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Michelle Obama ‘fabulous’ at 50: Has the big birthday changed?

CNN News Wire | 1/17/2014, 9:43 a.m.
Michelle Obama’s not just embracing her half-century milestone, she’s relishing it. Describing herself as “50 and fabulous,” the “Let’s Move” ...
Michelle Obame

“I think 30 years ago or so, you were moving into the phase of your life where things were really slowing down,” she said. “I feel like my life is just really speeding up now ... because I don’t have the responsibilities of caring for other people anymore. I can really take care of myself and my husband and we can enjoy being 50-plus. I don’t think there’s anything old about 50 at all.”

Louise Sattler, a mom of two grown children in southern California who hit the big 5-0 in 2009, agrees.

“50 is like the new 40,” Sattler said. “I think because we now know octogenarians and we know people well on the cusp of 100 that 50 seems kind of like your second act. It does not seem like a two-thirds point.”

For her 50th, Sattler wrote a list of 50 fabulous things she would do in her 50th year, which included eating spicy Indian food for the first time, wearing the “crazy beaded necklace and earrings” she bought on Venice Beach and buying new dishes “just because.”

Also on that list, she said, was making an impact.

After battling thyroid cancer when she was 51, the psychologist decided to do something new. Already the owner of Signing Families, an organization that specializes in sign language education, she decided to focus her efforts on training first responders to communicate with special needs populations. She now travels the country working with first responders.

“50 was a wake-up call to do something for me that was kind of how I want my legacy to be,” she said. “That was one of the things that I said: You’ve got to start doing things that are important versus just to make a dollar.”

‘As cantankerous as I want to be!’

But for many, turning 50 is about as welcome as cleaning the bathroom, doing taxes or having a tooth pulled.

“50 sucks ... Everything either hurts or doesn’t work,” said Nancy Rudy, in response to a post on CNN’s Facebook page.

Sue Scheff, a parenting author and advocate in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, just turned 52. Fifty is “only a number” but the experience can be different “depending on where you are in life,” she said on Facebook.

“If you are single, finding a date is difficult. Men want women in their 30s,” Scheff said. “If you are job hunting, employers want people out of college.

“50 is an age you ‘learn’ to embrace or it can get you really down since you think, ‘Heck, I am halfway through my life. What do I want to do when I grow up?’”

Said Jeanne Rog on CNN’s Facebook page, “The only good thing about hitting my 50s is that I can be as cantankerous as I want to be!”

Whether they’re embracing 50 or wishing it would go away, people seem to agree on one thing -- 50 means letting go of caring about what others think.

“I don’t question how others are perceiving me,” said Greenthal, author of the “How to Turn 50” blog post. “I know that I am the best person I can be and that’s really the gift of being older is being comfortable with who you are.”

And that comfort in your own skin gets even stronger after 50, says Tish Howard, a retired school principal.

“Fifty means testing your wings of independence and some selfish, long-earned indulgence. But at 60, you learn to soar unshackled of anyone else’s opinion of what is you but yours,” said Howard of Fredericksburg, Virginia.

The big 5-0 is just a few years away for me, but I’m fully in the “embrace it” camp. I’m already telling friends to keep their calendars open for my dance-all-night disco party and not caring what anyone thinks of the idea!

How do you feel about turning 50? Share your thoughts in the comments, or with Kelly Wallace on Twitter or CNN Living on Facebook.