It all began with The Black Hair.
I was minding my own business, tweezing my eyebrows using a high-powered magnifying mirror, capable of lighting up the crevices of your aging face like floodlights used to interrogate Colombian drug kingpins during the Pablo Escobar era, when I saw it.
It was small, even demure, but it was there. Growing horrifically from the rim of MY EAR! A black hair.
I'd officially become my Grandpa Bradley.
I remember, as a small child, being both repelled and mesmerized by the Amazonian jungle bursting from his ears.
Inspecting my first sprout toward growing an aural rain forest, I cursed the indignities of aging.
I had to regroup and remind myself why I love being 50. To do so I made a list of what mature women know that young women might not.
1. Older women know that bodies aren't forever, so you've got to love them at every age -- ear hairs and all.
As a mature woman I've stopped viewing my body as an object that must be aerobicized, soul-cycled and tread-milled into perfection.
Or crammed, zipped and Spanxed into clothes to be displayed to its best advantage.
Today, I view my body as my faithful shepherd on this vast, rarefied, challenging journey through Life. I don't take it for granted anymore and try to listen to what it's telling me.
Does it want to be beautiful today? Then I must wear red in any iteration and a pair of delicious, dangerous high heels. Or post one of my pin-ups to extort compliments.
Does my body want to relax and renew? Then I need to feed it yummy food and let it lounge about unmolested by any agenda.
Does it want to feel powerful? Then I'll exercise in ways that boost my serotonin levels and make me soar. (The Argentine Tango anyone?)
Is my body sick or hurt? Then I need to listen to what it's telling me: Slow down. Take a break. Forgive me for being imperfect. Nurture me as if I were a beloved child.
At fifty, I know my body belongs to me, not the media, and that I'm so lucky it allows me to taste, touch, see, feel and live Life.
2. Older women know that men may come and go, but girlfriends last forever.
When we're young, men can be like trains, pulling into and out of the station. (Don't make a sexual innuendo out of that one!) Maybe we're fickle and curious and don't want to be tied down. Maybe it's the men who are fickle and curious and don't want to be tied down.
But girlfriends seem to stick.
Even when we do settle down with a man, we still need our ladies. There's a brand of intimacy women get from each other that men can't match.
Our male counterparts do not want to talk about feelings. They do not want to dissect the meaning of every conversation we've had with our impossible boss, our annoying mother, our fractious neighbor.
Women need each other to hash these things out. Men? Not so much.
Recently my husband's lifelong friend (we'll call him Mike) came to visit. My husband ran to the grocery store giving Mike and me an opportunity to talk alone.
During that conversation Mike mentioned he'd been an alcoholic for years and frequented 12-steps meetings.
Later that night, when my husband and I were lying side-by-side in bed, I asked him why he never told me Mike was an alcoholic.
He looked over at me wide-eyed and said, "Mike's an alcoholic??"
I ask you, what do men actually talk about together?
Finally, statistics tell us that women outlive men by five years.
So, unless you're dating a younger man, your girlfriends will still be there when your man takes his final bow. (Sorry, Gentlemen.)
3. Older women know it's better to fall in love with a Good Man rather than a Hot Man.
In our younger years our libido made most of the decisions.
Pheromones flew when Mr. Dimpled, Strapping and Gorgeous winked his moody blues at us from across the bar at three a.m.
We didn't stop to think about whether he was a 'good guy,' but allowed our lady bits to select our mate. We were too hot and bothered to take a moment, or a month, to determine whether this Lothario had the same values and desires as we did.
This often led to short-term smokin' sex and long-term emotional pain.
Older ladies have been there and done that. We're looking for something that fulfills our emotional needs first.
And we often discover, to our surprise, that if our emotional needs are fulfilled, our sexual desire grows apace.
4. Older women know that a Lull or a Rut or a Funk doth not mean the end of a relationship.
When we were younger we could hardly withstand a protracted silence on a date, let alone a period of time in a relationship where things just felt crappy.
As we've gotten older we've come to recognize we don't have to make a big deal out of everything, that we can take a wait-and-see approach before leaving a body-shaped hole in the door as we bolt from our relationship.
During a recent midlife crisis I ambushed my husband of 14 years while he unsuspectingly watched his thousandth History Channel World War II show, announcing that I wanted to run off with another man.
"What other man?" he asked, calmly.
"I don't know," I said, "I haven't met him yet."
Instead, we sat down and discussed how to ramp up the desire in our own marriage, despite chaos and kids, and took steps to make it happen.
Funnily enough, however, just telling my husband how I was feeling made the feeling dissipate, then fade away altogether.
Older women know that relationships ebb and flow and we don't have to panic every time the tide goes out.
5. Older women like themselves so much more.
Yes, self-loathing will creep in from time to time. But the urgency of it, the annihilation of it, is tempered by gratitude that we're still here, that we're still learning, that we'll always be a work-in-progress and that's okay.
We recognize that we are the most intimate relationship we'll ever have, and that we alone are the hero of our own story.
And we know this too ... black ear hairs can be plucked.
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