In her new book, Feisty at 50 – How I Stay Fabulous at Fifty-Plus, author Sudha Menon talks about how her life and relationships have taken a new turn after she hit 50.
When you reach the big Four-Oh, people insist that it is the new thirty, it’s time to let your hair down and party, and that age is just a number.
I am inching towards my mid-40s soon, and feel more enthusiastic than I ever was at 30, never mind the period pangs and other physical frailties. Being surrounded by twenty-somethings at the workplace helps, though the lingo sometimes escapes me. Well, that’s a story for another time!
At the Bangalore Litfest held last month, celebrated author Shobhaa De introduced her book, Seventy, and To Hell With It!, and listening to her, I rolled my eyes.
And now, another popular author, Sudha Menon goes and writes a book: Feisty at 50 – How I Stay Fabulous at Fifty-Plus. Well, this hit closer home and I was curious to know what it was all about.
The book is a quick, breezy read, a memoir that hops from one facet of the author’s life to another – from rebuilding her relationship with her mother, salon woes, buying fancy lingerie, action in the bedroom, the fine art of hovering, going down memory lane, and many revelations of life after 50. Featured prominently in the book is her husband Hassled Harry and her daughter The Fledgling. The anecdotes are peppered with racy wit, dollops of sarcasm and plenty of humour.
In an FB live with HerStory, Sudha Menon spoke about what prompted the book, why ageism stops women from doing the things they want to, body shaming older women and what life after 50 teaches you.
Here are some edited excerpts from the conversation.
As you grow older…
As women grow older, the “ageing” narrative, whether you like it or not, definitely comes into play. There are subtle hints – “slow down” (as if you are some bus in the wrong lane), “wear pastel shades” (yellow is hip and 40 is not… the list is endless.)
“There was this constant refrain on why I should stop working so hard, stop colouring my hair, wear only pastel shades, so on and so forth. As it is, at 50, my mindset was changing and my body too. That’s when I decided to send out this message that the 50s is only the beginning of the biggest adventure of your life, and I was going to prove it through chronicling my life through this book,” says Sudha Menon.
“It makes me so angry that a woman of 40 is considered over the hill. The other day somebody told me 50 is the new 30, but I don’t think I don’t want to be 30 again. At 52, I have never felt so liberated, empowered and so joyous,” she adds.
Playing the age card
While India reaps the benefits of a largely young population, Sudha Menon believes we need to give some credit to older people, women as well. “Remember, the young will also grow old one day. I think this messaging comes largely from the media and the entertainment industry where it is okay for a 50-year-old to romance a 20-year-old but the reverse never happens. I go to a mall, I have the money to splurge but they tell me there is no size above 30 for a pair of jeans. So this is also body-shaming older women.”
Action, or the lack of it
Interestingly, in Feisty at 50, Sudha goes where few women would be willing to speak out – action, or err, the lack of it in the bedroom. Agreed, sex in the 50s is not the same as when you were in your 20s but what the heck, women in their 50s have sex too.
“There may be a chill in the air or a slowing down of all action in the bedroom but then, you know, slow and steady wins the race. The desire is there but sometimes the body cannot keep up with it. But your sexuality is something that should not be frowned upon,” she says with a laugh.
According to Sudha Menon, the 20s, 30s, and 40s were times of fulfilling her dreams and ambitions, and once she turned 50, she began looking beyond big stories and front-page bylines and embrace relationships.
“One day it hit me that my father was dead and I have spent my life chasing dreams while the most important things in my life were left behind. I then understood that life is about friendships and relationships and I am now happy discovering them with my daughter, mother and sisters. I think we also realise that, at 50, it’s okay to be human; you don’t have to be perfect all the time and, most importantly, you don’t have to suffer fools.”
The all-important message
Being fifty is not the end of the road. It’s just the beginning of whatever you want to do, to be happy.
Sudha has some strong words of advice.
“I just want to say that don’t let anybody or anything pull you down. Don’t let anyone tell you that you aren’t good enough, what is appropriate or not. Practise a few minutes of mindfulness every day. You can have all the money in the bank, but it can’t replace the relationships in your life.”
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