Fifty-minus-one Shades of Gray- a birthday rambling

A woman who was fifty-minus-one Thought life was such enormous fun. Scratch a lover and find a friend, With champagne and books to no end… But nothing is new under the sun…

A woman who was fifty-minus-one

Thought life was such enormous fun.

Scratch a lover and find a friend,

With champagne and books to no end…

But nothing is new under the sun…

So here I am, alone in a beach in Çeşme celebrating my birthday, with family and  friends – some nearby, some lost-and-found, some always-there – at my fingertips; a skin-care and pedicure session booked for the afternoon and hubby coming from town to pick me up for dinner. The summer house is comfortably old/old-fashioned and books and wine are in stock.

No, I am not some self-satisfied, smug bourgeoise bitch – if anything, I have always been an ever –doubtful, self-critical, reckless nomad; an uneasy bundle of nerves. But as you edge close to fifty, you eventually draw some “amusing points” and gather Little Pleasures of Life (LPL) that make you “happy enough” – as Julian Fellowes quoted Lady Edith in “Snobs.”

Wrapped in the luxury of being the birthday girl, here is my confession list – no, no, random thoughts about life in a beach…

1.While friends, family (who are, after all, friends that are stuck with you for life) and partners are great, the things I like the most are done alone: reading, writing, observing art and architecture, exploring the city or walking endlessly… The sharing comes afterwards – and yes, it is wonderful to explore a city with friends and partners, but so is being alone. As I approach the five-oh, I have become terribly jealous and protective of my private time. I am not pulling a Greta Garbo (I vont to beee alon) or Meryl Streep (I can no longer bear fools and fakes) but I give myself the ultimate luxury of space… and time, now more than ever.

2.I wish I listened more to intelligent people and spoke less to fools. People who share their knowledge – be it on wine, sports, books or architecture – deserve a special place in your life. Particularly if they are from other cultures and backgrounds. I am grateful for all the people I have met abroad and in Turkey – who taught me what a wide, wide world that is.

3. As I age, I admire more the success of my friends and family, as well as those of strangers. I love hearing them, particularly if delivered with modesty, creativity, minimal names-dropping and brevity. I also feel very, very amused by those who undermine it. “My three-years-old can do what your favourite impressionist has drawn” or “I write much better Turkish than Orhan Pamuk.” Really? Have you ever tried getting a second opinion?

4.Given I am incapable of figuring out what my husband, son, best friend think and will do next; ı am in total admiration of the blessed people who profess to know motivations, strategies, hidden agendas of Obama, Gülen or Erdoğan (not to mention UN, EU, NATO and CIA) with perfect certitude. I am too shy/ignorant to argue with them, particularly when they start the sentence with “… surely anyone can see that the coup has CIA marked all over it.”

5. Still in the same spirit, what I read and learn increases my doubts – which is no match to the self-assurance of people who has learned everything to know about a subject from a single book/article/blog-post/BBC article/guru/Chakra session. I just wish I had found that single moment of total epiphany. On the other hand, why cast dark shadows on the eternal sunshine of a spotless mind? Final conclusion: Never argue with a pseudo-intellectual, a self-made man, a recent convert, a celebrity and a housewife. For your peace of mind. Really.

6.Some ten years ago, Willemijn van Haaften said, as we were drinking in Paris (chic, huh?) that friends were the most important thing in life, men or books would be second. My husband asked me whether I liked him more or my library. I thought long and hard and said that if the choice ran between burning him and all my books, I would not hesitate to burn my books…I think.

7. I wish I was kinder to my mom and less kind to some of my bosses. No, I wish I was kinder. To everyone.

8. Younger people are the best teachers – without them, we lose our connection with zeitgeist. We must talk with them, rather than talk to them. Thank you Ali, seventeen-years-old, for teaching me. Looking forward to the path my nieces and nephews will open for me.

9. Raymond Queneau’s poem, made famous with the song sung by Juliette Greco, “if you imagine, if you imagine, girl girl… your rosy complexion, your hourglass figure, your cute biceps, your nails, your nymph’s thigh and your light-hearted foot, if you think my dear that is going to last forever, you got it all wrong girl, you got it all wrong” is right. But do try to maintain it. And drinks lots of water.

10. In moments of darkness, I read Dorothy Parker since 40 years. Nothing soothes the heartbreak like a wisecrack.