At least these are my reasons; yours may differ, but believe me, you have them.
- Scheduling surgery on your birthday is not nearly as exciting a story as you think it will be. OK, so I was 30, and still dreaming of being a literary writer, and that’s the only reason I can give as to why I thought getting surgery on my occipital bone to remove a small, harmless, but annoying growth would be interesting. Interesting, as in I’m-a-writer-which-is-the-poor-cousin-to-actor-filmmaker-and-other-cool-creative-people-love-me-anyway. Um, yeah, Tom Wolfe, F. Scott Fitzgerald, or Dorothy Parker never wrote about their eye surgery, so why did I think it was going to help launch my literary career? I went into the hospital on my birthday thinking I was going to have a wicked cool story to tell; I came out the next day with a black eye and sleep deprived because my roommate had a nose job, and she snorted, snored, and gurgled her way through the night. Soooo not interesting, not even in a bad way.My 50th birthday celebrations, on the other hand, were two weeks of Hollywood-like productions. I had cake with family, jumped off a 15-foot-high rock into the ocean, went sea kayaking, got taken to a fancy restaurant, spent 19 hours with friends in Provincetown wearing the tiara pictured above, eating, drinking and dancing, had dinner and walked in Boston with my son, and concluded the two weeks with a dinner and dance party at a club. Now that, my friends, is a birthday.
- The birthday cards you get are waaay better. Let’s face it, turning 30 can be a mixed bag. My 20s were equal parts figuring out how to find work that would allow me to eat while trying to become said writer mentioned above, and engaging in the silly nonsense you expect kids in their 20s to get up to. I was partly grateful for leaving behind a lot of the uncertainty of what a sustainable writing career might look like, but mostly I felt like I was getting old. And unfortunately all the 30 birthday cards tend to support that. It’s totally depressing, especially if you are feeling like your, um, writing career isn’t where it should be and you get as a birthday present a novel from the newest 20-something literary breakout sensation who graduated from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop while you were slogging out a desk job and writing at night. Swell.The cards you get when you turn 50? Your friends are so excited and so happy that you made it this far pretty much intact, all the cards are funny and celebratory and people tell you how fabulous you are. I think the only other birthday number that is as exciting to your friends is 21, and that’s a waste because no one ever remembers it.
- I finally can tell all the “experts” to go stick it in their pie hole. For a while now I’ve been irritated by all the advice that pops up in my various social media and email feeds. Drink 6.25 ounces of water 32 minutes before you work out and then every 15.4 minutes after your work out to optimize hydration. Six things you should never eat (and gross things like lima beans are never on the list). Parenting advice, career advice, how to pick the best advice advice—it’s endless and irritating. But in my 30s I followed a lot of it—of course it came more by way of women’s magazines, but still, I read carefully about how to use my fingertips, not my nails to shampoo my scalp and how to comb my wet hair from the bottom to the top to prevent those horrible, unsightly split ends. OK, so most of it was hair advice, but still, I wanted to improve myself. Now that I’m 50, I finally realize why the advice is so irritating. It’s meant to optimize my years on this earth. And guess what? I’m not an effin’ Olympic athlete, so I don’t need to be optimized. I’m not looking to shave .0003456 seconds off my performance or have whiter teeth in minutes without pain (wait, what? Pain?), or find out what drinks to never have after dinner. I don’t care. I made it 50 years on this earth doing some things badly and getting better at them, doing some things well, and ignoring others entirely. I’ve learned the difference between what I need to do and what’s a waste of time. So, stick that in your pie hole and optimize it.
- I can favorably compare myself to 70-year-olds. Turning 30 felt like I was losing my youth, and that was hard. All the little things that let you know you’re aging—the stray gray hair, the twisted ankle that takes two weeks to heal instead of one—feel like loss. Being 50 means having made it through much of that transition, and now I’m grateful for all the things I don’t yet have because I’m not 70—arthritis, age-related high blood pressure, cataracts, more wrinkles than I have now. Compared to 70, I look fantastic, baby.
- Because I’m older than you, and I have more insurance. One of my favorite lines from “Fried Green Tomatoes.” Nuff said.