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Turning 50

Part I ~ F*ck It 50s

My grandmother liked to tell a story about me when I was little. When I was 4 years old, I was in her front yard playing with the little girl that lived next door. When she heard screaming and crying, she rushed out to see that I was fine. But the other little girl was in tears. She asked her what was wrong and the little girl said, “She hit me”. When my grandmother asked me why I did that, I said, “‘Cuz I wanted to.”

It was her favorite story to tell about me. Although I do not remember that happening, I do realize that I have always had trouble making friends my own age. I never really “fit in”. I’ve always had older friends. Even as a child, I would find myself in the company of adults far more than with other kids. I just felt like they were more accepting and had more knowledge to offer. Plus, I always felt like a little adult inside my little kid body.

When I was in my 20s, I struggled to get along with my peers as well. I found outlets that helped with that, but they always revolved around the gay bars - drinking, dancing, drag shows. Most of my friends were older, gay men, some of them drag queens. In fact, I credit the drag queens for making me a woman. I had always been a bit of a tomboy, preferring my boots and jeans over anything frilly. But once I was an honorary drag queen, I was hooked on femme!

In my 30s, my friend group shifted to hippies and kinksters. They were a hodgepodge mix of mostly heterosexuals, and all older than me. In my 40s, I shifted my focus from play to palliative care; I went back to school and got a doctorate in physical therapy, volunteered for Hospice, and worked primarily with older adults helping them feel safe in their own homes.

Now, as I’m about to turn 50, my world is still filled with older adults, but now I see them from a different perspective. I remember my grandmother telling another story when she was in her early 80s about watching all of her friends die. That has indeed already happened; some of them burned out too soon. But what I notice most are the ones who are not just physically ailing, but emotionally unhappy.

My wife and I have always lived in and around retirement communities. We got super involved in the municipality where we owned a house and raised her daughter. My wife ran for the local city council, and that caused quite the stir! Because who are the people mostly involved in local politics? Older adults. Retired folks. People who have had long lives. Unfortunately, those lives didn’t seem to include learning to understand the changing demographics, or acceptance of anything outside of their white, heteronormativity. We must have been their first exposure to different types of families.

Not all of them were afraid, of course. But the majority of them were not willing to open their minds to change.

Since moving away from that beautiful but backwards place, we’ve been looking for a safe place to live. We were drawn to the beauty of the high desert, and the sanctuary of a state that believes we deserve the same rights as anyone else. Everywhere you go, there is something wondrous to see and experience. And I would say, for the most part, this is a welcoming place. But in an ironic twist, the older generations of seemingly accepting people are also set in their ways - unwilling to accept the changing demographic of the queer community - even WITHIN the “queer” community.

Finding myself in this new space - being on the top of the hill looking down both sides of my life - I can see where I’ve been, but now I can see where I am going. My new direction will incorporate all that I’ve learned and integrated into my own knowing. I will be more mindful to stop searching for knowledge and acceptance from my elders and accept that I have knowledge and I am becoming the sage wisdom I’ve always sought.

Despite my best efforts to “fit in”, I’ve always been too young, too kinky, too progressive, and overall too much. But what I’ve never been is too old. Until now. I’m too old to seek acceptance from others. My wife calls it the “Fuck-it 50s”. And now, so shall I.

I think I’ve always sought acceptance from older people because that was somehow a validation of that little adult inside of me. But now I need to find acceptance for myself - of myself.

Obviously major events - like a milestone birthday - makes you reflect on your life and all you’ve learned. There are many memories to sift through, accomplishments to relish, grievances to forgive. But while taking inventory of your life, be sure to spotlight the joy! And stop seeking acceptance from others. Because YOU are the only person that needs to accept you.

Be Well, Friends

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