09/14/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Why I Can Believe Madonna is Turning 50

Everyone is marveling that Madonna is turning 50. Can you believe it?, they say. Madonna, 50. It doesn't seem possible.

Oh yes it does. (Cue old-people-style reminiscence): When I first heard of Madonna, I was a fashion editor at Glamour. This was in the eighties, back when Reagan was president and shoulder pads were advised for balancing big hips. MTV was new and hot back then, just like Madonna. Just like me.

Anyway, somebody sent over a video of this sensational new singer, Madonna. I had a television and a VCR, both as large as steamer trunks, wheeled into my cubicle and cued up the tape. And there was this... popsy... dressed in tattered lingerie with mascara smeared around her eyes writhing on the floor and feeling herself up.

I was shocked, shocked I tell you, nearly as shocked as I am now thinking back to how innocent, how different everything was for women in that pre-Britney, pre-Paris era of straight-laced feministinity.

What I'm really saying: It was a long time ago. My kids, all grown up now, danced to "Like a Virgin" when they were toddlers in diapers. Baby Lourdes, who was far from Madonna's first act, is sprouting breasts.

Madonna's been famous almost as long as I've been an adult. Like many women, I love her and hate her, I admire her and I'm horrified by her. An anecdote I heard about Madonna "crying on the treadmill" has kept me pedalling on many a dark day. And yet she's also one major reason I will never wear a red string on my wrist.

Check out Madonna's website and groove, sistah, to that tune: "Why wait for someone else to do what you can do right now?" If you had trouble believe she was turning 50 on Saturday before now, you have to admit that's a lyric that could only have been written by a 50-year-old woman.

Pamela Redmond Satran writes How Not To Act Old.