Is There Life After 50? Define “Life”

Black and white portrait of actress Carlotta M...
Yeah, that's just about what a hot flash feels unwanted assault. Image via Wikipedia

It’s so cute when young ‘uns discover that old folks, (those of us over 40), actually, you know, exist.

From a recent Styles section story in The New York Times , (by my fellow former True/Slant blogger Austin Considine), about a young man, Ari Seth Cohen, whose photographs celebrate elegant and stylish older women:

“The women who I photograph are confident,” he said. “They know what they like, they know what suits their bodies, and they’re dressing for themselves. They don’t dress based on trends.”

“I think a lot of the young people are inspired by the style,” he added, regarding his audience. “And as they get older, they’re inspired by the attitude.”

That attitude finds its apotheosis in women like Ilona Royce Smithkin: a flamboyant 91-year-old bachelorette, whose burlesque charms include a penchant for show tunes, daring colors and false eyelashes cut from her own shock of bright red hair. In younger years, she made her living as an artist, drawing book-jacket portraits of authors like Tennessee Williams and Eugene O’Neill…

“In America, once you turn a certain age, you’re sort of forgotten, you’re sort of made to feel that you’re invisible,” he said. “What I’m trying to do is give these women a voice and also show people that your life doesn’t end at 50.”

I hit the big FIVE-OHHHHHHHH in June 2007, and Jose was kind enough to cushion the blow by taking me to Paris. Nothing hurts in Paris!

But, frankly, what are you going to do? You get older, then you die. In the meantime, you get older. And, if you’re female, you are going to have to go through the hell of menopause along the way. For years, my mother warned me, “It’s going to get worse! Lose weight now!”

Cheerful stuff.

I don’t want to write about menopause for a few reasons: it’s personal, it’s too boring, it’s been written about to death already and it’s not the least bit interesting to anyone who is not in the middle of it.

It was helpful, though, to hear a Canadian friend my age tell me she literally walked into the lake in front of her rural home just to cool off from the incessant inanity of hot flashes. I loathe them. No one, anywhere, ever, wants to feel the slimy sheen of sweat accumulating on their throat and face, let alone dripping down their back — usually when you’re in the middle of trying to look and behave professionally before a critical (in both senses of that word) audience of strangers.

One night, when I was working retail, I tried to finish up a sale, in a polished and smooth manner, at the cash wrap. Then a hot flash hit, leaving me…

with a huge drop of sweat hanging from the tip of my nose.

Yeah, that was fun. I couldn’t (or felt I couldn’t) swipe at it gracefully. So I just tried to ignore it, and hoped they would too, and that my sweat would not drip onto their new purchase.

Here’s a funny, bitchy, right-on piece from The Atlantic by Sandra Tsing-Loh about menopause and how the world looks from the dark side of 50.

If you’re over 50, (especially my fellow females out there), how are things for you these days?

6 thoughts on “Is There Life After 50? Define “Life”

  1. I feel the same way when I write about menopause. It’s just too boring. Yet I am compelled to say SOMETHING – for all of us who live our lives like we’re perfectly okay, and not ready to literally, “jump in the lake”. One recent post of mine,”Glowing”, presents just one more unusual side effect..

  2. Lisa (Woman Wielding Words)

    I’m not over 50 yet, but I was wondering if you had read the book FORTYTUDE by Sarah Brokaw? It has some wonderful insights into growing older and embracing life.

  3. I think it’s very interesting how different cultures, or even just different women within cultures, view menopause so differently. My mother is on the cusp of menopause and would count down the days if she could. But then, endometriosis runs in my family, so I understand how after around 40 years of menstruation, she’s over it.

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