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BIG Birthdays

By April 16, 2015December 10th, 20204 Comments

People like to talk about “Big Birthdays.”  Many women like to be coy about Big Birthdays.  In fact, women like to be coy about most things age- related.  It’s expected of them.  It never quite fit for me.

On occasion, you'll find male coyness as well.

On occasion, you’ll find male coyness as well.

I never questioned revealing my age until I was about to turn sixty.   But 60 was different.  It was no longer a middle age number. In contemporary America, it marked the beginning of a downhill slide with all its accompanying negatives.

A few of the nasty shibboleths about aging that most U.S. women know by heart are:   “Men won’t find you attractive anymore.”  “Your face will be hidden by wrinkles and what’s worse, your complexion will turn pasty to match the color of your gray hair.” “You’re about to lose your waistline.”  That would be the ultimate insult for me.  My waist was a diminutive 22″ when I was 16. At 60, I was many inches away from that, but I still strongly and foolishly identified with a having small(ish) waist.

According to my own measurements, my waist was the same size as Scarlett O'Hara's.

According to my own measurements at age 16, my waist was the same size as Scarlett O’Hara’s.

My family kept asking if I wanted a party.  I kept refusing their offer, trying not to reveal my inner turmoil. I knew I’d be unhappy when January 15th came around and there was only my immediate family to celebrate with.

Counting myself as a feminist, I was uncomfortable with my attitude.  I became conflicted, which in retrospect, was just what I needed to go through this rite of passage. I began to question myself and my opinions.  Seriously.

One day, I found myself telling a younger, attractive male friend that I was about to have an important birthday . After a bit of light conversation,  I finally blurted out the whole shocking truth.

The world did not come to an end!  I was enormously relieved.  Pleased with myself too.

Mere days before my birthday, I quickly ordered my own birthday cake and invited a few friends over to help me eat it.  I bought a bad-ass  t-shirt that made me brave.


Once I passed through that Gate of Truthiness, there was no going back.  I regard women who still won’t tell their age with curiosity and sadness.  Why hide?

By the time I was turning 70, I was “into it.”  I held a big bash, inviting everyone who had ever been important in my life to come to my party.  It was wonderful; a true celebration, if maybe, just a tiny bit excessive!


Dianne Vapnek

In an attempt to slow life's quickening pace, I'm writing to share my personal perspective on the aging process, its dilemmas, the humorous self-deception, the insights and the adventure of it all. I spent the bulk of my time in beautiful Santa Barbara, CA, but manage to get to NYC a few times times a year. I've been a dancer/dance teacher and dance supporter almost all my life. For the past20years, I help create and produce a month-long creative residency in Santa Barbara for contemporary American choreographers and their dancers. It's been incredibly gratifying. This year, I decided it's time to retire! Big change. I also now spend several weeks a year in Kyoto Japan, residing for several weeks in the spring and the fall. I've been magnetically attracted to Japan for many years. Now I live out a dream to live there part-time.


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