COLUMN: A birthday to remember

If I read another popular author writing a memoir (or essay or column or even just a paragraph in a newsletter) about the angst of turning 50, I'll go bonkers.

I wrote about that subject 20 years ago. You could say I led the way.

Not that I've minded reading about some of my favourite authors turning 50, I've actually loved it.

Marian Keyes, very popular best-selling Irish novelist, has written about it proudly in her latest book of essays.

New Zealand author Sarah-Kate Lynch wrote a whole book about how she took a year off from her regular work when she turned 50 so she could celebrate the grand occasion in Paris. What is not to enjoy reading about that?

I can't quite remember what I wrote about turning 50 myself those two decades ago, but I do remember putting little bullet points in a column about all the fun stuff that was waiting for me over the hillock of 50.

Driving slower was one of them, one I was looking forward to.

Funny that driving slower has still not come to me yet, 20 years later. If anything I like to put the foot down harder (but I don't, I obey the laws.)

Anyway, enough of that. Turning 70. A couple of months ago. Very Big Deal.

There is something about the number 7 coming before a big 0 that made me nervous for the entire year I was 69.

Like you, I was sick of reading about 60 being the new 40, and 50 being the new 21...all that rubbish.

I wanted to read about 70 being the new 30 - which would have had my stamp of approval - but hadn't come across anything.

Most writers, advisors, authors, influencers seem to give up writing about anyone over 70.

The 70 year old is downgraded to the unpalatable words '70 and beyond.'

The '...and beyond' bit I find quite offensive.

It is as if anyone over 70 is not worthy of a full sentence, just a throw-away line '...and beyond.'

Read any beauty or health advice in any magazine or book, and you'll find lashings of guidance for the over 50, even the 60 plus, but poor old 70 never gets a look in...has to content itself with '...and beyond.'

The only thing upsetting about turning 70 for me was the complete and utter lack of recognition, let alone celebration.

No way did I want a party - who among us can honestly say they actually enjoy their own parties? All that fretting in case the guests don't get along, worrying whether there is enough food, distressing that the 50 cases of champagne you bought will not be enough. No thanks. But I did expect some sort of acknowledgement from my family - namely the husband.

For my 60th birthday he had a white stretch limo waiting at my front gate concealing my daughter and son he'd flown from interstate for the big day.

We were all whisked off in celebrity-champagne-in-a-limo-style to an expensive restaurant where we ate and drank and loved each other.

So on the morning of the 70th, when the husband woke and said a quiet: 'Happy Birthday" and I said, 'well, is the limo at the front gate?" you can only guess at my disbelief when he gave me a look of absolute puzzlement and said: "No, I haven't planned anything. I suppose a lunch would be nice but I haven't made any reservation."

That was it. No card, flowers, champagne...nothing. NOTHING.

The strange thing is, he is a very thoughtful person. He just honestly did not think turning 70 was worthy of anything.

So after we'd cleaned up the shattered plates and cups (all that was close enough to throw at the dreadful moment) he rushed out buy a card and plastic orchid - and that was it.

In a perverse way the complete lack of celebration has turned out to be a good thing.

My 70th birthday just slipped right under the radar. Until now. Now I have announced it proudly to you. Keep it to yourself.

ann.rickard@apn.com.au


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