Happy Birthday to Mean
“Let’s face it. You’re on the downside of life now,” a friend said to me on my 50th birthday. “You’re basically just careening to the end.” I stabbed him with a fork. Then I went out and bought some new shoes.
If you’re one of those women prancing around shouting that 50 is the new 30, then you need to cut back on the scotch. The only thing 50 is – is 50. If you’re lucky, you’re halfway through your life. If you’re not – well, you may keel over halfway through this book.
There is a kind of wisdom you get when you hit 40 – this amazing and enlightening invisible book you’re handed that has all the answers to the questions you’ve been pondering for four decades. You find yourself walking around talking to yourself going, “Ohhhhhhhh, now I get it. Gosh, if only I’d known that when I was 20.” Blah. Blah. Whatever. That’s the genius of youth – even if you have any kind of knowledge, you don’t want to use it. It’s annoying. Logic is kryptonite to young people. They back away from it like the liquor-free punch bowl at a frat party. No one wants it. They can be smart later in life. Who needs brains when there is a bong and you have an Instagram account to document your stupidity?
Forty can be troubling, but I highly recommend marking the occasion. Just don’t quit drinking four months before your 40th, then throw a party and invite all your boozy friends whom you secretly curse, and call “liquor pigs,” and hate because they’re drunk on your birthday, and everything they say is stupid, and you’re not drunk because you’re a loser who couldn’t handle your alcohol. Also, try not to take a baseball bat to a piñata that the neighbors you don’t even know (and occasionally make fun of because they’re weird) got you for your birthday, and eat a ton of sheet cake before crying alone in your bedroom at 2 am, and then eat the rest of the cake out of the garbage with a fork. It could happen.
But 40 is deal-able. The only thing I got when I turned 50 was meaner – and I was pretty cranky to begin with. I immediately started to think about death all the time. I found myself talking to God, asking to be spared as if there was a plague on the way sweeping up all the 50-year-olds. Somehow I became Cloris Leachman overnight. My boobs moved to their final resting place – which, sadly, was my waist.
Being able to tuck your breasts into your pants is not something to celebrate. It is also, not sexy. Suddenly everything I did hurt, and by everything I mean bending over to tie my shoe. Is this how it happens? You turn 50 and the people upstairs go, “Oh, there she is – zap her. Turn her life upside down. Make her old.” I mean, I know age is just a number, but suddenly my number was really old. Will I be getting that weird back hump soon? Do I have to start eating dinner at 5:30 now? Will I be allowed a later reservation? When do I start saying, “This music’s too loud”? Wait – I say that now.
I was never a huge fan of people, but now I hated everyone who didn’t think exactly like me, and I was driven into a homicidal-type rage by even the simplest of things. Why is everyone so stupid? I’d sit in my car and curse at people at traffic lights who paused for a split second when it went from red to green. “What are you waiting for?”I’d scream like a mental patient. The bigger question was – What am I in such a rush to get to? The supermarket, where there were more stupid people waiting to piss me off? I am constantly standing behind the person who says, “Oh, I forgot something. I’ll be right back.” Great. I’ll just wait here for you to run through the entire store like it’s the game show “Supermarket Sweep” and see if you can find the can of lima beans you can’t live without but couldn’t remember to pick up while you were shoving the Double Stuff Oreos and other carcinogenic crap into your cart, you giant Nut Bag. And by the way you’re too fat to eat those cookies. Breathe, Heidi. Just breathe.
The second I hit 50, all of the ads on television were about me and the terrible, horrible, disturbing things that were going to happen to my body. Did you know that your pelvic floor is going to drop, and you’ll need to exercise it? Did you know your pelvis had a floor? I didn’t. (I hope mine’s a dance floor.) My mom called and told me she had to have an operation on her lady parts and their surroundings because– quote – everything dropped. Perfect. That sounds fun. I guess your insides don’t want to feel left out that your outsides need to be lifted, so the whole system just crashes to the ground.
