It started the year my husband was turning 50. I was actually 46 at the time but I suddenly realized that he was nearing the big 5-0. And ... well, I freaked. Quietly. But intensely.
This really threw me because frankly, I hadn't been the type. I knew other teenagers who wept as they approached their twentieth birthday, convinced their best days were behind them. I didn't react that way. In fact I was counting on having better days ahead.
Thirty did not faze me. Neither did 40. They're just numbers, I said, and meant it. But all that changed in 2002. Even though I was 46, I started thinking of myself as 50 years old ... and it made my blood run cold.
It was a big deal to me. I dreaded it. It was ridiculous, I think I thought I was going to become a little old lady with hair in a bun, and a cardigan buttoned to my wrinkly neck, in sensible shoes in a rocking chair. Overnight.
Were the best years of my life behind me? Took me a long time to shake that.
I don't know where this came from. My mother hadn't been a little old lady at 50 years of age. Newly divorced, she had just started a new part time job and was dating again for the first time in more than 30 years.
She was seeing the man who would later become her husband the same summer I was dating the man who would become mine. I helped her put in her earrings just before her first date, because her hands were shaking too hard to do it herself.
We would sit as girlfriends talking about the new men in our lives. I borrowed her clothes and admired her style. We went to yoga class together. People were forever telling her that she couldn't possibly have children in their 20s. I agreed with them.
So where did this unreasoning dread about turning 50 come from? Ten years later I still have no idea. But I do know that it's not based on reality.
I occasionally get surprised looks from people if age comes up. Ten years ago when I was 50, I began hearing "You don't look 50."
But the thing is, I did.
I don't look like I've been drinking at some fountain of youth. As a matter of fact, I was in the midst of a chronic illness that left me looking pretty dragged out for some years.