Birth­day girls:

Suzanne Har­ring­ton joins the 50 club with Ni­cole Kid­man, Ju­lia Roberts and Pamela An­der­son. And no, she has no plans to take up knit­ting

Irish Examiner - Weekend - - Inside -

The new 50

LIKE every­one else born in the first Sum­mer of Love, I’m about to turn 50. Un­equiv­o­cally mid­dle aged. An age when, in pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions, you’d be knit­ting bootees for the grand­chil­dren, fre­quent­ing gar­den cen­tres, and tak­ing up golf.

But we are Peren­ni­als, the gen­er­a­tion who par­ented Mil­len­ni­als. The term, coined by US in­ter­net guru Gina Pell, is de­fined by her as “ever-bloom­ing rel­e­vant peo­ple of all ages who know what’s hap­pen­ing in the world, stay cur­rent with tech­nol­ogy and have friends of all ages.” While Baby Boomers have aged in a cruise ships and cardi­gans kind of way, Gen­er­a­tion X re­fuses to go qui­etly. Why should we? We have re­de­fined what it is to be mid­dle aged, and con­cluded there is no such thing any­more. Mid­dle age is for old peo­ple.

To­day’s 50-year-olds are liv­ing proof that age­ing is a so­cial con­struct; Peren­ni­als em­body the idea that age­ing and get­ting older are not the same thing. Un­bowed by our chrono­log­i­cal years, we refuse to be herded to­wards the twin­set and tup­per­ware sec­tion of the depart­ment store — you’re far more likely to find us on our yoga mats, at the juice bar at gigs and fes­ti­vals, and swip­ing right on dat­ing apps. That this gen­er­a­tion of 50-year-olds is known as the Quin­tas­tics says a lot about how we live our lives; with con­scious, clear-headed in­tent. And a lot of fun.

How­ever, as well as the pay gap, we still have the age gap — the idea en­trenched ev­ery­where from Hol­ly­wood and the me­dia to mar­ket­ing and ad­ver­tis­ing, which tells us that women age in dog years com­pared with men. Tra­di­tion­ally, a mid­dle aged man is per­ceived to be in his prime, while a mid­dle aged woman is am­bi­tious mut­ton. Oh dear.

What would Ju­lia Roberts, Ni­cole Kid­man and Pamela An­der­son — who all turn 50 this year — have to say about that? Given their su­per-fab­u­lous­ness, it’s un­likely their ex­pe­ri­ences of get­ting older res­onate too much with the rest of us. So what hap­pens when or­di­nary women turn 50? Do we all stam­pede to the Bo­tox clinic? Save up for bin­gow­ings surgery? Or are we too busy be­ing com­fort­able in our own minds and skins to care? Al­low me, a mere mortal, to walk you through the pros and cons of hit­ting the Big Five Oh.


Wel­come to the ZFG zone. This stands for Zero Fucks Given, and is where your head will be when you reach 50. It’s much more re­lax­ing than when you were 25 and ut­terly gor­geous, be­cause when you were 25 and ut­terly gor­geous you still be­lieved all the non­sense ped­dled at you by the beauty, me­dia and en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­tries. Th­ese days you know per­fectly well that all you need is sass, con­fi­dence and red lip­stick. Laugh­ter lines? Crows’ feet? Col­laps­ing col­la­gen? ZFG. Your re­silience and self-be­lief sur­rounds you, im­pen­e­tra­ble as the Great Wall of China.

The ZFG zone ex­tends far be­yond the su­per­fi­cial­ity of ap­pear­ance. Para­dox­i­cally, as your wis­dom and com­pas­sion ex­pands, your con­cern about the neg­a­tive opin­ions of others evap­o­rates. In­stead of car­ing what other peo­ple think, you trust your in­stincts en­tirely, and fear­lessly stride forth — if some­thing makes you an­gry, you do some­thing about it. If some­thing needs ac­tion, you act. If some­one needs help, you help, no longer ham­strung by the

self con­scious­ness and self ab­sorp­tion of youth. And you have learned how to say ‘No’ with ut­most con­vic­tion and clar­ity. Fools are no longer suf­fered. Smiles are given with greater ease. You are si­mul­ta­ne­ously kin­der and tougher. ZFG.

