How it feels to be Half a Century Old

May 4, 2017 by

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I remember when my first boyfriend’s mom turned 50. “How does it feel to be half a century old?” he taunted on her birthday.

Even as a teenager, I knew that was just mean. But secretly I wondered, too. How did it feel to be that old?


It was the 80’s, and Cybil Shepherd had become the pretty face behind some cosmetic line’s 40 Isn’t Fatal campaign. If women needed to be reminded that 40 wasn’t a death sentence, what must 50 feel like? I had one of those forever-young moms who didn’t look her age no matter how many birthdays she acquired, so I was counting on her genes. But at 18 the idea of even having to say, “I’m fifty” seemed … (come on, breathe, it okay)… I put it in the same “Don’t try to figure out what your finite mind will never understand” category as contemplating eternity (not recommended), predicting what Heaven will be like (that can actually be fun, but it’s the whole unknown thing), and wondering how normally sighted people keep colors straight.

Fast forward a few decades and, thanks to advancements in hair color, improved fashion choices for those of us who don’t care to dress “like a mother” (a story for another time), oil-free moisturizer, sunscreen, and less ridiculous hair styles (is it just me, or did everyone look 50 at 18 in the 60?), 40 became the new 30, which made 50 the new non-fatal 40. I tend to gravitate toward friends who are older than me, so those who’d passed the half-century mark and still looked cute gave me hope. I’d heard good reports about one’s 50s, and I had successful role models to provide proof that said reports were not like when they tell us, “Childbirth isn’t so bad. You forget all about the pain afterward.”

Still, when Julia Roberts played the evil step-mother in Mirror Mirror, I had a big problem with that. We were born the same year!

I chose to have a good sense of humor about it. When the AARP commercial came on and Nathan teased, “You’ll be getting that soon, Mom,” I announced my plan to buy a bird so I could line its cage with pages from the magazine.

I refused to say “The big five-oh.”

I made a firm decision not to freak out about entering a new decade when centuries ago women would have loved to reach 50 instead of dying from childbirth or “the fever” at 20.

The one 50th-Birthday thing I planned to fully embrace was the excuse to make the party last, take the whole day off, think up something really fun to do, and have complete control over where we went to eat. Yes, I know, that’s technically four things, but 50 is a big deal. I didn’t feel the need to jump out of an airplane, climb a mountain just to prove I could, or make everything about me for the next six month; I only wanted to do something that I’d never done before. My sisters suggested Filoli Gardens. I’d never been there, so that sounded like a great plan. We went the Saturday before the big day. It was breathtaking!

I made a firm decision not to freak out about entering a new decade when centuries ago women would have loved to reach 50 instead of dying from childbirth or “the fever” at 20. Click To Tweet

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On my actual birthday we would go to Horatio’s for lunch and to Dried and Tied, the foofiest store on the planet, and do something with Nathan in the evening.

The night before May 1, Nathan was kind enough to remind me that in the morning I would be half a century old. I remembered my first love’s question to his mother, “How does it feel?”

How would it feel?

I went to bed wondering.

I’ve been 50 for three days now and I can officially say that it isn’t bad at all.

It helped to consider that on May 1, I woke up a day older not a year older.

One cool thing about turning 50 is that I can now stop dreading it. Contrary to my teenage fears, 50 did not come with the overnight sentence of looking like one of those unfortunate teachers in Mom’s high school yearbook. I woke up looking and feeling pretty much the same.

I don’t mind getting older as long as I feel good, my mind works, and Clairol Natural Instincts never discontinues my color of choice.

There are some benefits to age.

We become less shallow (hopefully) and less concerned about what people think.

Eventually, we get discounts.

The pressure to follow every fashion trend is gone, but if we do and manage to get away with it, it’s considered “so cute.”

I’m no longer the only one who has to get her glasses out to read.

If we start to get more gray hair nobody points it out because that would be extremely rude and they also have gray hair, they just had a recent hair appointment.

The 50s no longer seem old, and neither does 60. When 70 starts to seem young, I’ll know I’m getting old.

