Thursday, March 26, 2009

Weirdness of Middle Age



Middle age is weird, it is. Ask anyone who is middle aged - they'll tell you the same thing. One of the weirdest things about it is that no one knows what middle age is. When does it begin and when does it end? I don't have a clue. Do you?

For the generation prior to mine, I think it might have started as early as 35, but for sure at age 40. I think of Jack Benny joking that he was always 39. Now "50 is the new 40" so maybe that means for my generation middle age starts at age 50. When does one become old? People tell me that any age plus twenty years is old, so does that mean I'll become officially old at age 76? Seems a bit late to me, but what do I know?

Infants, babies, toddlers, pre-teens, teenagers, and young adults are easy to identify by age. After 30, things get a little more dicey, probably because we live in a culture that is so age-phobic and so terribly age-ist. The kinds of jokes people make about old people would never be publicly acceptable if that same joke was made about a black person or a gay person or someone of a particular nationality or ethnic background, oh no. But it's ok to say, for instance, that a flooded basement "smells like old people." It's no wonder we middle aged people try so hard to pretend we aren't middle aged.

Part of it is pretending. The other piece of it is that as someone wise recently said, the mind does not age. I remember my mother saying how strange it was to look in the mirror and see an old lady staring back at her in shock. When I look in the mirror what I see isn't an old lady, but she sure as hell isn't young anymore either. It is kind of a shock. I'm not the first or the last human to have that experience. If you're younger than 40, please know that if you live long enough, you'll have this experience, too. If you're my age then you know exactly what I'm talking about.

Yep. Middle age? It's so weird. Believe me!

40 comments:

John Hayes said...

Hi Reya:

I sort of come from the "life begins at 40" school myself-- very sort of, at least....

Mrsupole said...

Oh my goodness those pictures are just great. I love them.

What is middle age, well I think it depends on how long you are gonna live. If you die at 40 than middle age is 20, if you die at 60, than middle age is 30. And if we live to be 100 than yes 50 is middle age.

But it really is relative. And it is also how old you act and maybe to a point on how old you look and dress. I never try to guess someone's age because I am always wrong. People are always wrong about my age, so I know I am not the only one who does not know ages. So age is unimportant. Living is what is important. Being alive is just great, no matter what your age.

God bless.

Reya Mellicker said...

Mrsupole you are absolutely right about that! Life is good and I'm grateful ... and ... sometimes, like especially in springtime when everything is fresh and new, it surprises me to notice I'm no longer a 'spring chicken.'

I can never tell how old anyone is either, and like you, John, I'm actually a lot more comfortable in my own skin as I get older.

Still ... it's weird.

mary said...

This is my theory and I'm stickin' to it........we are children until twenty - just learning the ropes. Now assume we live to be 90....then we have 70 years as adults. First half 20 -55.......second half 55 - 90. Easy. Middle age sounds like no mans land and mid-life crisis is old news. Carry on......

Angela said...

Actually, I hadn`t thought so before, but I LIKE getting older. Am I old at sixty? My grandmother in her dark dress and her constant sadness (she had lost two sons in the war) surely felt old to me, but I don`t feel old (or middle-aged or whatever) to myself. Only more self-assured, happier, wiser, friendlier, calmer ...all of these good, positive things. Do I wonder about death? Yes, sometimes. It is inevitable, and the older I get, the closer it comes. But I tell the Universe that I still LIKE to live, and so I hope it will let me.

Reya Mellicker said...

Angela you are NOT old in any way, shape or form.

I'm not at all afraid of Death. In fact I'm kind of curious about how it will feel to step through that mysterious gate. What scares me is the stuff at the very end of life. You know, pain, disease, or whatever it is that convinces us to give up our lovely human bodies at last.

Lizzy Frizzfrock said...

Hey ... I think I'll subscribe to John's theory... "life begins at" ____, well I suppose you could fill in the blank.
I think my life has begun several times. Each at a major event in my life. My latest was at 56 when I met the G-Man. Now I'm 62 and think I'm on the tail-end of middle age. I can't say 70 is old age; although, I'll probably set that for my beginning into old age.
The G-Man is 71 and he's the youngest 71 of any of our friends. He's just happy & enjoying life & I hope it continues for MANY more years.
I don't know about middle age (when it ends), but I'm beginning to think old age is a state of mind. Yes, I think that's the ticket.

duty free said...