Blame kale. To­day’s 50year-olds are the most health and well-be­ing con­scious gen­er­a­tion ever. Why do you think we look so shiny? We have re­alised that eat­ing crap, be­ing stressed, smok­ing fags, and drink­ing too much booze is di­rectly linked to how we feel and look, and we have de­cided that we pre­fer chilled and glowy to dull and bloaty. We are chia-tas­tic, de­voted to our down­ward dog, keen on med­i­ta­tion and mind­ful­ness, and es­chew­ing the pas­siv­ity of get­ting our hair done for more proac­tive pursuits — we are run­ners, cy­clists, swim­mers, weight train­ers. We like strength and sup­ple­ness over floaty fem­i­nin­ity. We don’t do di­ets, we do nu­tri­tion. And we don’t do emo­tional block­ages, we do ther­apy and kick box­ing. Do the sex maths. By the time you reach 50 you will have been sex­u­ally ac­tive for at least — at a con­ser­va­tive es­ti­mate — 30 years. That’s a lot of prac­tice. You and your body are old friends, so that you know ex­actly what it likes, how it works, and how to make it hap­pen. Noth­ing is sex­ier than ex­pe­ri­ence. Noth­ing. Cin­ema screen pas­sion fea­tur­ing hot twenty some­things is all well and good, but get be­yond the aes­thet­ics and what do you have? Fab­u­lous off-screen 50-some­thing sex. It gets bet­ter and bet­ter with age, and don’t let any­one tell you oth­er­wise. Ride the sec­ond wave. Un­like pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions, we are not re­quired to re­main in non-func­tion­ing re­la­tion­ships un­til death do us part — which means that many 40- and 50-some­things are re-emerg­ing, blink­ing, into the sun­light of new ro­mance, fired up like teenagers but with adult bank ac­counts and emo­tional in­tel­li­gence. The re­sult? Fifty-year-olds gam­bolling through the dat­ing fields like lambs in spring­time. Goodbye Gen­er­a­tion

Gap. Re­mem­ber a time when par­ents and kids mu­tu­ally re­garded each other as aliens? Where par­ents be­moaned their kids’ choices in mu­sic/clothes/friends? Where kids thought their par­ents were de­crepit relics? Kids prob­a­bly still think that, but it doesn’t de­tract from the fact that to­day’s 50-year-old par­ents are the most Down With The Kids gen­er­a­tion ever.

Whether you swap Adi­das Gazelles or go to the tat­too shop to­gether, have a shared love of hip hop or camp next to each other at Glas­ton­bury, be­ing a 50-year-old par­ent is all the fun. Th­ese days, there is a cul­tural over­lap, and rather more en­light­ened at­ti­tudes to par­ent­ing. Dra­co­nian is so last cen­tury. And re­mem­ber, kids — your 50-year-old par­ents were 20 dur­ing the sec­ond Sum­mer of Love in 1987. We were mad for it. We still are, mi­nus the MDMA. That would just give us a headache at this stage. Goodbye Empty Nest

Syn­drome. Al­though many of us 50-year-olds are still ac­tively par­ent­ing teens, those who had kids ear­lier are now fac­ing what was once called Empty Nest Syn­drome. But in­stead of Mum stand­ing at the door, cry­ing qui­etly up the sleeve of her cardi as Dad drives the pride and joy off to uni­ver­sity, it’s far more likely that she will be plan­ning their next trip away. Whether it’s vol­un­teer­ing at an elephant sanc­tu­ary or go­ing back to uni­ver­sity them­selves, it’s highly un­likely Mum and Dad will be sit­ting at home watch­ing day time game shows. Life is too short to waste - and the great­est gift of 50 is real­is­ing it is time, not money, which is your great­est re­source. And which you will max­imise ac­cord­ingly.


Achey bones. See yoga. Mid­dle aged spread. See kale.

Mar­i­tal bed death. See rid­ing the sec­ond wave. Wrin­kles. See ZFG. Sense of im­pend­ing mor­tal­ity. See vol­un­teer­ing, trav­el­ling.

Suzanne breaks out the knit­ting nee­dles — in jest — as she heads for the Big Five Oh; far left Ni­cole Kid­man is 50, Ju­lia Roberts is about to turn 50, and Pamela An­der­son, far right, is 50.

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