I turned 51 yesterday.
I liked being 50. I liked saying that I was 50. I told everybody who’d listen, as a Kindergartner happily tells everyone he’s 5.
I’ve always enjoyed the ages that end in zero. I feel like I’ve crossed some threshold, and I dream about the next phase of my life. What new adventures will come?
My 50s truly are turning out to be a new phase, with adventures unlike anything that came before. I never dreamed of some of the adventures we’re on, most of which I never would have chosen. Frankly, some intensely hard stuff has come my family’s way. We’re pushing through it okay.
But that’s what I wrote about last year when I turned 50. This year I want to write about vanity, specifically mine, and how looking in the mirror bruises it. I’m looking noticeably older.
I remember in my 20s noticing middle-aged men who tried in humorously ineffective ways to look younger and hide what time had stolen from them.
I swore then I’d let aging just happen to me. If my hair were to fall out, there would be no Propecia or Rogaine or Hair Club for Men for me — if the hair loss became serious enough I’d just shave my head. When I went gray, I vowed not to reach for hair dye or even Grecian Formula. If my face turned into used-up shoe leather, fine. Well, not fine, but I was going to just let it be. Aging, do your worst — I would not let your signs rule me. I would find peace and happiness regardless of how I looked.
And then I was blessed not only to keep all of my hair, but also to never have more than a few random wisps of gray. And I just kept looking young, even through my late 40s. When I’d get carded buying beer cashiers would do a double take. Some of them even said, “You can’t possibly be this old.” Man, that felt good.
Those days are over. Cashiers never say anything when they hand me my driver’s license anymore — if they bother to ask for it at all. The lines on my face tell no lies. And after a haircut now I can see right through to my scalp on top. It was a genuine shock the first time I saw that. At the rate I’m going I’ll have a pretty healthy bald spot up there by the time I’m 53.
I expect no pity parties. I’ve had a great run and I know it. It just hurts to see my youthful looks go. It is a daily surprise to see my morning face in the mirror.
But I’m determined to stay true to my youthful vows: I will age boldly and proudly. It looks like my 50s is where physical aging will accelerate, so I’ll have plenty of practice.
I’m going to miss saying “I’m 50!” though. 51 just isn’t as exciting of a number to say.