In the 1960s, it was us Baby Boomers who made getting older unpopular by starting the youth culture revolution and by coining phrases like “Don’t trust anyone over 30.” But when we started getting older we came up with contradictory slogans like “40 is the new 30” and “You’re only as old as you feel.”
Aging is like being the victim of a violent crime – you never think it’s going to happen to you.
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, was potentially a new condition 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 – Now 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, and I fear I’m beginning to look like an extra on The Walking Dead.
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 becomes 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 telling the same old jokes and will think they’re 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. Perhaps the female body should come with warning labels that read like they do on those pharmaceutical commercials.
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.)
Actually, men are also subject to menopause, although no man has ever realized it or admitted having it before we launched this Manopause website. Our 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” and “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 very business-like and is most often used by gay couples. “Significant other” is another commonly used term but that sounds forced and like one of them is avoiding commitment.
In spite of it all, there are many benefits to getting older. (Other than just — it beats the alternative.) It wasn’t until my 40s when I finally felt comfortable in my own skin. In my younger days, 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 prove anything to anyone anymore.
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 70s. So take a deep breath, have a good look around and drink up!
As the great philosopher Richard Gere once said, “Don’t regret growing older. It’s a privilege denied to many.” I’m 63 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 then I’m looking forward to them.
Here’s a little ditty that sums up things nicely.