And she wasn’t the only mother with bad news. My friend Becky’s mom, Leslie, sent me a catalog called “As We Change.” She thought I would find it funny. I was rocked into a depression that sent me directly to sugar-filled items. I found out I’m going to need things that I was not expecting to need – like a pillow to shove down my bra while I sleep to keep me from getting creases in my chest. (P.S. This one’s too late.) There are at least three pairs of gloves I’m going to have to buy for various stages of achiness in my wrists, fingers, and palms. I will need to restore my hair to its youthful fullness, and if I can’t, there’s a spray that I can use to paint my head. There are creams for my soon-to-be-blotchy skin, tapes to remove my brow wrinkles, and balms to smooth out the lines around my lips. There are pills to stop my nails from breaking, bleaches to stop my face from darkening, and oils to re-lube what’s un-lubeable. Fuck. I’m going to be a hot mess.
I think the most disturbing items in the catalog were the clothing, shoes, and handbags – which were really brightly colored and covered in things like butterflies and waves. I have never owned one thing with a butterfly on it, and if you see me in something that does, please call someone and report it immediately. Then have me killed. I don’t know who you call for stuff like this, but if you love me – you’ll research that and get it done. When does this overwhelming need to wear hideous clothing begin? Does it suddenly become acceptable to carry a quilted bag? When do I start wearing Mom Jeans? Do they just come in the mail, or do I have to order them? When do I cut off all of my hair and layer on the chunky jewelry?
There were some strappy sandals in the catalog that I wouldn’t be caught dead in – even if I were dead. There was something called a “Boob Tube” to wear under lower-cut dresses and tops, because apparently no one wants to see old woman cleavage. (I know I don’t.) There were comfy straps to put under my bra straps to cut down on “unsightly dents” – which is another way of saying your giant Old Woman Boobs are dropping at such a rapid rate, the stress on your shoulders is leaving a mark in your skin that is not sexy. Color me terrific. There were foam nipple covers (no idea why), instant buttons to expand your pants (could be using those right now), and shoe stretchers to help shove your swollen lumps into your Christian Louboutins. (Shit, when do I have to give my high heels back because I can’t walk in them anymore? Add that to the list of things that suck it when you get old.) There was even a special necklace you can slip your no-longer-fits-your-fat- fingers wedding band onto. (Well, there’s one thing I don’t need. Thank goodness I didn’t get married. Am I right or am I right?)
There were heel-huggers, and toe-compressors, and bunion-smoothers, and 66 pages of magical Old People Shit, and I haven’t even read the section on bathing suits because I’m quite certain I could buy every single one of them right now. When it comes with a slimming panel, a high neck, silicone shapers, a skirt, a built-in diaper, and a matching sarong, I say, “Why wait? Let’s get this party started.”
I wonder if there’s one of these catalogs for men. It’s probably the exact same catalog, but it’s called “As She Changes,” and it’s just there to inform men of all the things they shouldn’t bring up so they don’t send us into an endless hormonal crying jag. Men don’t need a catalog of all the stuff that’s going to fall apart on them, because they don’t care. As long as the penis stays attached – they’re good to go. I, on the other hand, just ordered a bra wash bag and some Goodnighties Recovery Sleepwear infused with negative ions to help me sleep. Hey, if it’s good enough for astronauts – it’s good enough for this old broad.
I used to think the biggest concern for me was the rapid rate at which my hair was graying. I now need to have my naturally red hair dyed every three weeks, and by natural, I mean I pay for it, so shut the fuck up. But just yesterday while I was at the salon, I noticed an elderly woman having her gray hair dyed to an incredibly unbelievable shade of some sort of brown that was not on any Pantene dye wheel I’ve ever seen. She looked like a doll – a really old doll. I wanted to tell her that it was time to just say “yes” to the gray and “no” to the helmet of henna tint she was sporting, but I was too overwhelmed by another part of her anatomy – her ear lobes. They were huge and swingy and clearly not the lobes she came into this life with. In fact, just one quick glimpse of these fleshy flops and I knew – they had grown, and someday, so would mine. I immediately Googled, “Do ear lobes grow as we get older?” and bam – yes, they do. Great. Something else to look forward to. My ear lobes will drop down to where my boobs, ass, and knees are all gathering. Eventually, won’t I just be a head with pudding skin all piled around down by my ankles? There isn’t enough industrial-strength tape to pull it all back up.
