Wikipedia, that font of all Actual Knowlegeable Factoid Stuff, tells us that worldwide, the average life expectancy at birth for women is 72 years and 8 months. If my fading grasp of anything mathematical is correct, then the middle of this would be 36 years and 4 months. Yes, yes I did use the calculator app on my phone for that, ok.
I don’t think many 36 year olds would consider themselves to be middle aged, by any standards, although I had my 3rd child at that age, and was single, with 5 and 8 year old boys at home, so I felt around 150 years old at the time. Fortunately, I’ve totally blocked that entire year and most of the next one from my mind. But, I digress.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines middle age as, “the period of life from about 45 to 64”. I think that’s probably about right, going by current usage of the term.
What I’m wondering is does how old a person actually feels come into it at all? I turned 48 last month, still don’t make my bed and haven’t decided what I want to be when I grow up. I know other women my age who have fabulous careers, perfect houses, stock portfolios and can keep house plants alive. They seem much more grown up than I feel.
I have 99% pure white hair under the home dye job (thanks, dad’s side of the family) and the wrinkles any woman who grew up slathered in baby oil on the beach deserves, so I think I *look* my age, but I don’t feel it. I feel chaotic, disorganised, disheveled and, well, rather juvenile in many ways. I adore YA fiction, anything make-believe, wearing mismatched socks (well, that may be more due to the disorganised thing) and rolling down grassy hills with my dog. I see immaculate, professional women in heels and despair that I am simply not that “together”.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I can pull off a classy suit and heels (as long as I don’t have to walk in them) with the best of them, and I’m slowly getting the hang of the GHD hair straightener and lipliner. Liquid eyeliner will always be beyond me, though. I can hold a decent conversation with pretty much anyone and rock at trivia quizzes. I can plan a wedding or flashy event for 500 people from start to finish, crochet, sort of quilt and type at over 100 wpm. What I’m saying is that I do have some great grown up skills, but I still don’t feel like a grown up inside.
In the last 2 weeks I had the amazing opportunity to travel to where I grew up and catch up with high school besties for the first time in 20 years, and we all commented on how we were all just “The Same, But Older”. We hung out on the beach, drank cocktails and even did karaoke. Yes – there is evidence, and here it is.
We were all 20 years older, but we were still US, and that really shouldn’t have surprised any of us as much as it did. Some have had kids, others haven’t. Some have great careers, others are me. Yes, we all had a few more grey hairs, a few more lines, a few more pounds here and there, but deep down, nothing had really changed. I don’t mind telling you that I was basically crapping myself going home after so long to catch up with everyone. I was terrified that everyone else would have grown up except me! And they had, but not all the way. And when I talked about my last 20 years with them I realised that I have, just a li’l bit, too.
This post has kind of strayed from where I intended it to go, but I’m ok with that. I stray a lot. My teachers at school called it “waffling”, but pshaw, what do they know?
So, back to my point, what is middle age, anyway? On a more serious note, I think for many women it’s when society (and employers in particular) start treating you like you’re semi-invisible. You’re not the target market, or they consider you a bit “past it” for some job roles. As a former wedding and event planner, this is very much the case. Venues seem to want young, hip event planners to project a young, hip image, and experience be damned. Resentful, much? Hell to the yes, and that’s basically the whole raison d’etre for this blog. I might not be young or hip, but I am very much alive and have a shitload to offer, including hips.
So middle age for me, anyway, is more how I am viewed by others, I think. And I’m not going to take that lying down (unless my back plays up). I welcome getting older and all that comes with it, but damned if I’m going to quietly drift into some faded shadow of my former self. My former self wouldn’t have had the guts to tell society to go to hell, but middle aged me not only has slightly larger guts, but isn’t afraid to use them.
She also makes a mean top shelf margarita.
What does middle age mean for you? Is it an age, a stage, a phase or something else? How have you addressed it, or don’t you even acknowledge the term at all? Please do comment below and share your thoughts, I’d love to hear them.