On the day I turned forty-nine the first solicitation from AARP appeared in my email in-box. At a glance, I thought it might be an ad for white-collar prison uniforms. A couple is pictured dressed in matching cotton pastel sweaters and pleated Dockers. The entire outfit screams, Here, take my libido and hold it for the rest of my life, which won't last much longer anyway. The man has his arms encircling the woman's waist. Is he propping her up because she's suffering from osteoporosis, or helpfully disguising her muffin top? The expressions on their faces can only be described as resigned.
The AARP offers you a refrigerated travel bag when you join. What's the refrigerated part for? Medications, no doubt. Medications that require refrigeration? They're not fooling around. Perhaps I'll consider joining when they feature couples in matching Jil Sander elegance and offer a gym bag or a Shiraz of the Month club membership. Just something that doesn't advertiseYour health is your top concern while traveling. For the record, it is. I was just diagnosed as prediabetic but I don't need my luggage to remind me.
Something had to give.
Things that had seemed solid were falling away. My attitude, my family, my future and my face, everything had lost its shape.
The mothers I had grown up with were disappearing before my eyes. My own mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, and with Bonnie Franklin and Jean Stapleton gone, I started checking up on Florence Henderson's health. All of the Ramones had left the building except for the ones you never cared about to begin with.
My son wasn't speaking to me. I was unemployed and my parents urgently needed to sell my childhood home. Should I go back to college, adopt another kid, get divorced, raise llamas? I couldn't afford a vacation so I was taking a lot of naps.
I tried keeping gratitude lists, stronger vibrators, cheap massages and better moisturizers. I tried praying to a God I didn't even believe in.
When I began contemplating having Under New Management inked just below my C-section scar, I made an appointment with my gynecologist.
As I left his office with my stack of prescriptions for hormone replacement therapy gels, patches and pills, he held his hand up to wave good-bye. "Stay ... " Pause. It was a big pause, though there are definitely no pregnant pauses in my life anymore. Stay what? What would he say? Would it be that adage girls signed yearbooks with at my junior high school, "Stay the same, never change"? Stay healthy? Stay happy? Stay hydrated? Would he go all Bob Dylan on me, "Stay forever young"? Nope.
"Stay ... funny," he said.
Forty is the new thirty? I've heard that many times and I've said it just as often. Interestingly, the saying "Fifty is the new forty" has never really caught on because it's not. Fifty is still fifty.
From I See You Made an Effort: Compliments, Indignities, and Survival Stories from the Edge of 50 by Annabelle Gurwitch Copyright 2014 by Annabelle Gurwitch. Excerpted by permission of Blue Rider Press.