Galley Wench Tales

Exploring the world through the people we meet
and the food they eat.

Hang gliding for my 40th birthday in New Zealand.

Just weeks before my 40th birthday, I reluctantly filed for divorce on a long-dead marriage. 

Years prior, I joked, “Married, but not dead.” At 40, I updated my new M.O. to “Divorced, but far from done.” I celebrated my birthday with a solo trip to Australia and New Zealand. I walked, rappel-style, across the upper tier of the Sydney Bridge and took a tandem hang-glide in New Zealand. They were far from my only adventures.

Fifteen years ago, I asked my hairdresser “What would you say my hair color is?” It used to be medium brown. In a mid-life crisis, I dyed in burgundy, then let it grow out and shifted to a foil weave. It seemed lighter . . .

Pre-haircut, French Polynesia, 2016; I was 55.

“Gray,” she said, with something between a grimace and a smile.

Our wedding kiss, Hawaii, 2007. Wayne still treats me like a goddess.

When I turned 50, my husband let me choose my own birthday gift. I picked a weekend at Sleeping Lady Resort, where I could go cross-country skiing and get pampered. I luxuriated in a thick fluffy white resort robe and Wayne treated me like a goddess.

Galley Wench—me—swinging
into the blue-green waters of Vanuatu. 2016.

A year-and-a-half later, we took off for five years of sailing, until we sold our sailboat in Australia, after sailing there from halfway around the world.

In the summer of 2019, one of my high school alums pointed out of the 100 or so 40th reunion attendees, we were the only women there with gray hair—though technically, hers was a now-fashionable blue.

Gray-haired and unashamed of it at my 40th high school reunion in 2019.
I coined my own term for the state of my tresses: earned highlights.

Today I begin my 60th trip ’round the sun.

Once upon a time, I considered 60 old, although even at 50, I bristled when others close to my age described themselves “old.” I didn’t then and I still don’t, now. That includes when I got trigger finger after doing heavy boat work. The osteopath in Antigua said, “Oh, that’s just because you’re old. I’ll give you a cortisone shot. If that doesn’t make it go away, additional shots won’t help.” His didn’t help much, but after two shots from another practitioner, I was good as new. That was 8 years ago. No problems since. Old, my a–!

Granted, I’m lucky. Fate and heredity treated me kindly. Or, as one of my Hewlett-Packard colleagues quipped, “Good genes and immaturity go a long way.”

Even as a teen, thanks to my small, deep, close-set eyes and prominent nose, my dad bluntly informed me modeling would never be a viable career option for me. 

Today, add to that my COVID Budda-belly, less hair on my head but more sprouting from my chin, distinct wrinkle marks on either side of my nose and across my forehead, cellulite on thighs, gravity’s impact on my tits. raised veins on my hands, and the indisputable need for reading glasses. The physical evidence of my appearance drives home the point that I can no longer pass for what our youth-and-beauty-worshipping society considers young.

Despite—or maybe because of that—my birthday wish was to get a professional body paint job.

Body painting. Not necessarily like this.
Phote credit: Gerhard Lipold

I thought I’d spend my glamorous 60th birthday applying bottom paint to our boat in the boatyard and instead of getting my body painted for my 60th, I’ll try to avoid getting bottom paint on my body. That struck me as a reasonable trade-off for heading to the Bahamas by sailboat from February to sometime in May.

A sudden change in plans prompted us to decide to delay the bottom job on our boat until this summer. Instead we’ll move our boat to a spot that we can more easily transfer everything we own onto the boat from our RV, and whatever we want to bring from the US for the next 4 months in the Bahamas.

Beyond that, I haven’t made alternative plans for my birthday, though Wayne’s promised to treat me with TLC. It won’t take much arm-twisting for mw to take him up on his offer.

I agree with what John Lennon told his teacher he wanted to be when he grew up: 

2012: The last time I painted a new-to-us sailboat’s bum, in St. Lucia, a 36 1/2 foot Pearson 365.
The boat we’re buying, a 45-foot Gulfstar, should be far easier to prep, but is significantly larger to paint.

I do, however, fully intend to take a raincheck on my own personal paint job—the one where my body, in all its glorious imperfections, provides an ample canvas.

“Half-birthdays,” my friend Connie suggests. Maybe not that long. I’m willing to celebrate as soon as I’m in the right place at the right temperature with someone willing and able with a paintbrush.

Meanwhile, there’s some work to be done (so I wrote this post ahead of time, and pre-set the post date)!

My message to you:

Only you get to decide when you’re “old.” It is not a year. It is not your physical limitations. It’s definitely not how you look. It’s how you feel, in your heart, mind, and spirit. As long as you’re full of adventure, you are young, IMHO. Adventure away!

Location Location

Our boat is in Mulberry Cove Marina, in Jacksonville Florida’s Naval Air Station base ~N30.12.980 W81.40.234.

We’re targeting early February to be on our way to the Bahamas.