There are some benefits to age. Click To Tweet

We can look back on our lives and see countless reminders of God’s faithfulness. That is the best part. Because as hard as some years have been, I really have had a blessed life, and I’m excited about what He has in mind next.

How do you feel about getting older? What scares you? What benefits do you see in it?

09851c20234931b63e65605de9b61c77How do you feel about getting older? What scares you? What benefits do you see in it? Click To Tweet

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  1. My husband used to work at a nursing and retirement home. When he started working there they had a few people in their 90s but when he retired 15 years ago they had lots of residents in their 90s and over a dozen in their 100s. I’ll soon be celebrating the 101st birthday of a friend. I’m a whole generation ahead of you, and, except for a few aches and pains, there’s nothing to object to about my age. I no longer need to worry about my appearance because nobody bothers to advertise anything that’s not for sale.

    • Jeanette Hanscome

      Haha! I love what you said about not advertising what isn’t for sale. 🙂

  2. Suzette

    I am right behind you and will be 50 in August. I have good genes like you, but sometimes that number does work in my heart… Just this past week I was looking at my receipt from TJMax (I was buying grab gifts bags for work) and they gave me a 55 and over discount. I was a little hurt. But glad to save the money.

    • Jeanette Hanscome

      I would’ve been hurt too! At least you were able to see the benefit in it. But wow, that’s worse than no longer being carded when ordering wine.

  3. Suzette

    Oh and PS- and please take this in the love that it is written- Your “Suddenly Single Mom” on your sidebar doesn’t take you anywhere (it’s not clickable). Maybe that was how you wanted it, I’m not sure… I expected to go to Amazon or somewhere to purchase.

    • Jeanette Hanscome

      Thank you so much for telling me! I will look into that right now.

  4. Sharon Oas

    What a wonderful article, Jeanette! My philosophy about aging is that it’s absolutely pointless to dwell on it. The only time I get a jolt is when I see people I think of as “kids” and they have grandkids!! Or they were in my 1st grade Sunday School class, like your cousin Stephen. Or I get a new creak in a bone, or too many “senior” moments….Ha! But I’m never insulted about the discounts!!! And I love the perspective age brings — the narrowing down of what we know to be important. ☺️

    • Jeanette Hanscome

      How cool that you know my cousin Stephen!

      My latest addition to the “I’m getting old” list are those moments when I’m enjoying a nice conversation with a new friend and realize I’m old enough to be her mom.

      I agree with you on the perspective that we gain with age. What we consider important definitely changes.

  5. Esther Loux Stallknecht

    Happy birthday, Jeanette. I am so glad you decided to take a whole day to celebrate and that you chose to write about it. What fun it is for me to read your thoughts on this important milestone. I remember turning 40 and I thought I was so old and that it was all downhill from here. I will be 79 in July and my mind tells me I’m in my 30’s or 40’s, my body well….a few aches but when I’ m told I don’ look my age I say I don’t it act my age either. I feel young. I’ve discovered age is just a number….it’ s how we think that keeps us young. Perhaps it’ s because I’ve found love again that has given me a young heart. I must tell you, Jeanette, I absolutely love to read your writing. God has given you a gift that can change lives. I’ve read your book, Suddenly Single Mom. As I read, I shed some tears over the way you walked through a difficult journey and I became so proud of the woman you are becoming. I will read anything you write……what you have to say is fun, informative and you keep it real. I’m so glad we’re family..

    • Jeanette Hanscome

      Thank you so much, Esther! Your words really encouraged me. I have been blessed to have the support of an amazing family and wonderful friends, which I know made it possible for me to thrive in those painful years. I am grateful for how God has used it!

      I would never have guessed you are almost 79! As you said, it’s all about how we think. And I’m sure love helps too. It made me so happy when that happened for you!

      I love you!

  6. Deb

    Happy Birthday, Jeanette! You look beautiful!

    • Jeanette Hanscome

      Thank you, Deb! I think this is going to be an exciting year.

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