When I was in college, way back in the late 1970s, I took several courses on Marxism. One may have been enough for most people, but not me—I was fascinated with Marx’s five-year plans. As I remember it, his idea was to move Marxism forward in five-year increments, so he would map out all these detailed five-year strategies and then at the end of the five years, he’d come up with another plan, a new direction.

For a twenty-one-year-old French major, this seemed like a logical approach. I liked maps; I liked the idea of a set time frame. I decided I, too, would travel through life based on Five-Year Plans.

It took me a long time to realize that none of Marx’s five-year schemes had panned out. By that point, I had already wandered far and wide off the planned path myself—and Ronald Reagan had Alzheimer’s.

I thought a lot about my Five-Year Plans this year. Specifically, I wondered what had happened to my original map and how the hell I was suddenly standing on the outskirts of some place called Fifty. I don’t think anyone ever deliberately plans on visiting Fifty. Paris, definitely. But Fifty? Not exactly on Travelocity’s Top Ten List. Standing on the edge of Fifty I felt a little lost, I felt a little weepy. I felt like I wanted to chuck everything I’d been doing and run away to San Francisco, like some 1970s movie heroine.

George kept asking what I wanted to do for my fiftieth. I said, “Run away to San Francisco like some woman in a film from the 70s” and his eyes lit up. He said, “You mean like Jill Clayburgh?” George has a sweet spot for brunettes. Don’t even get him started on Diane Lane. I said, “Yes, like Jill Clayburgh,” and George volunteered to play Alan Bates.

Costume sex is always a tempting offer, but I declined. I was restless for something; I didn’t know what. An older, wiser friend (fifty-four) said my vague malaise was brought on by my approaching fiftieth birthday. She said, “You’ll feel much better the morning after your birthday. Trust me on this.” Maybe. But I couldn’t figure out why fifty was bugging me when thirty and forty never had. I had looked forward to those milestones. On my thirtieth, I had gone to a supper club in Manhattan and stayed out all night like Zelda Fitzgerald. On my fortieth, I had launched my own business. So I didn’t expect any problems on my fiftieth—and the fact that I was having one made me want to wrestle it to the ground and tame it.

One evening in the middle of this angst, I was hanging out with Wally and the Snapper, bonding over some extremely trashy programming on VH1. Every family has a certain glue than binds them together; for my teenage sons and me, it’s extremely bad television shows. As I sat there watching Rock of Love with them, I remembered how my parents used to take us to the drive-in movies and I wondered what my boys would do with their kids.

Then it struck me suddenly: fifty is the halfway point. Read More>>

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