I’m 50. There, I wrote it. To other people, and not just in a journal, on an insurance claim, or W-2. I actually said it out loud as well. To a man.
I was having dinner with one of my closest guy friends. We’d been meeting up to talk about the midlife crises that had hit us both pretty hard. He, a confirmed bachelor, successful in real estate, who regularly dates women in their twenties, and I, peri-menopausal and freaking out about everything. I’d just helped my best friend exit the world with what smidgeon of dignity pancreatic cancer hadn’t stolen from her, my parents were in the hole financially and selling off my childhood home, my phone wasn’t ringing for work, and on top of all that, I was having these “crime scene” periods. It was like my vagina had slaughtered something. Should I go back to college, adopt another kid, raise llamas? I couldn’t afford a vacation so I was taking a lot of naps.
When you feel stuck in other areas, and you’re looking for something to raise your dopamine fast, there is something that seems easy to change -- who you’re fucking.
I've been married for 16 years, which in the new economy is the paperclip anniversary, and we're heading into that murky middle zone. Beginnings always hold excitement. We have rituals to fete the newly engaged, married and even implicit in divorce is the promise of a new beginning. Divorce registries are becoming popular as divorce parties are cropping up.
But middles, in every context you can think of, are fraught with their own kind of turpitude: middle children, middle management and let’s not forget the Middle East.
As we mulled over my enervated state, he said with the greatest concern for my well-being, “You better do something now, while you're still fuckable.” I didn't think twice about my response. “You're right,” I answered immediately.
Why wouldn't I say that?
Sure, there's been a slew of media attention for aging seductively but the images are of women who are household names, many of whom employ teams of stylists and trainers. These "only getting sexier” boosters seem to spend thousands of dollars just get out of bed each morning. Between the crèmes, injections and voodoo sacrificial rituals, who would even have time to get laid?
I was never the kind of woman who wanted to marry someone for power or status, but if I were, that would be a challenge at 50. Successful men my age, like my pal, regularly date younger women whom they often marry and have second, third or more families with. This is the privilege enjoyed by alpha males in chimp and gorilla societies, and for the furtherance of our species, it makes sense on some levels.
But, let’s say I just wanted a hot one-night stand, where would I look for that?
Sure, there’s the Cougar dating site, but I can’t get past the name. Cougar is such a predatory animal and implies an undertone of desperation. Furthermore, on the Cougar dating site, the young men are called cubs. What mother wants to have sex with someone named after the baby of her own species. YUCK.
The AARP certainly doesn’t think I’m fuckable.
Every week, since the day I turned 49, the AARP solicitations started appearing in my email. Any political party worried about voter fraud should just employ whomever the AARP uses to track people down, because they are on top of it.
For the record, AARP, you’re killing the erections that many of your members are paying good money to achieve. Couples pictured on the emails are dressed in matching cotton pastel sweaters and pleated khaki pants. The entire outfit screams, “Here take my libido and hold it for the rest of my life, which won’t last much longer.”
AARP also offers you a refrigerated travel bag when you join. It’s just so damn unsexy. What’s the refrigerated part for? Medications, no doubt. Maybe I’ll join when they feature a couple in matching Jil Sander elegance and offer a gym bag, a bottle of wine, or even a bacon-of-the-month club membership. Just something that doesn’t advertise, “Your health is your top concern while traveling.”
How taboo is it to announce that you’re 50 to the world at large?
Well, if Twitter is any gauge, consider this tale. After friends were nice enough to help announce my entrance into the Twitter-sphere, a guy tweeted, “You’re so pretty, will you marry me?” Then he saw my age. I was promptly un-followed in less than 140 characters, and schooled with, “You’re older than my mother, eeeew, gross, I need to shower now.” For the record, I also picked up followers who appreciated that my bio notes “since 1961.” But still, that stung.
I went to see my gynecologist, and I explained all the concerns I had at facing 50. Many women I know have switched to female OB/GYNs, which I applaud; it just happens I’ve always liked my guy. He treats me with the kind of anonymity that works in my favor in Los Angeles, because in this town, I rank very low on the powerful woman scale. I’m just “tilted uterus, entering menopause, cystic breasts lady.”
When I started going to him I gave him a copy of my first book, "Fired!," to which he said, “So Woody Allen called you retarded, and you wrote a book about it?”
“Well,” I explained, “It ended up being a great opening line to get other people to tell their stories.”
Last year he interrupted my breast ultrasound with, “Wait, you’re the one who wrote the book about arguing with your husband and getting divorced, right?
“No, actually, I wrote about how we argue and we’re still married.”
As I left the office, he handed me prescriptions for hormone replacement therapy and held up his hand to wave goodbye and offered this pearl of wisdom, “Stay…”
Pause. (It was a big pause, but there are definitely no pregnant pauses in my life anymore.) What would he say? Would it be that adage girls signed yearbooks with at my junior high school, “Stay the same, never change?” Stay healthy? Stay happy? Stay hydrated? Would he go all Bob Dylan on me, “Stay forever young?” Nope.
“Stay… funny,“ he said. Fuck me. Dying is easy, comedy is hard.
It’s also a laugh riot to consider how much our culture, not to mention our easy access to pornographic images on the web, has rewired our brains. Miranda Priestly in “The Devil Wears Prada” smartly reprimanded adorable Anne Hathaway for imagining that she’d picked out her lumpy blue sweater herself when millions of dollars had influenced her “cerulean” purchase. It only stands to reason that what turns us on has been selected for us by countless cultural avatars.
That saying “40 is the new 30, “never really caught on as “50 is the new 40,” but soon, 50 will be the new Everybody, because our population is aging, and so the question of what fuckable looks like, even if put in less direct terms, is going to be a big topic from bedrooms to board rooms.
Now I wouldn’t be the daughter of the feminist movement that I am if I didn’t acknowledge that the essential question is: What about what I want? How interested am I in sex anyway? A survey conducted by iVillage suggested that women in their forties would rather Facebook than sit on someone’s face. They didn’t even ask women in their fifties!
Well, I wouldn’t put the quest for an orgasm up there with the need for oxygen, which in my twenties was definitely the case. At the onset of peri-menopause, I even considered getting the words Gone Fishin’ tattooed above my vagina. But hormones helped me get my groove back and turn my weepiness into anger, and really, few things invigorate me more than a good fight. I decided I should take on turning 50.
First off, I decided that I shouldn’t make decisions out of fear of not being fuckable, so I started telling everyone I could that I was turning 50, and it’s been very liberating.
So fuck you, 50, you’re my bitch. I’d wrestle you to the ground, but I’ve got a little arthritis in my pinky, so it would hurt too much. And, you know what? If I do get that tattoo, I think it will read: Under New Management.
Read more Annabelle Gurwitch in her new eBook single release, "Autumn Leaves," a comedic erotica that she affectionately calls "50 Shades of Snark."