Like many of us, until my forties, I had gone through life feeling rather invincible. Not only was it inconceivable that something bad could ever happen to me, even my very mortality seemed suspect. Then, feeling creaks and aches in bones I hadn't thought about since anatomy class in medical school, made me reluctantly concede that I actually was mortal - or even worse - getting older. Yet, now, as I close in on fifty, I've made an even more shocking discovery: I just don't care. I'm learning that there is so much that is surprisingly, gloriously, wondrously liberating about the half-century mark.
For example, what woman hasn't gone through life wishing she could just lose five or even ten pounds? Nearing fifty, I just... don't... care! While I used to adhere to that universal female delusional calculus that calories don't count when snatched from a husband's plate, now, it's "Yes! I WILL have fries with that!"
Since I had gone low carb several years before, the pounds had crept up again, largely because I started insisting on having a glass or two of wine with dinner. (An informal and utterly unscientific, but no less persuasive poll of my female contemporaries reveals that, for some reason, nightly wine with dinner seems to be a right of passage for middle-aged women unto itself. Maybe it's a manifestation of some highly advanced, merciful evolutionary accommodation. Kind of like spiders that inject their prey with paralyzing venom. If you were a bug, wouldn't you prefer to be eaten while unconscious in a coma rather than have your inevitable dismemberment occur while wide awake? Perhaps in the case of baby boomer women, the suddenly innate, undeniable thirst for a nightly nip also serves a humane purpose, that of anesthetizing us against the supposed pain involved in getting older.)
In any event, when I could no longer fit into my favorite pair of jeans, I started thinking perhaps I should go back on a two week induction period, where the carbs are severely limited for rapid weight loss. So, I reread the good doctor Atkins' book to refamiliarize myself with the process.
"Is he insane?" I cried out loud in the bookstore. "No alcoholic beverages? Not even wine? For two whole weeks?" I decided to keep the poundage and toss the jeans. And, that was the beginning of my liberation, for rather than despair, I found myself rejoicing: I get to go shopping!
Soon, my newfound freedom progressed admirably. Who needs to dress up and put on makeup, just for leaving the house? Not me. No one looks at me anymore, anyway. Not that I ever used to be a head turner, but just by virtue of youth, I got a few, secretly cherished, second glances. Now, rather than feel badly I'm being ignored, I love it! I go out without makeup, wearing ratty clothes (which some might term, "pajamas") all the time. No one notices. Who hasn't fantasized about what he or she could do if rendered invisible?
I always thought I'd hate turning fifty, but now that it's looming, I can't wait! What else will I discover I don't care about? Unfortunately, for my long suffering husband, understandably horrified at this turn of events, men don't seem to enjoy the same sense of liberation as they age. Perhaps it's because they have far less to be liberated from. After all, society has always placed so much more of a premium on women's looks.
Gentlemen, payback's a bitch!
Doreen Orion is a psychiatrist and award-winning author. Her latest book, a humorous travel memoir, QUEEN OF THE ROAD: The True Tale of 47 States, 22,000 Miles, 200 Shoes, 2 Cats, 1 Poodle, a Husband, and a Bus With a Will of Its Own, is available from Broadway Books, an imprint of Random House.