The lower back and knees ache for no apparent reason. Books are held at a distance to clearly see the words. Another gray hair this morning. This soft stomach I squeeze is not the one I know and love. Yup, Middle Age begins in the early 40's...and it...um...sucks.

But the brain is jazzed, revitalized, like I'm five years old....full of notions, excited.

Middle Age is weird. You are so right.

runmotman said...

i have joked this year that i am halfway there--guess i plan on checking out at 90.
Actually, the older i get, the more interesting middle aged people seem to get... A lot of living goes on in 40 or 50 years, but there is always a new experience just around the next corner.

Merle Sneed said...

I know just what you mean.

I also subscribe to the "act young, be young" theory. Of course, I may have made that theory up.

Fire Byrd said...

I used to say that middle age was 5 years older than me.... and now I'm in my mid 50s I accept that I am here and here is a good place to be.
xx

Auntie, aka cagny said...

Good morning R.,
I used to complain about "getting old". I just turned 50...But I stopped complaining when I remember how 25 years ago my Dad dropped dead when HE was just 49. So I've out-lived my Dad.

I've also outlived my twin brother, who died at a mere 32.

But to be honest, I miss being young. I miss my flat stomach, size 5/6 jeans, my YOUTH...I used to turn heads.
*sigh*
I think it was Oscar Wilde who said "Youth is wasted on the young".

Auntie, aka cagny said...

PS
BTW, I'll bet Jake feels a lot older thatn we do!!
Dogs age faster.

Steve said...

I agree with Duty Free. I'm 42, and I definitely feel middle-aged. (Given that twice my age would be 84, that seems reasonable.)

But I like middle age. It's more mellow and less angsty. I wouldn't go back for anything.

Lori ann said...

Hahaha, it's true what you say Reya(that lookin in the mirror weirdness), but my husband would say i'm thinking too much, age is just a number. I do like getting older, like Fire Byrd says, it's a good place to be.

willow said...

I can certainly relate to that mirror shock thing! And I agree about the pretending. You're as young as you want to be.

That first picture is fabulous!! I like how your finger is pointing up, along with the monument!

Ronda Laveen said...

In California, with all the Botox, fillers, surgical and laser treatments, personal trainers, and the Land of Hollywood. 60 is the new 40.

The shock of seeing the effects of gravity on my body in the mirror is surreal. Kind of like the theme is see in your photos today. Surreal and beautiful.

Amy said...

Reya,

Love this post! Have you heard the song by Jon Bon Jovi about age? It's one of my favorites.

"I like the bed I'm sleepin' in, just like me it's broken in, I'm not old...just older..."

I think I'll always be not old...just older! (To make this effective, I'm going to have to stop looking in the mirror at some point I'm afraid!)

sciencegirl said...

While I agree the categories for people up to 30 are easier, mostly because they're so much more constrained, 'middle age' is something that has been undergoing a dramatic shift over the last hundred years. Just 60 years ago, fully half of men didn't even make it to retirement age. Today most do, and with the shift of the end of our lives comes a displacement of where the middle is.
At 44 I'm shocked when people lump me into 'middle aged'. Not that I mind once I think about it, but I just feel so young! Mentally, I never left my 30's.
It's a great time to be an adult.

Peggy said...

I have the same experience, Reya, of looking in the mirror and thinking, "Where the heck did those wrinkles come from?" How did I get to be 47? When did that happen?

Butternut Squash said...

Most of the woman in who are my age, 44, in Nepal are grandmother's. 45 is the average life expectancy, they look old. If they make it to 75, there is a big celebration and the whole village parades them around on a palanquin. I feel a little embarassed to say my age when I am there. They usually say something like. "See, you should get a little fat, it makes you look younger."

If you have not already read 'My Journey into Lhasa' by Mme. Alexandra David-Neel, go get it. She did most of her travels in her '40-50's' It is the memoir of a woman traveling in Tibet in the early 1900's. My hero!

Lover of Life said...

It is definitely weird! My husband reminded me the other day that 55 really isn't middle age. I probably won't live to 110. I'd have to pull out my old text books on human development to see how they would categorize our age, but senior doesn't seem right!

The cherry trees against that red building are beautiful.

SJW said...

Interesting post as always Reya.

I'm 10 years younger than you and I'd probably think of myself as middle aged - in that the society I live in would describe as such.

Or I'd say that I am in the middle phase of my life. Past the energetic always looking forward momentum of youth, but not yet in retired, relflecting on the past phase.

