I remember, a few years ago, sitting in a parenting group with a dozen women in their forties, all of us with daughters in middle school. As we swapped parenting stories, sharing the inevitable girl drama, hurt feelings, rejection, and exclusion our daughters faced, we felt a little overwhelmed.
We felt a little sad, too, as memories of our own teen struggles surfaced — and, frankly, relieved that those difficult years had passed.
At some point, we wondered aloud: If we could go back in time, what would we want to say to our younger, teenage selves?
The near unanimous response? “It gets better.”
While even today, at 51, friendships still disappoint, here’s the difference: I know now that, for the most part, the deepest friendships survive. As for the others, well, maybe they were never solid enough to last.
With age comes perspective. If nothing else, my years of struggle and disappointment have taught me that things have been, and always could be, worse.
It’s in this spirit — motivated by writer Suzanne Braun Levine — that I am fully embracing my “F*ck You Fifties.” I’ve finally arrived to a place where I care less about living up to others’ expectations and more about being who I want to be.
I’m tired of regrets. Are there roads I wish I’d taken and choices I wish I hadn’t made? Absolutely. But I’ve stopped wringing my hands over those. I can’t undo the past, so I’m trying to live in the present.
I let very little drama into my life. I just don’t have the patience for the little things that used to bug me or the perceived slights that caused me to ruminate for days on end.
I’m a lot braver than I was in my youth, more willing to try new things and less worried about failure or rejection. From self-publishing a book to starting a blog, I’m looking for purpose beyond being a wife and a mother.
I’m defying my natural introversion by reaching out to interesting women and asking them to meet for coffee. I’m saying yes to spontaneous invitations to dinner or a lecture — and letting my husband and kids fend for themselves.
I’m joining a group of women I barely knew — now my friends — for a regular Estrogen Poker Night, learning Texas Hold ‘Em and betting with money for the first time.
And I’m making some bucket list dreams come true. Just last month, I jumped out of a plane.
With this new attitude come smaller, but still meaningful, changes too. Where once I was concerned with appearance above all else, I now live in my comfy leggings and oversized sweaters.
While I’m busy saying yes to new experiences, I’m also allowing myself to say no more often. Whether it’s not answering the phone during dinner or declining invitations to tedious gatherings, if I don’t feel like doing something — and I don’t need to — I take a pass.
This goes for people, too. If spending time with someone leaves me feeling worse about myself, I’m done.
And my filter is going. Don’t “old people” drive you crazy with all the inappropriate things they say? Well, with each passing year, I find myself just saying what comes to mind.
But that’s not all bad. In fact, it’s allowed me to be a lot more generous with compliments, even to strangers. In the past I’d think “wow I really like the way she did that.” Now, I find myself saying it out loud.
While my “F*ck You Fifties” have caused my teen daughters some embarrassment (so, what else is new?), I hope they’ll find themselves in the exact same place in 30 years.
So to all you young women, let me say it again: It does get better. And one day, like me, you’ll end up in the “F*ck You Fifties,” and you won’t want to look back.
You’ll be having too much fun playing poker and saying crazy shit.