Hell Heat and Elephant Skin



Terri Connett

Fifty is not nifty, it’s the new I’m Screwed.

It’s not the new 40.  It’s certainly not the new 30.  Being in your 50s is a punch to the gut.

Oh sure, the signs of aging are gradual, but the minute your first, unsolicited AARP membership card comes in the mail, a bright spotlight appears out of the heavens to expose you to the world – and yourself.  As I pulled the presumptuous envelope out of my mailbox, I noticed brand new little brown spots on the back of my hand.  I seriously thought they were from the chocolate ice cream cone I’d just inhaled.

“Geesh, I must have wiped my mouth on my knuckles in my haste to get to the mailbox,” I mused.  But when I couldn’t rub them off, my heart sank.  I now have my grandmother’s age spots.

I threw the AARP devil mail into the trash in the garage and made a vow that no future solicitations will every make it inside my door.  (Since that first mailing, I’ve received hundreds of pieces of paper from them.  Doesn’t that seem like a big waste of money? Wouldn’t it make more sense for AARP to save the literature and mailing costs, not to mention trees, and invest that money in something more worthwhile, like Alzheimer’s research?)

Okay, so those “50s freckles” really rattled me.  That night after my shower I noticed the wrinkly skin inside my arms just below my armpits.  I know, over time our skin loses elasticity.  Youthful, smooth girl skin gives way to elephant lady skin.  And while I’m at it, when did my pubes lose their curl?

Of course none of this happened overnight.  Touching the AARP literature didn’t straighten the hair on my lady parts.  But it seems that it all came crashing down, and all at once.

Gone is my monthly reminder I am a woman.  That bloated, crampy inconvenience has been replaced with sweaty, embarrassing flashes of hell heat that come out of nowhere 52 weeks a year.  And who calls me out on it?  Menopausal women who think it’s clever to ask if I’m having “my own personal summer” or a “power surge.”  I guess they found a way to accept it gracefully, with humor.  I consider them traitors; that, or delusional.

I take pills for improved eyesight, blood pressure, cholesterol, bone strength, memory improvement and daily elimination.  Serious fun.  And all these drugs are counted out in those weekly pill containers… containers for old people.

My eyebrows are thinning and take shape more from pencil than actual hairs.  There is, however, no shortage of white, bristly, witchy whiskers sprouting from my chin.

And my metabolism?  It’s slower than Florida justice for innocent and unarmed black teenagers.

Now, I can see why you might think I’m on an old lady rant, but I’m not.  Being in your 50s sure beats the below-ground alternative.  My mother died at 59 and my dear father’s life was cut short just before his 28th birthday.  Trust me, I’m happy to be on this earth, even as I leave this decade and head into my 60s.

I get it, we’re living longer with a better quality of life than the previous generation. We benefit from health and technological advancements our parents and their parents didn’t have.  My grandmother felt old in her 60s.  I feel older but not that kind of old.

But society is enamored with youth like corporations are obsessed with profits.  So yes, in your 50s you can look and be great.  You can be vibrant and happy.  You can be sexual.  Sometimes, you can even be sexy.  But you can’t be 40.

Of course, I won’t be writing a “60 is the new screwed” column because once you’ve lived through your 50s you know the truth and can’t be fooled again.

Anyway, labels don’t matter.  Health and happiness do.  I’m no longer trying to prove anything to anyone or attempting to keep up with a generation where I don’t belong.  I am what I am.  I’m figuring out the transition between midlife and old age.  I’m learning to accept my droops and wrinkles while still feeling like the same life-loving girl inside.

And allow me to let you in on another secret … 60 is the new 60.

After a 36-year career in corporate marketing and advertising, Terri Connett is now a columnist  for iPinionSyndicate.com.  She writes, with an edge, about social justice, aging, politics, and Catholicism. Terri lives on the southeastern shore of Lake Michigan and may be reached at connetts.on.it@gmail.com