Today I’m 55, And I’m Just Getting Started

Age has little to do with who I am

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The above graphic is more for laughs than a statement of how I actually feel. I wouldn’t be 18 again for all the tea in China, but it’s true that I don’t consider turning 55 to be an indication of anything in particular. It simply is! It’s not so much that age is just a number, it’s that whatever age you are, you can determine what you want to do with it.

For instance, I’m spending the afternoon with my husband James and our girlfriend, Tamara. Celebrating with two of my lovers is something I’m very much looking forward to. We always laugh a lot and have so much fun together. It’s more than about sex; it’s about all around enjoyment and being with people I can be myself with, although the sex is pretty spectacular too!

I’ve added more pink to my hair this morning, and will probably wear something to our date that shows off my legs. It’s not that I’m trying to look or act younger. I’m just making choices that reflect who I actually am, regardless of my age. Lots of people, including a lot of younger people, often tell me how much they like the pink streaks in my blonde hair. I think it’s because they get that I’m not wearing a costume of some kind or trying to be like them; I’m just expressing myself. That was something that took me a long time to learn how to do. When I was younger, I only wore sold colors that were somewhat boring and conformist, not because that was my self-expression at the time, but because I had no idea how to express myself through clothing.

But as I went through my forties, I began to put aside the shoulds and programming that I’d been given as a young woman growing up, and as I stripped all of that back, I began to find who I actually am. One of the great joys of getting older as a woman — you care a lot less what other people think, as distinct from young women who are typically consumed with what other people think because they’ve been told that this is what they ought to do. I grew up as a very agreeable and compliant young woman so it was interesting to discover that the real me is someone who has a bit of a mouth on her, although she still cares about other people’s feelings and perspective. She likes to swear when it’s appropriate and was perfectly comfortable at a clothing optional resort last Fall, not because she has a perfect body, but because she is fine with the one she has. She realizes that it’s only one aspect of who she is and that a flat stomach or a thigh gap doesn’t make her a better lover or a better person.

I like who I am so much more than I liked my younger self; even my 40-year-old self. Every passing year brings new levels of realness and confidence. With each passing year, I know more and more about who I truly am, what I want from life, what my boundaries are, how to notice and deal with my own bullshit, how to put connection and relationship above the need to be right, and that youth is mostly wasted on the young. I’m also having the best sex of my life!

It has been said that the reason that older women get so marginalized is that it’s a way to keep them in check. In most traditional societies, older women are venerated as wise and powerful. If you want to undermine that and keep older women from understanding and recognizing their power, teach them that they should aspire to always be and appear young. Patriarchal society says that women exist for the benefit and enjoyment of men, and to a lesser extent children — that a woman is a kind of human giver, rather than a human being. It takes most women decades to dismantle this programming and some never do, because it’s a very strong message.

Middle age is when most women begin to truly find themselves and to care a lot less about what the world says they are supposed to be and do. This is challenging to the status quo, and it's incredibly empowering — and therefore dangerous. But the women who do it anyway discover that it’s awesome — truly a whole new world! I didn’t get my first tattoo until I was in my late 40s, and now I have 5. At 50 we opened up our marriage and I now have another life partner who is ten years younger than I am, as well as a lover who is in her mid-30s. I still wear mini-skirts, because they still look good on me. I love classic rock, but I’m also very into alt music, something that my partner Nat introduced me to.

In my grandmother’s generation, by the time you were 55, you dressed and acted like a grandmother. In my mother’s generation, it was a little better, but there was still an expectation that you’d accept that you were now a matron. Now they say that 55 is the new 35. I don’t know if that’s true or not, because just as I don’t really have any interest in putting labels on my sexuality, I don’t feel the need to put my age and how that relates to how I go through the world into some kind of box. I’m just me. I do and wear what makes me happy. I stand up for myself and what I believe in and I live out loud. I’m interested in the world, and maybe because of that, I find that it’s also interested in me.

I’m a little bit sorry that it took me half my life to get to this place, but I have no intention of slowing down any time soon. My husband has just retired, and we look forward to having even more time together now to focus on trying new things and generally living life to its fullest. I don’t know if I’ll actually live to be 110, but that is becoming a more and more common thing, and so it’s not a stretch to say that I truly am right about in the middle of my life — but even if I weren’t, it wouldn’t matter. Life is what you make of it and chronological age is only one tiny aspect of that. I look forward to this coming year, but also to what 60 will bring or what 70 is going to be like. I’m real, I’m me, and that is most definitely something to celebrate!

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Photo by Nick Stephenson on Unsplash

Dispelling cultural myths with research-driven stories. My favorite word is “specious.” Not fragile like a flower; fragile like a bomb! Twitter @ElleBeau

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