Can Cyndi Lauper be my spirit animal?

Some thoughts on being almost fifty and aging in general | Manic MumblingI had a boss once whose most embarrassing moment happened while she was standing in the security line at the airport after she handed her ID and boarding pass to the security guard. It was worse, she said, than what happened to the woman ahead of her who’d packed a bunch of sex toys into her carry-on and was then pulled out of line for a random, and very public, bag search.

The guard holding my boss’ credentials noted she’d just celebrated her birthday, and then did some quick math.

“Holy cow, you’re FIFTY?”

She’d wanted to sink into the floor, her worst fear being someone calling her out for her age. Or maybe it was actually being fifty, I’m not sure. I never asked for clarification.

She didn’t look fifty, at least not to me, fifteen years her junior. She was in great shape, dressed well, and had a trendy hairstyle. I couldn’t understand what the big deal was then. I thought I might understand when I was older.

Well, I’m older now and I still don’t get it, and I’ve thought of that story often.

I happen to be close enough to that benchmark age now, I pretty much just think of myself as almost fifty, instead of just plain 48. It feels more substantial.

As in: Hold on, I’m almost fifty and here you are explaining this crap to me? Like I just rolled off the turnip truck?

Or: I’m almost fifty, I have exactly zero patience for this kind of baloney.

I know a number of people of either gender who melt down over receiving AARP mail, as well as more than a few who seem to be fairly chill about their age. I would like to count myself among the later.

That doesn’t mean I don’t think about age-related stuff. For example:

  • I’m way less disappointed in crows-feet and way more disappointed in bat wings than I thought I’d be. Where in the hell did I get all this extra skin? What was in there before it was hanging from my humerus like a damp bath mat on a clothesline?
  • I thought I’d be further along in my career by now, which turns out to be okay, because I also thought I’d care more than I currently do if I wasn’t.
  • If I could tell 20 year-old me anything it would be a toss up between wear sunscreen, and you will never regret painting that accent wall, but dying your hair the same shade will be a mistake.
  • After all this time, I’d have thought I could set more realistic expectations for myself, but I stubbornly hang on to the misbelief that twenty minutes is enough time for me to get ready in the morning after I’ve procrastinated by drinking a full pot of coffee and reading the entire paper.

The summer my friend Angela and I turned 30, we celebrated the demise of our 20s by dragging our husbands to New Orleans for a long, raucous weekend of throwing beads from balconies, visiting voodoo museums and patronizing shops stocked with toys not made for children. It might be that another such celebration will be appropriate for the big five-oh, which means I could very well find myself in a situation similar to either my former boss at the airport, or that unfortunate woman whose battery-operated fetishes were briefly on display for everyone in the security area.

But I’m prepared. If someone wants to call out my age, my response will be a boisterous hell, yeah. And you can go ahead and check my carry-on, too (I’ll have remembered to pack any incriminating purchases in my checked luggage).

Oh, and just in case anyone’s similarly bummed about their own bat wing situation, here’s Cyndi Lauper’s take on aging, which makes me realize how much I’ve always adored her:

Photo by RainerPrang.


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  1. Love this and love her! So true about society dictating how we should feel about ourselves. I\’ve never bought into it and never intend to. Wrote about it this very week as I approach a scary, but exciting, number. Great post.