I’m already obsessed with grabbing the skin on the back of my neck and then crying when I release it. I worked with Jane Seymour once, and she used Scotch tape on the back of hers. I watched her do it. It was remarkable. The company should totally add this to their advertising campaign. That shit is strong. Why do my ear lobes have to grow? Who do I call to skip this part? Is there some sort of list I can check where I get to pick just three of the gazillion hideous things that are happening to my body? Something like:
1. Boob hair – No, thank you.
2. Nose hair – Not really interested.
3. Ear hair – Shut the fuck up.
4. Saggy boobs – Fine, if I have to.
5. Cellulite – Okay, I can undress alone.
6. Leaky vagina – Don’t really want to smell like pee yet.
7. Wrinkles – Whatever.
8. Menopause – Can’t wait.
9. Crepe-y Skin – Fine.
10. Grey Hair – Sure.
I could go on, but I just depressed myself. It’s already crystal-clear that I’m becoming completely invisible to the opposite sex. Just yesterday, I lost the “final frontier” of feeling pretty – the inside of my car. Until recently, when I got dolled up and drove somewhere, I could get at least get one look from a man in a passing car. You can’t tell what I look like from the neck down, and my hair can block a whole lot of issues. But yesterday, on my way to a party, I got nothing. Zero. Zip. Loser. Old Lady. Set yourself on fire, and maybe someone will turn their head in your direction. It’s over, people. Now I’m just waiting for my lobes to grow so I have somewhere to hang the “out of business” sign.
Everything seems to be going at once. My eyesight is a shit storm. I cursed out my optometrist because I couldn’t read anything with my new contact lenses in. He then informed me that I needed reading glasses. I already have terrible distance vision. Basically, I’m like – blind. I can’t get out of bed without putting glasses on, because I will surely fall down. Sometimes, I wake up in the middle of the night with an idea, and I email it to myself so I don’t forget it by morning. This is what I emailed myself last night: “My do tlip nods khedive needs breTh rifhbr strips.” If anyone knows what that means, please call me. People tell me to get that Lasik eye surgery all the time, but I’m not having my corneas slashed to ribbons with a laser beam by a guy who advertises during “Bad Girls” on Oxygen. What if we find out that 20 years after you have Lasik surgery, your entire head falls off? Who cares how clear your vision is then?
I hate having to wear reading glasses. It immediately makes you feel 100 years old. I have a friend who’s so freaked out about having to wear reading glasses that she goes to what I would call extremes to avoid revealing her blurry little secret – and you have to go pretty far for me to call it extreme. If she has a date, she has her assistant call the restaurant so they can fax the menu to her home. Then – like a high school girl cramming for a calculus test – she memorizes it. Do the math. This is nuts. She also calls the restaurant on her way there to make sure they haven’t added anything to the menu at the last minute – like fried boar. Because in her mind, it would be a clear sign something was amiss if she didn’t say, “How unusual that they serve fried boar here, no?” Trust me: If a woman wears reading glasses on a date, no man will care. As long as her vagina can see his penis, he’ll be good to go.
Turning 50 is both a gift and a curse. You really do become a completely filter-free version of yourself, and you finally understand that you have to be asked for advice and not just throw your opinion at people. I think the,“I know what I’m talking about, you moron” speech comes at about 60, and I’m not gonna lie, I look forward to that. I can feel it gently tickling the back of my neck. The hardest part of turning 50 is understanding that sexually, it’s over. And I know what all you sexually active women are saying right now: “That’s not me. I’m banging around like a kid.” Well, good for you. I’ll call the Old People Porn Channel and tell them you’re making a hot new video. But I am fairly convinced that no guy wakes up in the morning and says, “I need to find a hot 50-year-old broad to punch in the pants today.” If he does, please give him my address, phone number, and email.
There are also great things about turning the Big Five-O. You really know who you are, and if you’re lucky, you’re happy with that person. You stop wasting time with toxic people, and you don’t let yourself get undermined by the insanity of others. You’re fine if you don’t get invited to every party, and staying home on the couch at night in your underpants with an array of snack items that could kill you is better than an invitation to the Oscars. Those beautiful people don’t talk to we great unwashed anyway.
I think the one thing I finally realized when I turned 50 was who the great love of my life is – me. I have learned to love myself, and when necessary, laugh at myself. I have also learned that your life is like a movie, and if you don’t like the way it’s playing – rewrite it and recast it. I did. I quit my six-figure job and took a long hard look at my life. Then I threw up. Then I got some new shoes. Happy birthday to me.