Years ago, I dreamed of a woman who stood at the end of a road. Low-dropping sun backlit her hair. She waved. She had pretty much knocked out all the hard stuff. When she smiled, a knot in the pit of my stomach dissolved.
She was me, after completing 20 years of life tasks.
At 51, I've finally caught up with that woman. Both my children have charged out the door to college, my husband and I still like each other, and my public relations consulting career is at a pinnacle.
Sure, I miss having accurate vision, a near-photographic memory and an unfairly rapid metabolism. I miss not having to dye-out my graylights every month. But more or less, I wonder what everyone has been crying about.
Being over 50 is a blast.
I'm just going to say it: Menopause is a blast.
I dare anyone to look back on their life and not have something -- or if you're myself, 10 somethings -- you wish you could have done in an alternate life. Even we Wonder Women of the '80s and '90s, who coined the phrase "Have It All," likely had to prioritize our outrageous ambitions to focus on the things that demanded our greater attention. Now we can do those other things.
And here's the kicker, ladies: Not only do we get to pursue these secondary goals without our beloved offspring drooling on our shoulders, we can do so without tampons. Or cramps. We can do these things without ridiculous food cravings and handfuls of aspirin and heating pads and birth control pills. Best of all (cue impressive kettle drum-roll, building to a cymbal crash):
We can do them without PMS.
When I turned 21, my body evolved, like a mutant X-person. I thanked my Maker for finally bestowing me with boobs. But I noticed a strange, cyclical phenomenon akin to someone whispering a mantra in my ear all day: Everything is wrong, all the time! Everything!
I'd been lucky enough to live 20 years as a stable and consistent person, I thought, but that was over. And so it proceeded each month for 30 years. Those hormones were in force for decades, for the privilege of popping out two children.
When I turned 50 and the spigot began to toggle off, so to speak, I was sad. I had no further genetic material to offer the world, unless I chose to be cloned.
Then the happiness set in. And stayed.
It hit me: I AM FREE from hormonal bondage.
So here I am: not the skinny, laser-focused nymph I was, by far. But thanks to years of aerobics and substantial servings of vegetables, I'm strong. Thanks to decades of professional diligence, I have more money in my pocket than I imagined for myself. And I am no longer subject to bloating, mood swings, pharmaceutical side effects, or drug store products that I'm embarrassed to hand the cashier.
It's like being a man.
I've thought about launching a platform on the topic. I'd call it Continuation Nation©. If I have to publicly admit I am in this age bracket, I might as well celebrate it and establish a brand.
Except I feel guilty about one thing: We tail-end baby boomers (including men) have better nutrition and moisturizers and work-out regimens, better cancer therapies and prevention programs and replacement joints than any generation before us. We've developed technologies that allow us to work from our cushy dens. Meanwhile, the Social Security system is wheezing to a halt, and the tradition of pensions is becoming a dim memory.
So we keep working.
And we wonder why our sons and daughters can't find employment. We are a big reason why. We are the waning end of the largest population spike in modern history, and we refuse to step down, either in the marketplace or in the greater cultural consciousness. We early-50-somethings consider ourselves far too essential to pass the torch. And financially, we're not even sure we can afford to, long-term.
Keep in mind: If 50 is the new 40, then 25 becomes the new 15.
This could be why our post-college kids continue to inhabit their childhood bedrooms.
Although I'm confronting middle age with verve, I worry if I'm doing so at the expense of the very peer group we post-primers birthed and raised.
All I can hope is that there will be room for all of us in the professional and cultural landscape going forward. And that by maintaining vital pursuits, I can transfer my expertise and connections to my children, to help further their own objectives. This is something my secretarial, mid-century mother could never provide for me.
There is yin and yang to everything. Even being fabulous at 50.