Sally O’Malley

Sally O’Malley

As I turned 50 this past year, I couldn’t help but remember the Saturday Night Live character, Sally O’Malley. Played by the outlandish Molly Shannon, Sally was a 50-year-old woman who wore garish makeup, donned inappropriately tight, high-waisted, polyester pants, and did high kicks while proclaiming, “I’m 50!” When I first encountered the character, I was in my 20s and obviously, I thought it was hysterical to watch an “old woman” behave like that. I also felt some degree of pity; I mean, didn’t she understand that the world was laughing at her? The answer to that question is probably yes, she was entirely aware. Sally O’Malley had just stopped caring. She was no longer afraid to lean into her truth, take up space, and demand joy. Far from being an object of pity, Sally O’Malley is aspirational.

It’s true that Sally’s antics could tend to make others uncomfortable from time to time; perhaps the time she decided to go audition for the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes was a bit over the top, but it was clear that although her kicks were sometimes out of control, she never intended harm. She was simply no longer seeking approval or permission from others, and, without that burden, she was able to live her life with less fear and more joyful abandon.

I have long been fascinated by how I have evolved or not evolved over the decades of my life (for the record, I’ve had mixed results). As I was approaching 50, I found myself speaking to others who had reached this milestone. Each of them had wisdom to share and their own unique story of what the 50s represented for them, but in all those conversations, there was an undeniable common thread; the 50s, they said, is the decade of having zero Fs (their words). They spoke of the 50s as a time in their lives where they felt most like themselves and least concerned with living into the expectations of others. No wonder Sally O’Malley was doing high kicks!

I imagine that Sally, like the rest of us, had experienced her fair share of disappointment and pain in life; no one gets to be 50 without acquiring a few “battle scars”, but I think that is precisely why Sally’s kicks resonate with me now. I have come to realize that the kicks were not the wild antics of an old woman who didn’t know any better. The kicks were a celebration of what she had survived, a full body expression of her joy and a deep understanding that the only time is now.

I hope that Sally would agree with me when I say that there are times when we do indeed need to temper our high kicks, times when we should not take up space. I think it is safe to say that any evolution that includes high kicks should come with the knowledge of when our feet should remain firmly on the ground. I do hope, though, that in this decade of my life, I can be a bit more like Sally; less afraid, less worried about the expectations of others and more connected to my joy.

Here’s to you, Sally O’Malley!

I’m 50!


  1. Carol Zika

    A wise woman from the congregation, Virginia Bates, told me when I turned 50, “These will be the best years of your life.” She was right! Happy birthday. You’ve come into your power.

  2. Inge Hyder

    Happy Birthday, Kelli! And thanks for this reminder to kick up our heels. And thanks also for everything you do for UUCC — you are an inspiration! Love and Hugs!

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *