Last week, I had a pimple on my ear. Right on top of the lobe, where the skin is thin, and where pimples hurt. It was a surprise, but I didn’t think too much of it, and it was gone in a couple days after a few doses of alcohol (rubbing, not liquor).
But then, a few days after that, I had an itchy spot on my back. I was wearing an Irish wool sweater that day, so I figured the sweater was agitating my skin. Then I thought my bra strap might be rubbing or pinching. Finally, after hours of itchiness, I managed to reach the awkward spot, and I felt a big, round, tender bump. It was another freakin’ pimple!
The next day, another appeared – right under my chin. Great. At least the other two offenders were out of sight. This one was public. Enough already. I should not be dealing with zits anymore!
None of this would be that unusual if I was fifteen. Or even twenty-two. Maybe even thirty. But I am fifty-two years old. Fifty-two!! I’m mid-menopausal, for crying out loud – what the hell am I doing getting pimples? It’s the curse of the Baby Boomers – hot flashes and acne, all at the same time. Yup – throw in the hormonal mood swings, and we’re just having a party, aren’t we?
And people wonder why women in their fifties are cranky. Our bodies are turning against us in new ways every day. Skin is sagging, bellies are popping, periods come and go on a highly unpredictable schedule, we break into sweats in the middle of the night, our heads spin like the Exorcist when the hormones get going, we’re exhausted, and somehow it comes as a shock to our friends and family that we’re irritated.
Only women our age go through the check-out line with the following in our carts: multi-vitamins labeled “silver”, Midol, “age-defying” cosmetics, Clearasil acne lotion, a bottle of red wine, and a box of chocolate chip cookies for the craving we’re bound to have later that night (why fight it?). All of those multi-generational products are for us.
I’ve come to the conclusion that this marvelous decade of our fifties is like “This is Your Life” rolled up into ten years. A woman’s last hurrah before sliding into old age. Think about it…
Childhood: Is there anything more childish than a menopausal woman going through our hormonal ebbs and flows? Tears one minute. Screaming fury the next. Totally sane after that. I have literally stomped my foot in anger in the past year. Seriously? Where did that come from? Aren’t I a little too grown-up for foot stomping? Apparently not.
Prepubescence: The preteen years are when girls form close same-sex friendships, and begin to assert their independence and self-identity. Our fifties are when we have time, after raising our families and establishing our lives, to focus on our girlfriends again. Our friendships deepen to new levels, as we start sharing our life adventures, and at this stage in our lives, those adventures aren’t always sunny. Rather than sharing tales of who-talked-to-whom-in-social-studies, our friendships are now dealing with marriages, aging parents, career changes, divorces, adult children. Instead of sitting together on the school bus, we’re meeting at the wine bar, but the connections are similar, and equally important. And we giggle even harder now than we did then!
Adolescence: We were so happy to leave those stressful teen years behind – acne, romance, betrayal, raging hormones, stressing over our appearance, hanging out with the right crowd, rebelling against our parents, watching our bodies change. And yet, here we are again – acne, romance (with any luck), betrayal (whether in marriage, employment, friendship, or just in our own bodies), raging hormones, stressing over our appearance (what does “age-appropriate dressing” really mean?), hanging out with the right crowd (political activism, neighborhood ‘clicks’, etc.), rebelling against our parents (or at least at our changing role in their lives), and, of course, watching our bodies change (don’t get me started…). Yup. Fifty may as well be fifteen in many ways.
Young Adult: We may not “relive” our young adult years, but our fifties are when we reap the consequences of those years, good or bad. Did the marriage survive? Are the kids okay? Was there a marriage at all? If you didn’t have children, are you wondering who will care for you as you age? Of course, some of us do end up revisiting the young adult years in a very unexpected way as we find ourselves raising our young grandchildren, or having our adult children or parents move back in with us. And some of us are dealing with parents who are now older and dealing with issues that may require us to step back into a parenting role. My own mom is very healthy and independent, but many of my contemporaries are not that fortunate, and they equate their relationships with their mothers to dealing with teenage daughters.
Elderly: Along with looking back, our fifties give us a sneak peak to the future, sort of a prequel to the years that lay ahead. We don’t have the strength and energy we once had. We begin the process of adjusting to that new physical reality. And as our parents age, we experience the realities of aging through their lives. Suddenly retirement, Social Security, and long-term health care are no longer abstract ideas, but an impending fact of life.
Yes, the more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that women in their fifties are living every stage of life at once. Is it a bad thing? Not always. It can be challenging and frustrating and infuriating at times, but it does give us the chance to appreciate the journey we’ve made so far. We have the wisdom of our life experiences to help temper the effects of the hormonal changes. I may stomp my feet and burst into tears over some perceived slight, but, unlike when I was fifteen, I have the confidence to know that I’ll get through it and life will go on. We’ve gained perspective, and as long as we hold onto that perspective, this journey back in time is okay, for the most part.
But I really could do without the pimples. Honestly.