And Then There’s Maude

“You’re turning fifty?”

Now imagine that question asked in slow motion by a wide-eyed incredulous twelve-year-old girl from my daughter’s gymnastics team. The words came out of her mouth laden with disbelief as if I said that I was turning into a lemur.

Her sweet mom took a quick read of my facial expression to gauge my reaction. I laughed and asked her why she was surprised.

“You don’t look fifty,” she answered.

I’ve noticed that people think that telling someone that they don’t look fifty is the best compliment they can come up with for a person on the verge of turning fifty – particularly a woman.

What they are really saying is that I don’t look old … yet.

Fifty is definitely the gateway to old. Little kids think the number is dinosaur ancient. Teens associate it with their parents. Twenty-somethings pity the loss of youth. Thirty-year-olds are way too busy with career and family to have an opinion.

On the other hand, people in their forties are a little leery of fifty, like perhaps it may be contagious.  It is, if you’re lucky!

I’m not sure what fifty is supposed to look like. When I was a kid I thought the coolest “old” person on television was Maude, played by Bea Arthur in the sitcom of the same name. I liked her flowy sweaters and jackets that traipsed after her as she paraded across the set. She was bossy and wise-cracking and did what she wanted. She did not look or act like any of the middle-aged women from my life as a child.  I suppose that I wanted to be Maude when I was old.

Fifty-year-olds don’t share a uniform profile. I will wear the number differently than another. Instead of focusing on what I look like, I want to celebrate arriving at this milestone healthy and content, surrounded by family and friends and curious about what’s next. It’s more about who I’ve become and where I’m going.

I am a partner, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, dog mama, friend, social worker, marathoner, gardener, artist, writer, yogini, traveller, volunteer, photographer.  That’s what my fifty looks like and yes, I feel the most beautiful when wearing flowy sweaters that trail behind me when I walk.

Maude

Lady Godiva was a freedom rider,

she didn’t care if the whole world looked.

Joan of Arc, with the lord to guide her,

she was a sister who really cooked.

Isadora was a first bra burner

Ain’t ya glad she showed up?

And when the country was falling apart

Betsy Ross got it all sewed up

And then there’s Maude

And then there’s Maude

And then there’s Maude

And then there’s Maude

And then there’s Maude

And then there’s Maude

And then there’s that uncompromisin’ enterprisin’ anything but tranquilizin’ Right on Maude!!!

Lyrics from theme song for the sitcom Maude

One final note: I know flowy is not a word but it should be.

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