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17 Things I Embraced by 60

How and why I kicked the bucket list to the curb

En español | Sliding into 60, I realized that not a single "bucket list" out there squared with my crazy-quilt life. Aspirational accomplishments don't move me, but the minor joys and victories I've managed to notch so far sure do. So here are 17 things I'd embraced with gusto by my 60th birthday. (What are some of yours?)

Woman putting on makeup in side mirror. Things to Embrace at 60.

Accepting your age and your body are two things that may come along with turning 60. — PhotoAlto/Alamy

1. A 'friend with benefits'

So my libido's supposed to be waning? Try telling that to my new "friend with benefits" — a wonderful man I've known for more than 40 years. His on-off second divorce keeps us from being a couple at this point in our lives, but our coupling is caring and satisfying. Not bad for our combined age of 125!

2. Dancing

Sometimes you just have to get up and shake your booty. Do it alone or with a partner, in public or in private, as if no one's watching or it's your Dancing With the Stars audition. If you're at home, try it naked!

3. A daily laugh

When I get to the end of a day where nothing's made me laugh — a rare event — I'll watch myself dance naked in the mirror. That usually does the trick.

4. My schnoz

I was teased mercilessly about it when I was growing up. As an adult, I had a boyfriend who told me I'd be pretty if I got my nose fixed. (I wanted to have him fixed instead.) A year ago, after removing a cancerous lesion, my surgeon warned me my nose might never be the same. To everyone's amazement, it grew back without a visible scar. Now I love it — size, bump and all!

5. My body

I learned body acceptance after my husband introduced me to naturist resorts. Sure, I saw some hardbodies there, but most of the bodies were dumpy, scarred, jiggly, wrinkly or creased. These days I like what I see of myself — including, so far, all the original parts.

6. My age

The only good reason to lie about your age is to sneak into a club — something I haven't done in a good four decades. Now I'm 62; if you have a problem with that, you may also have a case of undiagnosed ageism.

7. My wardrobe

No red hats, sensible shoes or form-hiding tops, thanks. If I have it, I'll flaunt it. As for that Old Navy sequined tank, in my defense it was on sale for $8.50. (And I must say I fill it out nicely: New Year's Eve, here I come!)

8. My ability to love again

My husband broke my heart when he died suddenly in 2004, but at least he didn't do it on purpose. Not so the cad I fell in love with a few years later: After asking me to marry him, he abruptly pulled the plug. Painful? Yes, but it taught me I still have a functioning heart, bruised and callused though it may be.

9. Solo travel

A traveling companion can be an asset or a liability. I learned that during a junior year abroad in Ireland in the early 1970s. Winging it alone, you set your own pace and collect your own memories.

10. Solo dining

The funniest things happen when you eat alone. I returned to Dublin a few years ago for my 60th birthday — a post-bad-breakup gift to myself (see "cad," above). In the hotel dining room my first night, the maître d' seated a younger woman at the table next to mine. Her accent betrayed her — Brooklyn, it turned out — and we started chatting. She was on a business trip; when I mentioned the reason for my own trip, she blurted out, "My girlfriend just dumped me!" Over coffee and dessert, we commiserated that jerks come in all genders.

11. Culinary adventures

My mother used to call me a picky eater. These days I'm an exploratory one, having sampled haggis, snails and, most recently, raw oysters (which I adore). Next stop on the menu: octopus!

12. Close friends

They're the ones who talked me down off the roof —literally — after my husband's death. They're the ones who keep me going through bad times today. I've vowed to be there for them in turn, and I've kept it.

13. A side of me that people don't know

When I turned 44, I started writing song parodies to perform in cruise ship talent shows. "You brought the ship down," my husband would tell me, "but in a good way." Can't wait to unveil one of my compositions at the next holiday party!

14. Turning people on to things that turn me on

These include Citizen Kane, T.H. White's The Once and Future King, Monet's water lilies, Jethro Tull's Thick as a Brick and the Museum of Sex (talk about your educational displays!).

15. Mood-matching books

When I'm feeling genteel, Jane Austen; when I'm feeling murderous, Dorothy Sayers; when I'm feeling festive, A Christmas Carol; and when I'm feeling wistful, The Wind in the Willows.

16. My inner B-word

After a lifetime spent playing Little Goody Two-Shoes, it dawned on me that the squeaky wheel gets not just grease but traction. Although I draw the line at lying, stealing or harming the innocent, I'm no longer afraid to throw a tactical tantrum or two.

17. My cleavage

High school: 32AA. College and for years after: 32A. Menopause and post-menopause: an inexplicable growth spurt up there. The new arrivals bugged me at first — what am I going to do with all these tops? — but I've since made peace with my 36Cs. And they do have their admirers (see "friend with benefits," above).

Mary-Ellen Banashek has been a magazine writer and editor for more than 40 years.

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