The Perils of Growing Older

Even as I squeezed the paste onto my toothbrush, I could tell something was weird. It came out much quicker and thinner than usual, curling onto the bristles in a pleasing twirl — like frosting being piped onto the top of a cake.

I’d rushed into the bathroom to both brush my teeth and throw a tissue away and once there, quickly paused at the sink to get the tooth brushing going before I went the additional two feet to toss the tissue into the trash can under the counter. So, I’m noticing that the toothpaste doesn’t seem right even as I’m lifting it up to my mouth, and as I begin to brush the outside of my teeth, it dawns on me what I had done.

One of the things nobody tells you is that when you turn 50 it’s like an internal timer goes off — akin to, say, a Butterball turkey and somewhere on my back there’s a little round plastic doohickey that popped up two years ago— and your body starts to feel the half century’s worth of shit you’ve been doing to it. All the running up and down hills through the woods and along the hard sidewalks of your town before dawn. Burpees, jumping jacks and lunging across a fitness studio holding 10-pound weights in each hand. Your resistance to hydration and preferring beverages containing caffeine and alcohol over the prescribed 100 ounces of water each day. All those high heels you toddled around in for 30-some-odd years at cocktail parties and dinners out with other couples and later, for a few summers after your divorce, to dance to songs on crowded dance floors that reminded you of younger days.

It’s like how, when I had my first baby 26 years ago, I had no idea how sore my bottom would be after the delivery. That I’d have a latex glove filled with ice tucked between my legs for the first few days and that I’d be introduced to something called the sitz bath. Or that taking my first poop post-partum would be such an important hurdle. So many things about parenthood have come as similar surprises over the years.

Even with Google readily available nowadays, I’m still surprised about changes to my 50-something body. I cracked up watching Pamela Adlon in the season 3 premiere of Better Things trying on clothes in her closet.

“Really?” she says, squeezing into a pair of white jeans and grabbing the muffin top hanging over the waistband, “How did this happen?” The actress told Terry Gross in an interview I’d listened to earlier in the week, “I decided that it would be a very generous thing for me to kind of illustrate it in my show, so everybody doesn’t feel so alone.”

To all my lady friends hurtling through the end of your 40s towards 50, take note. And take comfort.

And then there’s how my aging body feels, which is to say, “not great.” My feet in particular act like they are way older than 52. The arthritis in my big toes is making it hard for them to bend, so now they are completely unwilling to conform to a curved high heel. I had surgery on my left foot two years ago thinking I’d recover and be back teetering around in my favorite heels, but alas, that is not the case. Honestly, I can’t even wear some flat boots I used to wear all the time, because they are just too hard on my aching toes.

To manage these new aches and pains, I’ve loaded up on various over-the-counter analgesics: Motrin and Aleve, a CBD rub that smells like lemongrass that a girlfriend dropped off a few weeks ago when my back was particularly tweaky. I’ve also got some roll on thing that I rub on my feet sometimes at night. But my favorite pain relief in the last month is Icy Hot, which I rub on whatever part of my body hurts: neck, lower back, feet. Yes, it smells like … old people and clings to my pajamas and bed sheets. But after you’ve rubbed it on whatever ails you, an icy feeling begins to mask the pain and it’s very pleasing.

You need to be careful during the application process that you wash your hands really well when you’re finished rubbing the Icy Hot on yourself. It’s the same type of precaution you need to use when working with jalepenos. I found this out the hard way a few years ago when I finished seeding one to add to a meal and immediately rubbed both my eye and my mouth with my spicy fingers, which were then on fire the rest of the night.

I sat on the toilet the other night to rub the Icy Hot across my aching lower back, and then figured while I was there I should do my business as well and then wiped myself accordingly. As I was wiping I was starting to think, “I should not be doing this,” but alas, it was too late. I went to bed that night feeling very tingly down there, which was not entirely unpleasant.

You also need to be careful how you store your tube of Icy Hot, which is what I discovered last week. You should really put it back in the closet in the basket along with all your other old-lady pain remedies, and you definitely should not leave it on your bathroom counter next to your tube of toothpaste, which — when both left lying upside down with just the backs of the tubes facing up — can look exactly alike.

Had I been a little less distracted rushing into the bathroom the other night, I would have immediately realized that what I was squeezing onto my toothbrush did not look or feel like Crest. But my brain was about 3 seconds behind. All of the pieces were clicking into place in my brain as I was lifting the toothbrush up to my mouth. I stared at my reflection in the mirror in horror as I realized I was brushing my teeth with Icy Hot and dropped the toothbrush into the sink and began furiously rinsing my mouth out with water.

After I recovered from the horror — and terrible taste in my mouth — I started to laugh like a crazy person and thought, “this would make a great blog post.” Plus, my mouth felt very fresh and tingly after I brushed my teeth 3 times with toothpaste.

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1 Year, 7 Months, 1 Day

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

One day last week, while I was being a good girl and minding my own business, I had a startling realization: I’m about to turn 50.

Okay, not tomorrow. Or the day after that, even. But soon. In, like, one year, seven months and a day, to be exact.

Which comes out to 19 months.

Or 579 days.

Just 13,879 hours. Which is 832,740 minutes. Or a measly 49,964,400 seconds.

In other words, there’s not much time left to find some kind of cure for this condition from which I’m suffering. You know, the one that’s making little creases appear along the sides of my face overnight and a bulge to form around my midsection no matter how many pieces of bread I forgo or bowls of Greek yogurt I eat.

And it’s bullshit.

I mean, I know there are worse things. I really do. There’s cancer and poverty and Je suis Charlie.

But aging is this insidious bastard who jumps out at you and tackles you to the ground, no matter what you do to avoid it. It just keeps knocking at your door until you answer but unlike a Jehovah’s Witness, you can’t hide and pretend you’re not home.

Generally, I don’t get too caught up in how old I am, or age in general. I have older friends and younger friends, both sets to whom I can easily relate. And for a while, I was a pretty equal opportunity dater in terms of a dude’s age. But I have decided of late that I can only date men who never considered wearing a seat belt for the first two decades of their lives and who grew up watching “Land of the Lost” on Saturday mornings. Any man who had 24/7 access to cartoons on Nickelodeon as a kid rather than being relegated to three hours on weekends may no longer apply for the role of my boyfriend. It’s officially creepy.

Things started innocently enough last Wednesday when my gal pal across the street came over for our usual hour-long exercise session in my living room. For almost two years we had been working out with the Girl Whisperer, who sat on the couch and ordered us around, but lately we are going it without him as he rebounds from a round of chemo and radiation he endured in the fall. The bad part is that we miss his company terribly – even those annoying times he would look at my torso and ask me what I had eaten that weekend (like he could see the Doritos). The up side is now we can talk as much as we want as we exercise without him saying, “A little less talking, a little more working, ladies.”

So as we lunged and tried to work against gravity’s attempt to push our asses down to our ankles, we chatted about my friend’s upcoming trip to Key West in March, for which she had already mentally packed. Unlike my own approach to travel – which generally finds me amongst piles of clothes tossed around my room the midnight before I depart – my girlfriend knows exactly what’s going in her suitcase down to the Chan Luu bracelet she’ll wear to lunch the third day and the drawstring pants she’ll wear on the flight home.

“Do you think my 50-year-old arms can get away with a sleeveless shirt?” she – of the slim-and-toned arms – asked. I was about to tell her, for about the millionth time, that she was being crazy about her arms being fat, but then realized it was not the first time she had said something about being 50 as we exercised that morning.

It was like that final scene in “The Usual Suspects,” when the detective looks at the bulletin board and realizes that all the clues as to Keyser Söze’s identity were staring him in the face all along. If my girlfriend had started limping, I would not have been surprised.

“Wait a minute,” I said to her in horror. “Are you turning 50 this year?”

Fuck. I guess in my head I had her turning 49. Again.

Because, as sad as I am for her that she must, alas, turn 50 in March, it also means one other terrible, horrible, no good, very bad thing: That I am not far behind.

My girlfriend is a year older than I and one of the benefits of our friendship – aside from the wonderfully thoughtful gifts she’s given me over the years and her ability to help me think outside the box and solve even my most vexing problems – is that she has served as a type of buffer between me and some of those ugly numbers we’ve encountered since we’ve been friends. You know: 47, 48, 49. It’s like she’s going first through the haunted house of middle age and I’m cowering behind.

But now it’s almost like she’s falling over a cliff and dragging me down into the craggy abyss of old age with her. It’s really rather rude.

So, I did what any good friend would do to help a sister out, which is to say I screamed and started stringing a series of expletives together that blamed her for making me old.

Earlier, as we did our one-legged push ups (because we are badasses), we had joked about the nightgown my younger daughter had recently given me. My 17yo had actually forgotten to give it to me to wear Christmas Eve and found it while cleaning her crime-scene of a bedroom about a week later. Thankfully no dead bodies or bloodied knives surfaced along with it.

“Here you go, MeeMaw,” she said, using the crazy nickname she has taken to calling me (insisting it’s what her children will call me some day) and handing me something red and folded. “I bought you Christmas pjs.”

She knows I’m big on the Christmas jammies – I’ve been giving them to the kids for over 20 years – but never really buy ones for myself. This year I even got a pair for my little niece and nephew who slept over Christmas Eve as well as my big boy whose Old Navy t-shirt read: Dear Santa, I can explain.



I shook out what she had handed me and discovered it was a roomy flannel nightgown, super soft with a few buttons at the throat, and festooned in cats. She told me she had bought it for me at the Vermont Country Store on a trip this fall with friends.



