On Turning 50 When You’re Still a Kid



Bridget LeRoy

I JUST HAD MY 50TH BIRTHDAY. Frankly, I don’t understand how this happened. Aren’t I still rock ‘n’ roll, leather and lace, high heels and late nights, with my Cyndi Lauper hair and my Bette Davis eyes?

But the truth is, those Betsey Johnson bustiers and Kenneth Cole boots I used to sport were just the paint on the bare canvas of a pretty screwed-up young woman. I’m not even talking about the booze, drugs, and men I used to stick in my body; I’m talking about the monkeys in my head. The ones who told me for years that I wasn’t good enough, smart enough, pretty enough.

That’s what I concluded: I simply wasn’t enough.

When you think you aren’t enough, you have to work twice as hard to be half as good. These are the messages my 20-something brain used to send. Although my life looked pretty good from the street, I tore myself down and started over from scratch dozens of times with jobs, mates, locations, looks, beliefs, and personas. I was on the run from myself throughout my 20s and 30s, but no matter where I went, there I was, waiting for me. I was angry and resentful, and yet, somehow, had principles of a sort to stick to and strong ideas to cram down people’s throats.

At a full half-century now, I can quote one of my new-wave heroes, Elvis Costello, and honestly say, “I used to be disgusted, but now I try to be amused.”

It’s amazing how the accumulating years tend to blur those lines on the canvas from bright neon splashes to Impressionistic pastels. My mind has gone from an Andy Warhol self-portrait, repeatedly reproduced, to a garden in Giverny. I’ve gone from critical to curious—what’s going to happen next?

Instead of viewing life being an endless series of hurdles or obstacles, I’ve come to view it as a long line of waves, cresting again and again.

I was great at 17. I was great again at 29. I was fab at 41. And here I am, in all my beauty and glory and wrinkles and pimples, at 50 (Really, God? You couldn’t choose just one?), and now I can actually say, “Thank you” to my body. I love my heart for beating, my brain for thinking, my liver and kidneys for flushing out the toxins, my hair for protecting my head, my lungs for breathing….Today, I can love my body, my mind and my fully adult self, even as I continue to downsize to the essence of pure Bridget.

So here’s what I have learned: I know this is just another beginning. I feel on top of the world, filled with joy, and I want to spread it around. I am starting to believe that as long as I choose youthfulness, joy, and happiness—no matter what is happening around me—that is what I will get.

And I still have that bustier, if I want to recall those wild nights of yesteryear.

Bridget LeRoy was brought up in a privileged show business family (Harry Warner of Warner Brothers was her great-grandfather, Mervyn LeRoy, producer of “The Wizard of Oz” was her grandfather), complete with opening nights, trips to exotic lands, lavish family gatherings, backstage Hollywood visits, and partying with New York’s glitterati. In 2009, she lost everything. She and her family were homeless and on food stamps for several months. She’s been an actress, journalist, innkeeper, artists’ model, goat herder; co- founded a newspaper and a children’s museum; has run women’s retreats; is a life coach, minister, raw food chef, and Reiki II practitioner,;and also a clean and sober Nichiren Buddhist mother of three. Nowadays, she’s keeping it simple: working for a school and raising chickens on the East End of Long Island. Learn more about Bridget at: www.facebook.com/RichesToRagsToMoriches

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Forty Forward!

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