And then Butternut Squash puts a whole different perspective on it all : )

Coffee Messiah said...

40 was weird, but 50s feels great, despite what's going on in the world around us.

Most our friends here are in their 80s and 90s, one guy is 92 and he just started using a walker (hiked until 3 yrs ago.

My great grandfather died (he had enough and gave up and in a week passed away on his own accord) and I'll never forget then, wanting t know about tunnels and lights.

Now, I imagine it's like going to sleep but just not waking up.

No biggy really, 'cause coming in I can't remember either ; (

That last shot looks like around the Stanyon St area in SF ; )

Cheers 2 ya! ; )

Reya Mellicker said...

his soft stomach I squeeze is not the one I know and love. Yup, Middle Age begins in the early 40's...and it...um...sucks.

But the brain is jazzed, revitalized, like I'm five years old....full of notions, excited.


Thanks Duty Free ... said perfectly. And all the rest of you, too, for your thoughts.

Butternut, my friend Sharon wrote a book about women explorers from the turn of the last century. All of them were in their 50's and 60's! Traveling through the Gobi desert, etc. in what was then definitely old age. They were all rich, too, but still, they were so brave.

Surgical attempts to "stay young" are completely out of the question for me. No offense to anyone who believes in them, it's just not for me. I see women all the time who have had "work." They all look so weird. Their eyes are in their 30's but their neck is in the 50's, or their hands give away their age, or something about how the structure of the female body thickens at midlife. For me, it's about letting it all go where it needs to, when it needs to. Oh yeah!

A Cuban In London said...

'Now "50 is the new 40'. Does that mean that I am 27 :-)? I am actually 37. Good observations on middle age, we're terrified of it and yet that's where we are headed. But if well-enjoyed, it can be one of the most fruitful periods of your life.

Amazing photo, as usual.

Greetings from London.

Reya Mellicker said...

Funny to remember that the slogan of my generation as we were coming of age was Never trust anyone over 30. Mea culpa, we were age-phobic, too.

Coffee messiah - I far prefer my 50's to my 40's. Still ... it's ...

W E I R D!!

Reya Mellicker said...

Auntie - I too used to turn heads. Too many heads turned for my comfort, actually. It's kind of a relief to blend into the background now, though I'm always surprised by it, too.

Do miss being two dress sizes smaller than I am now. Oh well.

Chris Wolf said...

One of my students once told me a joke once that seems to fit this discussion. I had just had a birthday and felt "old".

He said, "What do old people smell like?" Surprised, I said, I don't know, Nate.

He replied with a shrug of his shoulders, "Depends".

kathi said...

Weird yes, to be past "middle age"
and still feeling 30! My dear Aunt Adelaide just turned 101 last month! Perhaps I'm not really old after all!

Delwyn said...

I think the question is what's so wrong with getting old?

I could give you dozens of reasons why it is good.

Happy days

Barbara Martin said...

You've reached middle age when your body doesn't respond to exercise and stairs the way it used to. And some things don't seem as important as they used to be.

Larry said...

I'm 54 but people think I'm in my forties, just because my hair hasn't grayed. I think you've reached middle age when most of the people you meet and the personages you see on TV are younger than you.

Another symptom is when a significant percentage of your peers have died prematurely. This makes me think "I've been lucky!", and vow to make the best of the time I have left.

fush and chips said...

Loved that description of the moment of looking in the mirror. I know just what you mean.

Bon weekend!

Susan said...

I read a quote to the effect that "we are always the same age inside"--and somehow I seem to be frozen in the thirtysomething years. At times I catch myself doing my happy dance and wonder "ohmygosh is this even appropriate for a 51-year old?" (but then, who cares?)Yesterday I raced a 10-year old around the track and gave her a solid run for her money.

But yes... it can be a shock to look at my hands and see the fragile skin or catch the brilliant gleam of silver hair in a dressing room mirror!

Susan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Boomka said...

The cherry blossoms are here! hazah! And that glass eye is so crazy. Very cool.

California Girl said...

My husband thinks middle age is when "you still remember what you can't do anymore." As for me, I think I'll go with my "age plus twenty years" idea.

lettuce said...

it is so weird reya, you're spot on.

our generation is so much less middle-aged than our parents were at our age - don't you think? for example I can't imagine sharing clothes, as a teenager, with my mother as I do with LG (though my mum was quite stylish). There used to be clearer demarcations between the generations I think.

Which makes it easy to forget that it probably felt just as weird for her

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