More than thyme is on your side

Who could forget 1992’s Death Becomes Her? Here’s a refresher: Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn play fading Hollywood rivals whose supernatural beauty treatments (and murderous subplottings) eventually find them a pair of catty zombies who require the efforts of “Ernest” (an alcoholic, put-upon former plastic surgeon played by Bruce Willis) to keep them in good repair. 

The film’s denouement flashes forward 37 years to Ernest’s funeral, where we learn he has made much of the intervening years and died a redeemed and beloved philanthropist. As the eulogist quotes him, “Life begins at 50.”

I was 20 years old when I first saw the film upon its original release in 1992, and all these years later—especially this year—the words still resonate with me. In the ’90s, I was already a prodigal son, if not an outright profligate, and took comfort in the promise of an eventual St. Augustine-like reformation. “If life indeed begins at 50,” I reasoned, “why not wait out the next three decades as a louche libertine and then, you know, begin?”    

Well, I’m 51 now and, frankly, I’d rather continue “spending thoughts on nature’s appetites” (ditto the deeds), despite St. Auggie’s recommendations against the idea. Because, as it turns out, life does begin (at least again) at 50.

All experience prior to the mid-century mark is merely practice for making all the same moves but with greater mastery and—here’s the best part—not giving a shit about what other people think. “Dance like nobody’s watching” goes the naif’s proviso, which is wrong. It should be “Dance like everybody’s watching and preferably naked.”

Now, that’s redemption.

When I asked artificial intelligence bot ChatGPT to describe the theme of this rant for a headline, the first idea it suggested was a name change: “Seasoned.”

I have to admit, it nailed the theme and frankly, it might have a better sense of our market segment, which now includes me. Because, frankly, I don’t feel 50; I feel well-seasoned, salty, in fact, and deliciously reckless in a manner that’s—if not libertine—liberating.

This is the inflection point—life either begins again or it begins to end, and I don’t think death becomes any of us.

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