast cancer boobs, of course. Those babies will be perky until I die, which could prove to be interesting for the mortician assigned to my interment! (Which is kind of a creepy thought, so I will not go any further into that!)

Fifty is supposed to be the age where we start becoming financially secure, but somewhere along the track, I got off that train. That is why I look like I do, because I can’t afford to buy the new magical potions and creams that take 30 years off your looks, but the cost of those items will take 30 years off your life! Botox is no longer necessary, there are creams and gels and pencils that do the trick. (It’s true, I’ve seen pictures!). Although I don’t see the need for such facial treatments—I am 50 for Pete’s sake, who cares what your skin looks like?! No one is looking anymore.

Maybe that is the confidence that comes with turning fifty. It doesn’t matter what you look like, ‘cause no one looks anymore? I am a baby boomer, but no longer a babe; gone are the days of being a “hot mama;” now I am a warm, fluffy grandma. Bye bye to the winks that used to come my way daily, now I get the boy scouts trying to help me across a street that I don’t care to cross.

According to my friend Sherry I now have to watch my step for fear of breaking a hip and curb my taste for alcohol so that it won’t interfere with my dementia medication. Sherry is not just a friend, she is more like my twisted sister. If I had a talking tumor on my shoulder telling me to be careful, encouraging me to fight and survive, telling me I was beautiful on the inside and out (no matter how many wrinkles and blemishes I have), it would be Sherry. One of the best things about Sherry, besides her always giving it to me straight, is that she is 15 days older than me and as luck would have it, that will never change! The bygone days of melting and pouring myself into a pair of jeans, only to lie on the bed to pull the zipper up with pliers, are oh so thankfully, gone!! Now comfort wins out every time. If I had to attend an “affair,” I would request a pair of dress sweats!

Because of my lust for adventure, coupled with misfortune, Sherry drew a picture of me. Me in my new life as a fifties-plus woman. (Thank God that is age and not size, yet!). I made the mistake of telling Sherry that if I ever had to have a wheelchair it would have to be neon pink, with 4 wheel drive and   basket on the front of it for Aspen, (who even in dog years is younger than me).  Like the Red Hat ladies, I would wear my big red hat and purple scarf, I would have to add bright red lipstick, and Sherry insisted on adding wobbling wheels on my chair, so Banjo would have something to harass me about. (like my son-in-law needs an excuse!).

So, I am 50. It should be liberating some say. I should feel free. The only thing I read about turning 50 that I actually liked, was that after 50 women feel invisible! Now I like that idea! Do you know what I could do if I were invisible? I could get away with... nope, that is a whole different story!

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Jinx Beshears Jinx Beshears is a southern transplant to North Idaho, and shares her confusion with the Pacific Northwest Lifestyle in her column, Jinxed. When not writing, or living, her outlandish stories, she's generally lost somewhere in the mountains with her dog, Aspen.

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