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Martha's big adventure - Coming of age - Martha Randolph Carr

In just a couple of weeks, on Sept. 6th, I will be turning 50 years old, which is a real milestone.

The type of milestone, of course, differs depending on the culture. In popular American culture, I get a lot of sympathy and comments that I don't look 50, which I suppose is meant to make me feel better. Even their faces take on the kind of smile you give a 5-year-old right before they get a shot.

It's the odd kind of correct politeness that's saying my body has not broken down yet to that of the average 50-year-old, usually being said by a 20-something. The same group that thinks being called a "cougar" is a compliment. No thanks, I'll pass.

Besides, as Gloria Steinem famously said to a similar comment, this is what 50 looks like.

I prefer the Native American sentiment, which says that a woman becomes revered at 50 and frankly, knows more than everyone else does. That could be handy.

I also appreciate how my two good friends, Dhyana and Susie, who passed 50 a little while ago, have decided that translates as becoming a goddess. They even purchased necklaces with bejeweled goddess pendants to commemorate the event. I love that sentiment. They don't hide their age, but they don't let anyone else define what it's going to mean for them.

Now, there are times when I feel every day of my age, and a glance in the mirror seems to confirm that it's going to be a long day. However, they're the exception, and since I've given up on gluten and dairy, those days have become even fewer.

That's another thing about hitting this milestone. Fifty hits back. There are so many things I used to be able to get away with, or ignore, that I just can't anymore. A half of a glass of wine gives me a headache before we've left the table. Just a little cream in my coffee, and I'm clearing my throat for hours.

The upside, though, is that I'm doing things that are healthy for me and creating a better life even if my motivation is a little late and more about avoiding being gassy in public. Exercise is also now a double-edged sword. Running is still good for me and worth doing, but stretching is a requirement, not a recommendation, and I have to pace myself. I'm still just as slow, but that's been a trait since my 20's, so that one's probably just me.

Lots of people have also been asking how I'm going to celebrate the big day, which falls on Labor Day weekend. A big catered party on a yacht anchored on Lake Michigan would be nice, but with my budget, a cookout with friends and my son, Louie tending the grill is more likely. The truth is that's more my style regardless of the bank account.

A lot of people, most of whom I just recently met after moving to Chicago, will come on over to the new place to celebrate, and I will celebrate with gratitude for all that has come and all that is yet to be. There have been some rough moments and some things I had hoped would have happened by now, but, all in all, it's been a great ride so far.

Fifty is turning out to be the age where I understand that I'm not in charge of anything and that's the blessing. I can be happy with who I am, grateful for the day I'm in and optimistic about what's coming next. Drop me a line if you're going to be in the Chicago area. I'll slip you an invitation. More adventures to follow.

Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc., newspaper syndicate. She is the author of the novel, "The Sitting Sisters," now available on Kindle. E-mail her at Martha@caglecartoons.com, or visit www.martharandolphcarr.com.