50 is a half-century

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Let’s face it, if 50 is the new 30, and 40 is the new 20, then your rusty 1987 Honda is a new Lexus.

The last time I wrote for the Minnesota Women’s Press was in the fall of 2002, right before I ran away to California, slept on an inflatable mattress, discovered I was miserable, and came back. And not a minute too soon. In a world that has gone mad with greed, scandals, and lies, I have returned in time to protect society against one of the biggest lies of all: 50 is the new 30! At least that’s what Oprah says.

It may be OK for Oprah to be 30 again but she can afford to add 20 more years to her life. With what should be my 401(k) currently being invested in mortgage payments, dog food, and legal pharmaceuticals (I’m starting to miss the ’60s), I’m not sure I could possibly come up with the money to extend my body another 20 years past my expiration date.

Let’s face it, if 50 is the new 30, and 40 is the new 20, then your rusty 1987 Honda is a new Lexus. I turned 53 this summer and somehow it is easier for me to relate to the fact that I am 371 in dog years than the idea that I am 33 in Oprah years. There is some truth to the idea that today’s 50 is not the 50 of previous generations, but it never is. If this trend continues, by the time a girl born today turns 50 she’ll be hearing … “50 is the new prenatal.”

I call it the Phantom 20-those 20 years that all of a sudden disappeared according to Madison Avenue, talk shows, and the cover of almost every woman’s magazine (wedged between the promise of how to cook and freeze 753 meals in a night and insight into Kelly Ripa’s parenting secrets)-but we know they’re still there, waiting to pounce on us.

And it’s confusing. First they tell me I’m the new 30 and I should go kayaking, take yoga, seduce younger men, then they turn around and have Gidget tell me I have to start thinking about osteoporosis. That’s right Gidget (aka Sally Field) is talking about osteoporosis. What’s next, an infomercial with Patty Duke for incontinence products? Davy Jones selling denture cream? Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper in an Oldsmobile?

So what should I do? Kayak or kegel? Paddle control or bladder control? Mazda MX-5 or Roth 401(k)?

Perhaps when you turn 50, there should be a benefit similar to maternity leave called maturity leave … when you would be allowed to take six months off to do something stupid and get it over with (such as move to L.A., sleep on an inflatable mattress etc.). Like the Amish sending their teens to be out among the English, we’d be sent to be out among the Youngish-society’s way of saying “OK, here is your time to make an ass of yourself and then come back when it’s out of your system.” I wonder how many of us would come back?

Mary Hirsch is a proud Minnesota resident who believes 50 is the new 30 and size 18 is the new size 6.