I turned 50 on the weekend. When I was young, 50 sounded old, an inconceivable time far into the future. Yet here I am, at a milestone because so far so good that I’ve made it to this point.
I hadn’t really thought too much about it, age being just a number and there has been the matter of a global pandemic taking up most of my mental energy. I’ve spent a lot of time in my own head this year but my focus more recently has been less on the age factor and more on being able to celebrate it or not, quite literally I mean, Can I have a party? Can I hug and kiss my guests? Do I have to provide hand sanitiser on the drinks tray along with the gin and tonics?
And isn’t gin considered a sanitiser anyway?
I have to remind myself that I am lucky to even be in a position to think about celebrating and I feel guilty that I can and that I want to.
I have been mostly unfazed about turning 50 and even more so since I had Charlie. In my late 30’s and early 40’s, before Charlie was born, I would dread birthdays because each year was a reminder of my declining and dysfunctional fertility. When I finally did manage to fall pregnant (at the medically termed geriatric age of 42) and have a baby, birthdays felt different, the loud ticking of the biological clock had been silenced. Then, a few years after Charlie was born I went to a funeral of a 26 year old who had passed away from Melanoma. I knew from that day forward that getting old is a privilege and it’s a belief I hold on to strongly, still to this day.
Yet, here I am, a 50 year old lady.
I’m not even sure when that happened because as the cliche goes, I don’t feel different. Hot flushes aside, what is it meant to feel like?
Wait, I know…
It feels. Unremarkable.
The universal narrative is that women over 50 feel invisible no longer attracting the kind of attention that is unwanted anyway but still wanting to be seen and noticed. A member of Gen X which is like the middle child and the Jan Brady of generations. The forgotten demographic stuck somewhere in the middle of the wise and dependable baby boomers and the cool and liberal millennials.
Marcia. Marcia. Marcia.
I don’t feel invisible, but maybe irrelevant is more apt a description.
Because despite many of my friends being either in their 40’s and 50’s I’m feel surrounded by millennials and Gen Z. My colleagues and peers, school mums, Instagram, the media. A generation of women who are smart, aspirational, connected, savvy and educated. Change makers and social entrepreneurs. Clear skinned, excellent eyebrows and with opinions that matter.
Woke and worthy.
Am I jealous? No. Envious? Maybe. Mesmerised? Absolutely.
I feel like I’m just trying to keep up and by doing so I’ve lost what it is that I’m meant to be. To swim in my own lane and not feel this warped obsession with wanting to stay relevant but instead be content with where I am in the world because relevance is just some elusive idea. Who gets to say what is relevant or not?
At 50 I’m too old to be hipster but not old enough that I can’t shop at Zara and wear sequins during the day and at night Netflix and chill. I spend an outrageous amount at Mecca because on Instagram everyone’s skin glows more than mine and because I’m easily influenced. I post selfies and use filters. Intellectually I know this to be true, that at my age I should be at the point where this shit doesn’t matter, and I ponder this as I adjust and smooth out my sheet mask.
Last week I thought I might have Covid but upon googling my symptoms, it turns out I might be just a bit menopausal. When the search results flashed before my eyes I laughed out loud and then I felt a bit tired. There are days I dance between having my shit together, winning the productivity trophy to the next day when I’m madly trying to declutter the mental load in my head and the fruitless attempts to make a simple decision.
But then I went to my birthday party, and it suddenly became clear and I’m not entirely sure why it took a cocktail party for me to figure this out. There was something quite humbling in being surrounded by people who had chosen to give their time to come and celebrate with me. Of course, it could have been the free Prosecco. For many it’s been a hellish of a year and so the gathering felt different, a mutual sense of gratitude and a collective knowing of how important it was and how lucky we were that we could all be there together. I’m standing amongst the lit candles and the fairy lights, shimmering brighter, magically, as if even they knew it was different this time. The air is warmer than what it has been in months and I’m listening to animated conversations, joyful laughter, and cheerful shouts for more wine please.
Momentarily I remember the meme during lock down, the one reminding us of all the things we had taken for granted and I get it, this is one of those moments not to ever take for granted and then all of those fears I’ve had of becoming irrelevant seemed to just disappear. This was my relevance. I was relevant to these people.
And then the party was ending, and I had to go home because a little boy, though sleeping, would be waiting for me to kiss him goodnight and to turn out his light. That is what it means to be and to feel relevant. I am relevant to him.