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10 Tampa Bay area women reflect on life at 50 — and beyond

Turning 50? Welcome to middle age. It's not necessarily a milestone that a woman — or a man — greets without some angst.

For women, it can be an especially annoying occasion, crepe-papered in black by societal expectations, hard-wiring or just stereotype.

But mostly, it's time to stop and assess. Where have I been? Where am I going? Who am I right now?

We recall our mothers. Fifty? Now that was old. Not us. We've got no time to be old. We're working, taking care of kids, even grandkids. Looking after parents. And keeping the home fires burning with the significant other we're bound to for life, with a little luck and perseverance.

And we're enjoying life. The women who share their unvarnished thoughts in today's LifeTimes engagingly relate their thoughts on life's transitions at 50, 60, even 80.

"Thirty was really bad," says singer and artist Natty Moss Bond, 51, of St. Petersburg. "But 50 — I got carded one time after I turned 50! I said to the guy, 'You're coming on to me, right?' "

We've wised up, too. "I have a much better understanding at 62 of who I am and how I want to live my life and who I want to share it with than I did at 30," says Maria Emilia, 62, executive director of the Florida Craftsmen Gallery in St. Petersburg.

"Take advantage of every day of your life," says Beverly Mitlin, 81, of St. Petersburg. "Do what you believe in," she says. She's not talking the talk, she's walking the walk: Mitlin volunteers at All Children's Hospital and is on the board of Suncoast Tiger Bay Club, known for taking politicians to the woodshed. And last fall she was a guest performer in The Vagina Monologues at American Stage. "Nobody should retire," Mitlin says. "You have to have a reason to get up and get moving."

The women here are moving — and shaking — as they navigate each crossroad in life.
Mimi Andelman, LifeTimes editor





Angela Bond, 50

Director of development, American Stage, St. Petersburg

I THINK it's a great age. I don't feel old.

THAT MORNING I knew something was going on. I got cards and a present: It was a Snuggie. I went, "Oh, that's appropriate for someone 50 years old!"

OF MY TWO BEST FRIENDS, one is 10 years older. She just welcomed 60 and has no sympathy. The other just passed 40. She has the same attitude I do: "Aw, whatever."

10 YEARS AGO, one of my co-worker's sons met me. He was a little boy at that point; now he's almost 20. When I ran into him recently, he said, "Aren't you the lady who bought my mom's house?" I said, "Yes, I am." "Wow," he said, "you look hot for . . ." An old person? He realized he was about to say something that would have offended me.

YOU HAVE TO EMBRACE 50. It's not going to go away.



Paulette Walker Johnson, 50

Dancer, co-founder and artistic director, Soulful Arts Dance Academy, St. Petersburg

WHEN I WAS YOUNGER, I called everybody who was 50 "old."

YOU BECOME THAT PARENT, that teacher, that mentor. All those things your parents told you stay in your mind. "Oh, now I understand!"

BEING A DANCER, your body is snatched! At 45, my body started changing. Now I have more in the trunk. And my daughter said, "You're getting a pouch!" And I said, "I had two children. Gravity starts moving things."

THE PURPOSE is service. Through the master we come to our community; through the community we come to our world.

BE PATIENT with yourself. You first have to go within yourself before you can find truth, purpose and beauty. It has to first start with you.

MY YOUNG PEOPLE keep my positive energy flowing. I tell the kids all the time, "Once you stop growing, you're dead mentally."



Natty Moss Bond, 51

Singer, artist, painter, tarot reader, St. Petersburg

I WAKE UP in the morning and can't wait to do something creative.

MY LIFE CHANGED a lot right before I turned 50. I ended a relationship that I had been in a long time. It made me nervous about being on my own.

I'M SELLING my work all over the country, which is a miracle to me. The Internet has opened a new world to me.

MY EYESIGHT is worse than it used to be. I hate that because I'm a visual artist. I hate that I can't see. And my feet hurt.

30 WAS REALLY BAD. But 50 — I got carded one time after I turned 50! I said to the guy, "You're coming on to me, right?"

I REMEMBER when my mother was this age and she just seemed ancient. She was menopausal and cranky.

ON MY 50th, I got into the pool with my dress on.

IF I REALIZED that smoking was bad for you, I wouldn't have done it. (I did quit.)

I GO TO YOGA. My mother never went to yoga.

GO TO SCHOOL. Try not to be a musician. Get a real job with health insurance, dental and a 401(k) and don't let anybody control your money. Ever. Ever!

IT'S IMPORTANT to drink a lot of tequila and sleep with younger men.



Gianna Russo, 53

POET; Curator of education, Henry B. Plant Museum, University of Tampa

I'M HITTING MY STRIDE. I really wasn't in my 20s and 30s. I didn't have the maturity.

I HAD A CHRYSLER a few years ago and right at five years, everything broke down. I feel like that's happening to me over the last three or four years.

MY BIG GOAL for the last 25 years has been to publish a collection of poems. Will it ever be published? I'm 53, pardon my language, but f---, will I ever have a book?

