Right before I turned 50 I was in a bit of a panic. I mean, let’s be honest, the cultural myths around being a woman over the age of 50 are overwhelmingly dismal. Now, a couple of years later and past the big 5-0 mark, I’d like to set the record straight: your fifties can be better than OK. In fact, they can be a total transformation. Every decade brings it’s own mixed bag of assorted challenges and gifts, but being over 50 is really pretty fabulous and I mean that from the bottom of my heart. So, for all you lucky ladies who are nearing that magic number, here are a few things you may not be expecting. Some are hands down winners and others you can consider more of a “heads up.”
First the good news. In your fifties you regain a sense of freedom that may have been MIA for a long time, or at least since you’ve had a mortgage and/or kids. You finally realize that nobody actually gives a damn about things like what you’re wearing, what music you’re listening to, what kind of car you drive and whether or not you look silly when you dance. There’s an overwhelming feeling that you’re somehow stepping back into your true identity and reclaiming your life for yourself. You know yourself better. You know how the world works and how to get what you want. It can feel incredibly liberating.
In post-50 life you start to truly understand that life’s too short to do things you really don’t want to do. No, you do not have to go to that cocktail party/office function/neighborhood shindig. Often it’s more appealing to stay home, cook a simple dinner and watch “Peaky Blinders” than it is to go out for a few drinks, stay out late, and feel like garbage the next day. Let’s just say that the phrase “open bar” might not motivate you the way it once did. But the desire to hang out with friends and have deep discussions about all the things comes back, reminiscent of when you were in your twenties but without staying up until 4 AM with bottles of cheap wine and a pack of smokes.
Hitting your fifties is like a magic wand for remembering that your time here on earth has an expiration date. This isn’t a grim reminder, it’s an energizing one. It feels filled with possibility. It’s basically a permission slip to try new things and add more meaning to your life in all kinds of ways.
It can also give you more motivation to engage in things that have been living on your “someday” list for years. So far in my fifties I’ve joined a local theater group, performed in a couple of musicals, dug deeper into my love of healthy cooking and got a certification at the Academy of Culinary Nutrition, and am reclaiming my love of vegetable gardening, hiking and building my business as a coach and a writer.
I’ve also learned that being flexible is everything – and I’m not just talking about my joints. Life after 50 reasserts the fact that everything changes, whether you’re ready or you’re not, so be prepared to roll with it. With that in mind, here are a few pointers as you move forward.
Despite the fact that we can see certain things more clearly than ever, our actual eyes may need some TLC. Dry eyes and floaters are common issues in our fifties due to fluctuating hormones so add a good eye doctor to the growing number of “ologists” in your contact list. Reading glasses may also be in order but thankfully there’s a multitude of stylish options. I recommend getting several pairs and stashing them in your purse, your car and any other place in your house where you may actually need to see something. You might even want keep some in bathroom for when you’re shaving your legs, although I’m happy to report that after decades of removing my leg hair it seems to have finally gotten the message. It now grows back more sparsely and slowly which is a nice bonus.
This almost makes up for the fact that stray hairs will start popping up other places like on your face, so a good pair of tweezers is a must. There’s nothing like looking in the mirror or rubbing your chin and being assaulted by the sight or feel of an unexpected whisker. I may not be able to do anything about my aging neck but I’ll be damned if I let granny hairs grow wild on my cheeks.
Speaking of hair, be prepared for grey hair down there. The first time I saw one I almost fell over. I mentioned it to a friend who said she hasn’t had any hair below her navel for the last 20 years so if that’s you then never mind. For everyone else, consider yourself warned. You can “embrace the grey’ or deal with it by different means. There are options!
And while we’re down there, let’s talk about sex for one quick sec. Once we’re no longer wired to procreate it might take some extra effort to get in the mood. Please don’t get me wrong – there is definitely sex after 50! It’s just that the drive often slows it’s rev (#hormones) and the loss of that sexual energy may leave an empty space. Some mental adjusting and intentional connecting with your partner can really help – even if it’s not sexual. There’s also the whole dry “vajajay” thing but fortunately there are all kinds of excellent personal lubricants available, even ones that are infused with CBD. Or you can do what my friend does and slather on the coconut oil. It’s all-natural, cheap and smells like vacation.
Speaking of the bedroom, if you’re used to drinking red wine to help stoke those fires you might be one of the women who has to look for an alternative. For some of us, a glass or 2 of red may get us going, but it may also keep us awake – like all night. Red wine can increase insomnia and hot flashes when we hit peri-menopause, which seems totally unfair. I mean, with it’s high level of antioxidants it’s supposed to be a health food, right?? There are several possibilities as to why this happens and they include things like an increased susceptibility to tannins, an amino acid called tyramine, a spike in your blood sugar, possible additives to the wine and more, but if you don’t want to lay off the sauce entirely, you might try switching to chardonnay, prosecco or even tequila.
You may have been the same bra size for the last 20 years but trust me, it’s time to get properly fitted by a professional. A well-fitting bra can change everything! It’s not just gravity at work, but all kinds of other things shifting around as well. A good bra is a worthwhile investment and can even make you look as if you’ve just lost 10 lbs. Plus the ladies in the lingerie department at Nordstrom are just dying to help you.
Also, as you age, your teeth can shift. This may mean lots of things (check with your dentist!) but for starters it means don’t leave home without dental floss or toothpicks in your purse. You don’t want to be one of those ladies who walks around with the odd poppy seed or leafy green hanging out in your grin.
Bottom line, there will be changes after 50. Some of them may feel like a return to self in unexpected ways and some may rock your boat, but the the amount of boat rocking that happens is actually up to you. Ultimately age is more about attitude than a number. Mourn the loss of your collagen and your super-efficient metabolism. Allow yourself some sadness and foot-stamping if necessary. Then put it all into perspective, slather on some moisturizer, schedule a lunch date with the BFF who will always tell you when you have salad in your teeth and remember that turning 50 (and beyond) definitely beats the alternative.