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Claudia Cevenini and Sue Wildish Headshot

It Takes a Tribe: Surviving our 50s With a Little Help and a Sense of Humor

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I stepped off the plane, late in the evening, exhausted but in a chatty mood, energizer-bunny style. I still felt energized on the following days too, rushing about, brimming with writing ideas and even eager to tackle projects typically left untouched for years, like cleaning the window screens and the silver. I attributed this new found vigor, that replaced the sluggishness and apathy that had enveloped me of recent, to the change of scenery, to flying across country to spend a few days of R&R in Miami, visiting an Italian childhood friend I hadnʼt seen in three decades. We had found each other again just a short few weeks before -- I am the lazy Facebook user with nothing of interest on my page nor do I bother to look up old acquaintances -- and, after a few e-mail exchanges, I impulsively suggested I visit her in Miami where she would be vacationing with some friends. A bit of a gamble as not only was I going to meet up with a woman I last saw when we were in our teens and who could turn out to be a complete stranger,
but I would also be staying in a condo, without the privacy of a hotel room if things took a turn for the awkward or the unpredictable.

Once there, I found out I would be spending my time in the company of four other Italian women who didnʼt all know each other, each of them travelling to Miami for different reasons.

The youngest was 48 and the oldest somewhere over 60, real age undisclosed. We all arrived on different flights and beds got assigned in order of arrival. That we would be able to spend the next four days in harmony, or even tolerating each other, was not a sure thing. That we ended up having a fabulous time and genuinely liking each other is nothing short of a minor miracle, like getting out of the house before 11:00 a.m.

We laughed a lot, slept little, mixed bursts of tourist activities with complete inertia, all along chatting away, as women do. Here are a few snippets from the "Real Italians of Miami Beach" reality show:

ON BEAUTY

"My butt used to hang up here, not sliding towards my knees," complains Cutie, while simultaneously lifting her backside with her hands and contorting her neck Witches of Eastwick-style to check the mirror. Considering she was the hottie of middle school, with all the guys drooling over her, she is taking the effects of gravity with classy aplomb.

"The backs of my arms are fat. Really, they look fine from the front but if I look at the mirror in the back, they look like somebody elseʼs arms," complains the Princess over breakfast. And we have now established we should stick to looking only at our fronts from this point on.

"If you are all so obsessed over your decaying bodies, you will not have a happy old age" the Elder admonishes. Is there such a thing? The younger fourʼs quizzical eyes silently enquire.

ON GROWING OLD

"Menopause sucks. Forget the mood swings, the hot flashes, the sleepless nights or having to carry tampons everywhere because you donʼt know if and when your period is going to strike, the loss of muscle tone in your face defies all expectations," declares Cutie, while those who havenʼt yet crossed over to the other side look downward and pray for a few more years.

"Pass me your glasses. I canʼt see a damn thing" each and everyone mutters in various
restaurants with fine printed menus. We havenʼt got the message yet that reading glasses need to leave the house whenever we do.

"My feet/legs/back hurt," in unison, after a few hours of walking on the beach. Back to back aerobics and spin classes are a thing of the past.

"At this point in life, my time is valuable. If paying for parking means not driving around for 15 minutes for a free spot, so be it!" Princess, the pragmatist, summing up why life is too short to spend it dealing with inane activities.

"This scalloped dress looks fabulous but itʼs too short. No way am I going to show my knees anymore." J Crew, this is for you. We love you, we are loyal customers so please donʼt forget us when designing pretty dresses.

ON RELATIONSHIPS

"If you are really at the pub playing cards, send me a photo right now!" the Mad Hatter screams down the phones -- on how we are using technology to manage our relationships.

"Somebody tell me what is up with daughters -0 why are they so hard?" an exasperated Princess. Words of sympathy are muttered but nobody has an answer.

Men and sex are talked about but are no longer the sole focus of conversation. Have we finally got to the place where we donʼt find either all that interesting?

ON AMERICA

Inside Ross: "This store looks straight out of the former Soviet Union. This stuff is so ugly. Why are we here?" Cutie complains "To buy $5 t-shirts for my kids, that is why." They all shut up and leave the Mad Hatter to her t-shirt business.

"Whatʼs up with American actors and their whiter than white teeth? Donʼt they know that teeth whitening ruins the enamel?" Cutie is married to a dentist.

ON TECHNOLOGY

"You are not posting that photo of me with my butt hanging out on Facebook" screams Yours Truly, fretting on how we had to add global media to our list of chores.

Over breakfast, pot of coffee in the center of the table, cookies and pastries spread out, everyone is unusually silent. Only the clicking of our iPhones, iPads and Blackberries can be heard, managing our businesses, connecting with our families, checking in with the worlds we left behind.

Thinking back at our short time together, which ended with a collective vow to repeat the experience somewhere else next year, I realized that what replenished my well again was the current, the energy that only women coming together can produce. Because if it takes a village to raise children, it takes a tribe of women to see each other through anything in life, including surviving our 50s with a sense of humor.