EVER SINCE I was a teen, I felt that in some aspects of my life I'd be a late bloomer. Now, in my 50s, approaching the 60s and 70s, I think maybe my time is going to come now.



Jane Trocheck Walker, 53

Executive director, Daystar Life Center, a nonprofit basic needs agency in St. Petersburg

IT'S JUST ANOTHER PART OF LIFE, another place that you're going that you haven't been before.

DON'T USE AGE as an excuse not to take care of your health. You don't have to go to the "buff" gym; just go somewhere you feel comfortable.

EVERY NOW AND THEN I look at someone I went to school with and I think, "They really aged!" Then I realize I'm the same age!

I WISH I could get off the floor like I used to. Things creak more; you don't have the stamina you used to.

I REMEMBER LAUGHING at my mom because she needed someone to thread a needle for her. Well, I need someone to thread the needle for me.



Bobbie O'Brien, 55

Reporter/news producer, WUSF-FM 89.7

MY VOCABULARY is not nearly what I would like. But I've got 50 years to work on that.

POINT OUT what needs to be pointed out. As you get older they might consider you a cantankerous old woman for being direct. I hope I never lose that.

GO HUG A TODDLER.

I'M PROUD OF MY LAUGH LINES.

WHEN I MET MY HUSBAND, he was exactly double my age. I was 25 and he was 50. So when I turned 50, I was at the age he was when I met him.

GO WHERE PEOPLE SEE YOU for who you are, not the number of wrinkles in your skin.

THROW ANOTHER LOG on the fire; let's take on the world!



Gail Eggeman, 57

Co-founder and manager, Saturday Morning Market; accountant at Studio@620; St. Petersburg

AT 57, I'm real comfortable with 50.

SOME OF THE STUFF I thought was real important, isn't. And some of the stuff I didn't pay attention to before, I pay attention to now.

YOU START READING OBITUARIES.

I WENT THROUGH this long, painful phase of being the invisible woman. I played along with it for a while, then I gave it up. I'd walk into a room and people didn't pay attention to me.

BUT IT'S NOT ABOUT YOUR AGE, it's about whether you sparkle. I can't always pull that off, I'll tell you. But I know it's something I have to bring. It's real easy when you're 30.



Rhea Law, 58

Attorney, CEO and chairwoman of the board of directors, Fowler White Boggs; past chairwoman, Tampa Bay Partnership, TAMPA

IT'S ONLY A MINUTE after you were 49. If you think about it, it doesn't mean anything.

OR IT MEANS you better hurry up because you've got lots of stuff to do.

WHEN I LOOK in the mirror, I'm beginning to see my mother and grandmother. And they were young when I thought they were old.

I'M JUST ME.

JUST CRAM as much as you can, before 50 and after.

DOES IT COUNT that I feel like I'm 12?



Maria Emilia, 62

Executive director at Florida Craftsmen Gallery, artist, St. Petersburg

I HAVE A MUCH BETTER UNDERSTANDING at 62 of who I am and how I want to live my life and who I want to share it with than I did at 30.

I'M NOW SINGLE. I pay all my own bills. I'm solvent. I'm able to make important decisions that affect others.

BY THE TIME you are 62, there is a very specific look that comes from confidence. You can see it in others.

A BIG 60-YEAR-OLD SMILE is more valuable to you and the people around you. If you're restrained, if you're guarded, it shows in your pictures, in your face. But a sense of comfort and self-awareness is very liberating and luxurious.

MOST OF US can do the math; things change. You have a sense of being mature.

THERE ARE CERTAIN THINGS that, if you've been thinking about them for a long time, you might want to go about the business of getting them done.

THE RELATIONSHIPS that you build will enrich your life. If you've been planting corn in your 30s and 40s, by 50 you get a really valuable crop. Anyone can figure that out. Even me.



Beverly Mitlin, 81

All Children's volunteer; board member, Suncoast Tiger Bay, St. Petersburg; guest performer, "The Vagina Monologues" at American Stage, St. Petersburg

FIFTY? That was a good age.

I LOVE BEING WITH YOUNGER PEOPLE. The conversation is completely different. "Where is your career going? What's happening with your kids?" We spend five minutes with friends who are our age talking about grandchildren; all around us, people are falling down.

WHEN I HIT 30 I remember being in my kitchen. I said, "I'm 30. What have I accomplished in my life? What am I doing? What have I accomplished? Where am I going?"

FIFTY DIDN'T UPSET ME; I just kept going. I was running a senior retirement community in New York. I was so involved that 50 didn't mean anything. It was just another day. But when I hit 80 — I'm 81 now — I felt terrible about it.

WE WERE INVITED to a bar mitzvah about six years ago. I said to a relative, "Where are we sitting?" She said, "You're sitting with us." And there we were at the oldest table. How did that happen? That's where my mother used to sit. It's a sudden realization that the clock is ticking for us.

WHEN WE DIE, we'll have the rest of our lives to sleep. Right now we have to keep going.

Bob Andelman is an author and hosts the "Mr. Media Interviews" podcast available on mrmedia.com and iTunes.

10 Tampa Bay area women reflect on life at 50 — and beyond 02/23/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 24, 2009 1:00pm]

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