The columns and writings of
Peggy L. Elliott
"" Over the Hill and Descending Fast
(Thoughts on Turning the Big Five-O)

I've never been one to worry about my age. Never reached twenty-nine and stopped for a couple of decades. Always piped right up, blurting out the honest answer when asked. So now that I'm soon to turn the big "Five-O" it doesn't feel like that big a deal.

In fact, it seems to me my parents are the ones who are more likely to be traumatized by this landmark birthday of mine. After all, I may be fifty, but they're going to be the parents of a fifty-year-old - to me, that's got to feel like you're getting up there!

Fifty has always been one of those major stopping off points in a person's life - sort of a "scenic overview" where you turn around and take note of all the living you've committed so far which brought you to this time and place. I'd always believed fifty to be the true starting gate for middle-age, but then, how many of us live to be one-hundred? For me, fifty is probably my "old age," but who knows - might as well be positive.

Even those who did the "twenty-nine and holding" bit for all those years, tend to toss in the towel, surrendering to the inevitable, when turning fifty. It's the age when the massive collection of jars, tubes and bottles of industrial strength anti-wrinkle/age-defying creams are abandoned, their effectiveness, when stacked up against the overwhelming onslaught gravity wages on skin, an impossible mission. So there's a choice to make: accept as fate the age-enhanced meltdown, while polishing up "elder spokesperson" skills, or bring out the big guns and the bigger bank accounts, dipping into the elixir of perpetual youth bubbling away in the fountain of cosmetic surgery.

Most of us, however, tend to shy away from that unpleasant "deer caught in the headlights" shocked look which comes from having your eyebrows sewn up into your hairline. I've earned these wrinkles, by gosh, and I'm going to let each and every one of them go forth and multiply at will.

I suppose turning fifty means I no longer qualify as "prematurely" gray, either. In fact, retaining so much of my original mousy brown color is probably considered "odd." Either way, I'll continue to wear my two-toned tresses as is, why should my hairdresser be the only one who "knows for sure" when I can let everyone in on the joke?

Nor have I surrendered to the commandment: "Thou must wear thy hair shorteth when an age of certain decades thou hast seizeth upon." Or something like that, anyway. Well, my hair may well be gray, it may well be mousy brown, but it's also grown just about to my waist - and, by cracky, it's gonna stay this way! At least until it all falls out.

Fifty also seems to be the dividing point in which the "too young" gives way to the "too old." (Do you suppose there's a "just right" age in life? Sort of like the "Goldilocks Memorial Lifetime Moment," and I missed it?) Apparently this fact has not been lost on my good ole "Uncle Sam," who no longer considers me even quasi-useful. Not like those efficient folks running the American Association of Retired Persons, who have certainly wasted no time in getting their birthday greetings out and welcoming me into their fold. Of course, you don't become the most powerful lobby group in Washington D.C. by waiting for me and the rest of the old geezers to find them, did they?

And while we're talking about the AARP, how is it they bill themselves as the "American Association of RETIRED Persons" anyway? Would it not be more accurate to call themselves the "American Association of REALLY Old Persons?" Just think about it for a minute here - how many people actually get to retire at age fifty? Seems to me, most fifty-year-olds are looking at another fifteen years, at least, before hanging up the work-a-day blue collar and donning the support socks and Hawaiian shirts to hit those St. Augustine beaches.

I've still got a little time before my misspent youth is behind me at last - or at least my misspent middle-age. I have no doubt there's a "misspent old age" ahead for me, too. Don't want to break the pattern at this point - when I'm finally getting good at this "misspent" business.

And how old is fifty, really? Is it not said, age is simply a state of mind? That you're as old as you feel? As young as you act? As dumb as you look?

Anyway, while awaiting the big day, I've given careful consideration to what memento my loving family might see fit to bestow upon me in honor of my monumental birthday. And I've decided I would like to have my carpet and my couch cleaned.

Now, this is not exactly the kind of gift I'd have requested not so very long ago. There's nothing flashy to it. Not the I-can't-wait to rip off the paper and tear open the box sort of thing I looked so forward to when I was young.

It's a simple, sensible and necessary task which needs to be done and, most likely, would be something I'd not be able to squeeze into the budget. It's a mature sort of decision, an accepting of the here and now sort of thing. A "Happy Birthday! from Armstrong Cleaners, love Mom and Dad."

Maybe my daughter can get me a nice, new, fancy cup to put my teeth in! (Just Kidding!)

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© Peggy L. Elliott 2006