I get frustrated with people who try to tell me I'm not middle-aged. Do they think they're being nice? I think they're being delusional. I often say, "What do you mean I'm not middle-aged? I'm 48. How long are you planning to live?" Middle-age traditionally refers to that period when you're about halfway through your actual, physical, heartbeat-measurable life. So why do people try to tell me I'm not middle-aged?
Maybe there's some social construct of what middle age is and people don't think it applies to me. I'll take a guess here at what that construct might include:
1. Graying hair.
2. Slowed physical activity.
3. Weight gain.
4. Increasing aversions to loud noise, late nights, physically demanding activity.
5. Shift towards more conservative dress.
6. Less sexiness.
7. Less sex.
8. Not being able to eat or drink everything you used to be able to handle.
9. Narrowing interests.
10. Expanding interests.
Does that look about right? If it does, I ask anyone who knows me: which of these things does NOT apply to me? The answer is that they ALL apply to me. I solidly identify as middle-aged and I'll say it to anyone. In fact, I find it patronizing and disingenuous when people try to tell me I'm not middle-aged.
Do not patronize me by trying to tell me I'm not middle-aged. You might think you're being polite or complimentary - and to someone else maybe you would be - but it just irritates me (increased irritability is probably another sign of middle age). It also makes me feel like you're trying to deny that I've lived and learned as much as I have. I have memories of what American culture was like in the 90s and 80s and 70s. I've learned a lot about human nature, personal dynamics, cultural trends, health and more personal subjects like living single, managing mental illness, racism, workplace dynamics in six industries, marriage, divorce, etc. etc. et goddamn cetera. Someone who thinks I look like I'm in my 30s (someone told me yesterday she thought I looked like I was in my 20s for chrissake), erases some that history and experience and really doesn't know who I am.
I am every minute of my 48-plus years. The experiences that have made me who I am go all the way back to Sunday July 24, 1966 at a little after 3:00 p.m. (I considerately made my first infant demands when everyone was already awake). Why would I want to deny any of that by shaving years off of my age?
(I hear that those baby boomers - the oldest of whom entered middle age a couple of decades ago - dislike terms like "middle age," "elderly," and "senior." I ask them: what's wrong with age? Are you all ego-delusional? Do you really think some of you get to bypass being old? Stop with the youth-worship and take your places as elder statepeople. Accept the titles of age. Chocolate-covered Jesus, there's nothing wrong with growing old!)
I've waited all my life to be middle-aged and I'm proud to have earned the title. Sure it suggests that I've slowed down, put on weight, become crankier and wish everyone would pipe down. It also suggests that I've been around long enough to have learned a few things about how to live a happier life, and so I have. Middle age brings me increased confidence, less worry, knowing how to take care of myself, being able to set boundaries, more discrimination about who I want to spend time with and general knowledge of how to build the life I really want. I've always been the kind of person others don't tend to screw with, and as I get older that becomes even more true. There's just less fear in my life in general.
As my ex-husband says, there's good and bad in everything. So I say let's stop treating middle age as if it's to be avoided at all costs (god dammit).