I don’t know about anyone else, but it used to be that the phrase “middle-aged” referred to that select group of adults who wore reading glasses and cardigans, used their free-time to knit sweaters, and basically used some sort of Clairol product to give themselves home perms and a nice “Auburn Dream” hair color to cover their grays…basically it was my grandma…who I am just realizing is not actually middle-aged…because if she was, SHE WOULD BE MY AGE.
Seriously…when did I become middle-aged? I don’t actually remember it happening. First I was a teenager, then a young mom, and then MIDDLE AGED. I don’t get it…there’s like no slow slide into this phase of life. One day you’re the cool mom who has done everything in the world to avoid wearing mom jeans and cutting off your hair…and the next minute you wake up realizing that you’re definitely not as cool as you thought you were, and you’re about to buy a box of Auburn Dream.
And there is no exciting welcome into this party either…like why aren’t we a culture that allows its women to sit outside in a tent for their 40th year, being slathered in essential oils and plied with jewelry as they enter into this new stage? Although to be honest, I’d probably balk at the whole tent thing because I’m partial to indoor plumbing…but you get the point.
Instead, people ask us our age and practically cringe when we tell them the truth… “Oh, you’re 40? I didn’t realize you were that old, you look great for your age.”
FOR YOUR AGE? What the heck does that mean?
I’ll admit that 42 has hit me harder than the birthdays that have come before it. Maybe it’s the fact that 40 didn’t really seem like “mid-life” given the fact that 80 is the new 60, but now that I’m halfway to 84…42 seems like much more in the middle. I mean, I’ve maybe got a good 84 years in me…but after that…I just don’t know that I’ll have the energy to keep it going.
And speaking of energy…that is one of the biggest side-effects of growing old. I am just too tired to do anything that doesn’t fall into my daily routine. And…on the off chance that I would actually attend an event that starts at any time after 7:00pm, there is a 100 PERCENT CHANCE that I will be in bed as soon as I get home and be cranky the next day. 100 PERCENT.
My friend Beth just recently mentioned that she’d love to go out dancing sometime soon…but upon further review…we collectively realized that we would need to be able to go out from 6:00pm to 9:00pm with water and snack stations spread throughout the club (think Chicago Marathon style). Yoga pants and comfy shoes would have to pass as acceptable clubbing clothing, and no one would be allowed to hit on us unless they were:
- Buying us free drinks with no expectations
- Offering to babysit our children
- Hoping to rub our feet between dances, without any sort of creepy foot fetish.
In the end, it seems like Netflix and a bottle of wine is a much better option.
Mid-life is not just about being too exhausted to keep up a social life, but mid-life has also brought with it the realization that I have become too exhausted to worry about what other people think of me anymore. And this is actually the upside of middle-age.
See, for about 40 years I worried about what other people thought about me…but now, I just don’t care. Because the truth is, even if I’m not someone’s cup of tea…I don’t have the energy to change who I am. I have used up all of my energy trying to raise my children, and build a career, and keep my marriage together…and now I don’t have any energy left to try to change who I am. And the beauty of it is that after 41 years, I have finally become the most authentic version of myself that I’ve ever been. And that’s pretty spectacular.
See, I think gold hoops and lipstick are daily essentials, and I know that my politics will never match many of those around me. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I didn’t breast-feed my children and I’ve worked outside of the home for their whole lives, and that most of the time when I sit at baseball games I am actually reading a book or scrolling through social media. I hate nature (but love the environment…like, we should save it, and everything) and exercise, and dogs (I am so sorry). I like Latin dance music and hip hop…and I occasionally swear like a sailor…but only when it’s really important…and I’m finally at the place where I’m ok with who I am…and if you’re not…I am ok with that too. I mean, not everyone likes God, either, and if he can’t please everyone…then I certainly have no chance.
So that’s the thing about my birthday this year. I’m hitting the age where I should be wearing cardigans and reading glasses and cutting my hair into a fluffy poodle bob and slowing down and going to sleep at 7:00. But instead, middle age has brought with it a freedom – the freedom from others’ opinions and from the pressure to be someone that others think I should be. It’s the the freedom to finally live my most authentic life. And as a middle aged woman who is just trying to find a club that allows yoga pants and keep up the stamina to go to a 9:00pm movie, really…that’s the best 42nd birthday gift that I could ever get…I mean, except for a new car…but it’s a close second, and on this middle-aged birthday…I’ll take it.
With much love from a 42-year-old, living-her-most-authentic-life-ever Small Town Girl