May 2015

Touch of gray

By Suzanne Strazza

Fifty.

50.

Five-Zero.

Not dollars in my bank account.

Not miles that I ran.

Not cups of coffee I drink in a day.

Years.

Fifty years.

Fifty years old.

As I write this, I am in the twilight, no, near-midnight, of less-than-middle-aged. I have five days left of the fabulous 40s. And what’s next?

The F---ing 50s?

I am a goddamn half a century old.

How did it happen?

I was never one of those fanciful youths within whom rested a firm conviction of my own invincibility. I was always certain that I would die young – long before now — so it is really a valid question – “How did I get here?”

I guess I got here the way that most others do, and maybe they, too are utterly surprised, but I will say that I’m glad my intuition was off.

As it usually is.

I remember when my Dad turned 40 – that was over the hill, one foot in the grave. We made a huge deal about celebrating. I don’t think we did anything for his 50th – the novelty of aging had worn off by then. 50 wasn’t funny.

And I am not a birthday person. I’ll certainly say “Happy Birthday” to a friend and even grab a treat for them at lunch, but I don’t want anything big around mine – I really don’t appreciate have the spotlight shining on me.

Plus, I figure, we should really be celebrating my mother – she did all the work that day, all of those years ago. I just arrived and received all of the credit.

50 years ago, to be exact.

25 plus 25.

But I will admit, that as much as I don’t make a thing about my own special day, this one has me thinking a little bit more than some others.

I guess it should. I mean, I’ve lasted longer than I ever thought that I would; I have more years under my belt than my children can fathom. It’s worth a little bit of contemplation.

I think about varying topics: Where am I in my life? Have I achieved any of my goals? Made any dreams come true? Am I content? Do I have any regrets? Did I imagine my life looking like this at this point?

I think about my mid-section. I have a roll. No matter how many miles I run and stomach crunches I do, I still have a special softness that sits somewhere between my boobs and ass, which are both, by the way, considerably lower than they were half a lifetime ago.

What do I do with that?

I open my bedside drawer, withdraw the spoon and Nutella and ponder my midlife midsection. I thought today, “I understand why Demi Moore had a knee lift.”

I look in the mirror (wearing my bifocals) and accept that now that I actually have a valid reason to dye my hair (besides a break-up) I can’t be bothered. Way too much energy. I figure if I don’t own a hairbrush, why on earth should I exhaust myself coloring gray, which is futile at best.

Will I look like a bag lady soon? Will I allow myself to cruise the aisles of City Market in sweatpants, even when I haven’t just run? Will I really still run?

The great thing about 50 (yes, 50 years) is that I no longer feel inadequate when everyone around me is running 100-mile races. I have an excuse – I don’t want to be one of those mid-life-crisis-people- who-has-to-prove-to-myself-and- the-world-that-I-am-not-aging. I tell myself that I am handling the downward slide with grace.

It’s the best justification for sitting on my ass that I’ve had in a long time.

One interesting thing that’s happened is a return to my roots. Carhartt, Patagonia, and Montrail are no longer the primary “designer” labels in my closet. Now it’s Lilly, Tretorn, and Sperry; I own boat shoes — the same boat shoes as my 80-year-old mother, to be exact.

Those boat shoes might not make a lot of sense for living in Mancos, Colo.; can’t brand cows, climb a peak, or scramble through a canyon sporting them, but they do make sense for the life in Florida that I can now imagine.

Right? Florida? I must be getting old. 5 x 10, to be exact.

I scan my brain, my heart, for regrets. I have none. Oh, sure, I would like to have figured out how to manage money before now – and actually, I still haven’t, so let’s hope I have a few years left to do that.

And I would have liked to travel more than I did before marriage, house, children. But, the way things are going, I still have time for that. And the flip side of that is that I have three amazing boys who are way more entertaining than a beach in Fiji.

Sort of.

I don’t regret my lousy marriage – without it I wouldn’t have said boys. I don’t actually regret any of my past relationships.

My choices, actions, and (perceived) successes and failures have gotten me right here, and I am happy right here, so how can I question any of those things?

I do, however, wonder when some of my unhealthy choices might catch up to me. I figure the consequences might start showing up hand in hand with menopause – a life event about which I fantasized during every bout of puberty-induced PMS I endured, but I am discovering that the reality is nowhere near as pleasant as the fantasy.

Oh well, C’est la Vie. It’s not like I can do anything about it.

I look at photos of high-school friends. Many of them actually look middle-aged — doughy, matronly, real candidates for a good dye job and maybe face-lift — and I feel good that I still appear to be relatively spry.

Then I take a good look and realize that I have become my mother. Not necessarily a bad thing – my mom, although 80, is a gorgeous woman who still travels to Paris every year and swims in the ocean. But she’s 80 and I look exactly like her.

I have also, even though we haven’t even lived in the same town, much less under the same roof in 30 years, acquired every gesture, intonation, cackle, of hers. How the F@#$ does that happen?

The only thing of my father’s I’ve developed is his nervous hand-wringing.

Wringing my hands while I cackle away at some story I’ve told at least 100 times…

I must be 50.

At least my brother is still older than I am.

Suzanne Strazza writes from Mancos, Colo.