Updated: Nov 13, 2019
If you know anything about my blog then you know that I am not referring to the Medieval Period between the 5th and 15th centuries, but rather that part of modern life between young adulthood and old age (which can sometimes feel like it’s centuries long).
In the 1960’s, it was us baby boomers who made getting older unpopular with the youth driven cultural revolution and with sayings like “Don’t trust anyone over 30." But when we started getting older we conveniently changed our minds and came up with the contradictory slogan “40 is the new 30." Aging is like being the victim of a violent crime – you never think it’s going to happen to you.
We knew our skin would get wrinkled (that’s why we popularized cosmetic surgery and invented photoshop) and that our hair would turn grey (but it looked so good on Steve Martin), but no one prepared us for the onslaught of increasing physical degradations to come. Everything from thinning hair to expanding waistlines to flat feet. Some changes we don’t notice happening for years, but others can suddenly pop up like an unwanted surprise party.
When I became middle aged, I started getting a series of weird little aches and pains that I never had before. They could be triggered by simple things like standing up from a sitting position or turning my head to look over my shoulder or sometimes for absolutely no reason at all. But there it was, some new and inexplicable pain that was possibly fatal or, at the very least, would become a new condition that I would have to live with for the rest of my life.
Then I started getting a bunch of small bumps and growths all over my body that kept begging the question – What the hell is that? They give them names like warts, moles and skin tags, but I just call them gross. I am constantly having them removed but they keep popping up like a literal game of Whack-A-Mole. I’m slowly beginning to look like an extra on The Walking Dead.
I really need to see my dermatologist more often.
Perhaps the worst part is when you go to the doctor and express concern over this kind of stuff and all you hear is, “Yeah, that happens at your age.” No prescription, no solution, just the unspoken message that your body has handed in its resignation and given you its 40 year notice.
Our bodies can start shrinking around age 30, but some of our features will keep growing for the rest of our lives. Our feet, noses, ears, jaws and pores all become more exaggerated with age. So in later years it’s like we become living caricatures of our younger selves. This also happens with some of our personality traits, where we just become more of the way we’ve always been. If you were an angry person then you will become angrier. If you were a mellow person then you will be more mellow. If you were a funny person then…well, you won’t actually become funnier but you will keep making the same old jokes and will think they keep getting funnier.
Most women reach menopause between 45 & 55. We always hear about the mood swings and hot flashes associated with it, but we don’t hear too much about the other symptoms. Nobody wants to talk about those. This leaves a lot women unprepared for what it will really be like. Maybe the female body should come with a warning label that reads like a pharmaceutical commercial.
"Side effects of being a middle aged woman may include; mood swings, hot flashes, weight gain, night sweats, sore breasts, chronic headaches, decreased sex drive, increased facial hair, chronic urinary tract infections, vaginal thinning, drying and inflammation, as well as incontinence*. Additional side effects could include watching all the Real Housewives shows, crying at Hallmark commercials, compulsive online shopping and a secret hatred for Meghan Markle. If you experience any of these side effects -- don’t call your doctor. They’re very busy people who have more important things to do than listen to you complain. That’s what your friends are for."
*(I only recently learned that peeing a little when laughing or sneezing is a disturbingly common occurrence for middle aged women. This is information that I can’t unlearn. And if I have to live with this knowledge, so do you.)
By the way, men are also subject to menopause. Although, no man has ever realized it or admitted having it. We just call it a midlife crisis and use it as an excuse to buy a sports car or cheat on our wives. Actual symptoms can include loss of body hair, shrinking testes, enlarged breasts, and lowered sex drive. In other words, we turn into women. (Nature is an ironic bitch.)
Another awkward part of being middle aged is that there’s no good replacement term for “boyfriend” or “girlfriend”. We sound like we’re back in high school just because we haven’t come up with a better name for older unmarried couples. I’ve heard some adults use the term “lovers”, but that’s icky and forces me to envision the two of them having sex. Some couples use the term “partners”, but that sounds cold and businesslike and doesn’t capture the intimate nature of their relationship. “Significant other” is another commonly used term, but that sounds forced and like one of them is avoiding commitment. Plus, it sounds gay.
The other weird thing about being in our 50’s is that we have officially fallen out of the advertiser’s desirable demographic. This means that they are making less movies, TV shows and commercials targeted at us. Which, of course, is ridiculous and stupid. But that’s how advertisers think. They primarily target audiences between the ages of 18 & 49, and after that they pretty much don’t give a shit about us. Unless they’re selling pharmaceutical drugs, life insurance or catheters. They think we are all too set in our ways to buy new products and too lazy to get off our asses to go out and try new things. Okay, they might actually have a point there.
In spite of all that, there are many benefits to getting older. (Other than just -- it beats the alternative.) It wasn’t until my 40’s when I finally felt comfortable in my own skin. In my younger days, I was always filled with a need to be well-liked and a desire to please others. I was filled with insecurities about where my career was going and what kind of person I would be. It wasn’t until I crossed that invisible line into middle age that I somehow and suddenly felt that I was happy with myself and that I didn’t need to change. By this point in my life, I knew who I was and if you didn’t like me then that was fine. I didn’t need you and I wasn’t going to change for anyone. (Except for my wife. She did make me throw out most of my old clothes. And I really miss my Members Only jacket.)
Another advantage to aging is that you gain a big picture perspective that you didn’t have when you were younger. You realize that bad presidents come and go, markets rise and fall, the weather patterns are always changing, and you have somehow managed to survive it all. This gives you an inner strength to realize that you can accept anything. (Except Jon Stewart leaving The Daily Show. I never did get over that.)
There are even a few physical benefits to being middle aged. Our allergies can fade, our vision can improve and our livers won’t start deteriorating until our 70’s. So take a deep breath, have a good look around and drink up!
I read somewhere that the scariest thing about middle age is knowing that you will grow out of it. And as the great philosopher Richard Gere once said, “Don’t regret growing older. It’s a privilege denied to many.” I’m only 61 now, so I can’t yet speak to what my elderly years will be like. But if they’re even half as good as my middle age years, I’m looking forward to them.