It’s probably both the wackiest and coziest item that I own – it covers my arms and goes down to my ankles – and, as if it couldn’t get any better, it also has pockets. That’s right bitches, pockets.

It is now officially referred to around here as my “Cat Suit” and, unlike last year’s winter staple – the Cheetah Suit – I am trying to retain some semblance of dignity and not wear the nightgown too often. I hate to scare the children. I hate to let them see where a series of bad choices might land them.

The nightgown, referred to on the Vermont Country Store website as “A Cat’s Life,” is also kind of like George Costanza’s “I give up” sweatpants. As if I’m waving the white flag at life in defeat.

I had started Wednesday’s exercise session with the announcement that I was officially over dudes. “Fuck it,” I told my girlfriend. “I’m going to while away my days in my Cat Suit and not worry about guys any more.

And we were all like, “Yeah, that’s the ticket,” until we realized a short while later that I was staring down the barrel of 50 and couldn’t afford to waste one more second in a Cat Suit.

“There’s no time for that!” my pal yelled while lifting a 20-pound weight over her head and we laughed our asses off about the ridiculousness of it all. How, with each passing second, we moved closer to the inevitable regardless of the state of our arms or our tummies or our relationship status.

I guess the only alternative is to enjoy the final 50 million seconds or so of my 40s and, with any luck, all the minutes, hours, months and decades I have to live beyond that.

And maybe some of it while wearing a Cat Suit.

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This Is What 47 Looks Like

Credit: Randjelovic.zzz

Credit: Randjelovic.zzz

“Why is everyone turning 50 this week?” my 11-year-old son asked yesterday and I have to say, it certainly felt that way this weekend.

I spent most of Sunday recovering from back-to-back 50th birthday parties the day before. On Saturday afternoon the kids and I helped our neighbor celebrate his milestone with a small group of friends and family and lots of pictures from various stages of his life. Later that evening I attended a surprise dinner at a local restaurant for a high school friend hitting the big five-oh with a mix of his old and new friends plus lots of red wine.

My joke of the weekend was that I liked playing the part of the young ingénue by hanging around old people, but who am I kidding? In less than 30 months there will be 50 candles on my cake, too.


In the meantime, I really felt all of my 47 years yesterday while I tried to recover from what happened after the birthday dinner. I was driving home with old friends – and I mean “old” not because they were two grades ahead of me in high school (I’m still thinking in terms of high school) but “old” like they knew me when I was a brunette – and we decided what the night really needed was some more gasoline sprayed all over our steadily-burning fires.

So we headed to the kind of bar in the town next door that charges a cover just to go upstairs and drink overpriced vodka drinks and try to scream over the thumping music. The place was packed but it soon became clear that we were probably the oldest group there by about a dozen years. We tried, unsuccessfully, to scope out some prospective gentlemen for me and eventually gave up and went home.

I awoke on Sunday feeling way too old to be out clubbing after midnight and wondering if I’d be making more grown up decisions at 50.

Yesterday also marked my ex-husband’s 50th birthday and that was really weird and a little sad for me but probably not for him, because he’s away in some sunny spot with his live-in girlfriend celebrating the occasion.

But it’s weird to think that the cute boy whose locker was next to my best friend’s locker all those years ago was now older than my parents were at the time that I fell for him. I came across a picture of the two of us sitting on the beach together, circa 1982, and couldn’t get over what babies we were. I even have babies now that are older than the two knuckleheads sitting in the sand that day.

And it was sad that we’re both so annoyed with each other right now that I couldn’t even send him a “happy birthday” text. Because even though we’re not married, I still care about the lug – he was an important part of my life for a long time.

My daughter and I watched Wes Anderson’s “The Royal Tenenbaum’s” yesterday afternoon and I thought about how you never stop caring about someone when Gene Hackman’s character, Royal Tenenbaum, tells his ex-wife, played by the amazing Angelica Houston, that he is dying (which turns out to be a lie) and her reaction.

The milestone even gave my mom pause when I told her a few weeks ago that he would turn 50 this month. “Oh my god,” she said.

I guess his big birthday is just another reminder that none of us is getting any younger.

It was kind of a relief when I read yesterday that even Gloria Steinem struggled with the half-century mark. “Fifty was a shock, because it was the end of the center period of life,” she says in a piece in the Sunday Review section of The New York Times. “But once I got over that, 60 was great.”

Steinem, who turns 80 this week, goes on to say, “I seriously loved aging.”

And I’m inspired by that sentiment. I want to get out and explore and spend time with the people that I love and move towards the end with grace. I admire that Steinem says she only colors her hair and has left the rest alone and hope I can stay the course and not do too much fiddling with myself as things really start to go downhill. It won’t be easy as I already stand in front of my supersonic bathroom magnifying mirror and gently pull up my brows and cheekbones to see the girl I once was.

But I guess I’ll just sit back and appreciate that I still have another about another 870 days to come to terms with my own 50th birthday.

I mean, what’s the alternative?