The tired, old cliché –life is short—is probably more accurate than I would care to admit. With wry amusement, I have to admit that overused saying can be quite a joke to me, for I’ve heard it said way too many times, quite at the level of nauseam. Often times, I think the opposite, that life can be pretty **** long when you are not satisfied with it.
I am now at the age which I once thought was getting old, just having another unwanted birthday recently, turning forty-seven last month. As a girl, I thought anyone who had reached the age of forty was practically decrepit. Well, perhaps not, but it might as well have been that way. Forty wasn’t flirty. Forty wasn’t fun. It was far from a desirable age to be, but at least it seemed a million years off.
Surely now, life is far from over for me. Yet I must admit that I am feeling that my youth is slowly slipping away, like sand between my hands that is impossible to hold onto forever. Fifty is over the horizon for me, and I can sense its approach with a bit of unease and trepidation.
It is amazing. Many people still tell me that I am young, but even in my thirties I sensed that middle age was creeping up on me. And now I really am wondering when my middle age status will officially come to an end and old age will replace it—just exactly what number that is anyway. If I doubled up my age now, it would be ninety-four, so my age bracket cannot be as “middle” as it once was.
When we are children, we often cannot wait until we are old enough, old enough to drive when we turn sixteen, old enough to vote when we turn eighteen, as well as old enough to graduate from all those years of school drudgery, and old enough to drink when we turn twenty-one. I can certainly add the lesser milestones—when we are old enough to no longer require a babysitter, when we are old enough to date, when girls are old enough to wear make-up, or dye their hair. Those benefits of adulthood seem to validate our importance in life, nothing we can experience firsthand as a rightful privilege before then.
Many kids can’t wait to be doing all the grown-up things, as if time cannot go fast enough for them, as if that precious stage of life should simply race by like a comet, and life would somehow continue on as before, seemingly as invincible as it ever did in youth. Yet, for many people, after finally surpassing those important ages and stages, they often look back and are amazed at how the years seemed to have just flown by, rushed on in like a “thief in the night” and overtook their lives. And they then begin to realize that they are mortal and life is not invincible, after all.
I am one of them.
When I was a girl, I did not have an urgent sense of the clock, certainly not the need to hurry up to morph into an adult, quite content to remain in my snug, little cocoon of imaginary prepubescent bliss. It seemed like getting to the next phase in life would take forever, or so I wanted it to be that way. In my dread of wondering what I would do once I was grown. I really was in no hurry to face the future head on. I pretty much feared those new expectations and leaving the security of a sheltered, childhood, a haven of a well-known comfort zone, for sure, even though a generally unhappy one.
Change was much too scary for me, even if it could have been change for the good.
At the age I am now, I surely enjoy the respects that come with the rites of passage into adulthood, a status that I, nor anybody, could truly have as a child. I can assert myself without looking like an impudent, snot-nosed kid—a pint sized know-it-all—one who couldn’t impress anybody with sophistication no matter how much I tried. Now, I can grow into an intelligent woman, ever growing with the passing of age, perhaps a late bloomer with my assertiveness and confidence. Hopefully, more and more each day, I am surrendering the fight in the battle of self-negativity, slowly obtaining a sense of satisfaction in my own skin.
I have often been mistaken as much younger than my actual age. The baby face that I once had seems to be loosing its softness, a very youthful softness that I once disliked but now wish to reclaim. I certainly have mixed feelings about being older, glad to be done with the fearful awkwardness of growing up, now that I look back to see it for what it was, but sometimes missing that girl that once existed, one who wanted to enjoy being more of what she truly had.
All in all, I’d much rather be where I am right this very moment, for it is all that I truly can stake as my claim. Yet I think of the middle age that I am in right now as a precarious age.
As the years go by, our society seems ever more youth obsessed, far more than I was a child. Plastic surgeries are so common place, and Botox is the new fountain of youth. Anti-aging creams, retinol, age defying make-up—many women, including myself, want to indulge in their promises for wrinkle-free skin. Whether it is home remedies or laboratory designed methods, whatever way we can find to make our appearance more pleasing, and certainly younger, is a tantalizing hope for those of us who are middle aged females.
Is fifty really the new thirty? I’d love to think so, but I just cannot get myself to believe that.
Just ask my aches and pains if you want to know my true opinion.
Middle age women are now supposed to be attractive to younger men, as if it is our day for a walk in the sun. Men have been in the older position—often much older position—since surely time began. But we ladies get the label of “cougar”, an somewhat unflattering name that speaks of stalking and pouncing, of being able to rip someone apart with claws like razors, conquer them and then devour them. There is Cougar Town on television that seems to celebrate this phenomenon as something fun and carefree, but I still think that it is generally looked at as something peculiar and wrong.
Hugh Hefner can have women young enough to be his granddaughters, and it might be offensive to many, but he can still get pats on the back and thumbs up for his lifestyle. Way to go, Hef! Yet when it comes to Demi Moore married to Ashton Kutcher, a man fifteen years younger than her, it is a different story. Many aren’t surprised that they are divorcing. Talking heads on television have pointed out, with the big age difference between them, that their relationship was doomed from the start. Other talking heads have pointed out the double standard and the unfairness placed on such judgment, realizing that it probably would not be this way if the man was fifteen years older.
Yes, right now I have middle age as my experience, and that is exactly where I feel in life—positioned in the middle between two major life stages. And they are two stages that I don’t think commands any respect—childhood and old age.
I’ve been to my share of nursing homes. I helped to care for my father, as he lived and died in one. I had to endure my mother’s five month stay in a nursing home while she recovered from major surgery. I have volunteered my time in hospice, making my travels in some nursing home visitations. So I have seen, firsthand, the hardship of what it means to be elderly, of what it means to feel like a burden, of what it means to lose one’s abilities that one has always taken for granted. I’ve often witnessed the despair and the languishing away from growing feeble in body and mind.
There is no easy cure for old age. No amount of Botox can alleviate the problems. No change seems available in sight for the ones who have lost their way, or have few people that can care for them, or are willing to care for them.
I think time should just slow down again for me—as it seemed to be in my girlhood.
I am in no hurry to leave middle age.