Melissa Carter

Melissa Carter: Learning to embrace birthdays

A proud Pisces, I just celebrated my 48th birthday on the 11th. As a woman who has never been self-conscious about my age, it was a fun time hanging out with friends and spending the actual day with my son. But, I am noticing more and more women in my general age group choose to ignore their birthdays at this stage in their lives, as if not acknowledging the event will allow their age to stay frozen in limbo. And the biggest violators are straight women.

Aging is the arena where lesbians seem to have an advantage. Maybe that’s because lesbians learned a long time ago that we don’t judge other women intimately on their looks alone, and the same can be said for how we are measured in turn. We have the luxury of being able to relax in the area of body image and step up our game on intellect and personality. Straight women have been fed a different diet, feeling the need to stay youthful regardless of their ambition or intellectual pursuits. Oftentimes, they sacrifice any independence in order to stay attractive to the opposite sex.

A straight friend is turning 50 this year, and you would think that when that day comes in the summer, she will be subjected to horrific punishment from the way she expresses her dread of it. I openly tease her for her reaction and let her know she will be invited to my 50th extravaganza, which I intend to celebrate in a big way with some kind of trip to a tropical area with close friends.

In my case, though, it isn’t just my sexuality that makes me comfortable in whatever phase of life I’m in. My kidney failure and subsequent transplant might have something to do with my lack of fear when it comes to getting older, since I’ve already faced the Grim Reaper and he graciously stepped away from my doorstep for the time being. Any year I am able to live is a gift rather than a burden.

But, I do think the biggest influence on how I handle birthdays comes from a straight woman, my mother Millie Pete. I never once heard her complain about her age, and even now at the age of 88 she doesn’t concern herself with her graying hair and the increasing lines on her face. She never had plastic surgery, never put a needle on her face to take away laugh or stress lines and preferred to socialize with younger people because her energy more evenly matched their own. One of the reasons she chose to leave the assisted living facility here in Atlanta near her grandson was because she didn’t enjoy hearing the complaints of her peers.

Just because you’re getting older, no matter how old that is, doesn’t mean there aren’t more things to learn and enjoy. I don’t think there is a bigger gift you can give to your children than the ability to be comfortable in your own skin, and that’s what both my parents offered to me. They continued achieving throughout their lives, and I have been greatly influenced by that. I hope to pass that tradition along to my son, so that he expects that not only in himself but also in the women around him too.