Happy Birthday! Welcome to Obsolescence!

The other day was my birthday, and I turned 38.

I don’t mind turning 38. I don’t even mind the fact that in two years, I’ll be turning 40. But with that milestone, comes the much-maligned label of ‘middle-aged’. And I hate that.

I don’t actually hate middle age at all. I hate what we’re told it represents: in middle age, you’re no longer ‘cool’. You’re past it. You lack youthful attractiveness; you lack sex appeal. You are less employable. You are less flexible. You are on the downhill slide towards old age (when, if these representations are to be believed, things REALLY turn for the worst)!

But that isn’t my reality. I think this is an awesome age to be. Of course, in some ways, I have embraced what it is to be ‘old’. Examples, you say? Oh, but there are so many…

It’s too loud.[Source]

I get excited about saving money when shopping at the supermarket.

Forget drinking to get drunk, I don’t even drink anymore. Β Apparently, I get a hangover after even 1/4 glass champagne, now?[Source]

I need glasses. In fact, I’ve had glasses since I was about five, but that was for a lazy eye. I could rely on my good eye most of the time and it got me through. Alas, no longer.[Source]

Time flies. I look back over just the last ten years, and even though they’re full of memories, it seems to have passed so quickly.[Source]

Physically, I’m able to do pretty much all that I’d like to do, handstands notwithstanding (although I impressed First Offspring the other day by managing to do a cartwheel)! Granted, I’m a bit creakier than I used to be, and the muskelkater I’m getting, now I’ve started running again, is a bit more intense than it used to be. I accept that I may not be as spritely as I was twenty years ago. But there are other good things about this age. I’m embracing what I want to do with my life. I feel empowered, strong, in my prime. I stumbled across I am Woman in a stack of records in a second-hand shop recently, and read the lyrics on the back, and while I’ve always felt a bit of a kinship with this song, I realised that now, at this point in my life, I can really identify with it.

I know it’s become a bit of a cliche, but nevertheless, I am that woman. I am much stronger than I was in my youth. Everything from surviving workplace bullying to enduring childbirth to living on a tight budget has given me life experience and self-confidence. Compared to the woman I was twenty years ago, I am less judgemental, more compassionate. I’m less impulsive and more empassioned. I might lack the dazzling optimism of youth, but I retain an optimistic worldview. I feel as though I can effect change. I have more patience. I like my body more. I like myself more.

Middle age brings to mind overweight men in suits, on the brink of heart failure due to overwork and unhealthy lifestyles. It evokes images of tired women, malcontent in their relationships or their jobs, but unable to leave because they’re invested financially or emotionally and have the care of children to consider. Middle age makes me think of people in despair and drudgery.

The stereotype is unflattering and mostly untrue. While I’m sure there are unhappy, unhealthy middle-aged people, you can be those things at any age. It’s not news that as a society, we have an obsession with youth and unblemished physical attractiveness, but such superficiality ignores the value of age and experience, and also diminishes any deeper contribution young people might be able to make, by simply writing them off as immature. Nobody wins! Life can throw you a curve ball, whichever age you’re at, but in middle age, at least I have more tools at my disposal to cope. I may have many more wrinkles and grey hair and stretch marks than before, I may lack sex appeal and be uncool… but all of that is on the surface. In middle age, I am a complete person, not a shiny outer shell. I can express my opinion to someone in authority, without breaking into a cold sweat. I can disagree with someone and not feel like it’s the end of the world if my opinion is not shared. Middle age is not what it is cracked up to be, it’s better.

I’m genuinely happy to be where I am, right now. Whatever negative light the media or my society wants to shine on middle age, I am quite prepared to embrace it. After all, if this is middle age, then if all goes well, I can expect another 38 years, right? Just think what I can do with that, now that I’ve got a bit of a handle on things.


31 thoughts on “Happy Birthday! Welcome to Obsolescence!

  1. Seems to me that those who paint the picture society sees of middle age, are those who’ve yet to experience it. Which is kind of weird when you think about it.

    • It is kind of weird. I think a lot of it is projection, as well. What’s important in one stage of your life just really isn’t, in another, and in a way, you can’t imagine that, before it happens.

  2. I can identify with your post apart from the drink, I just have to sniff the cork! Seriously, how old do you have to be for middle age these days? With people living longer, surely middle age should start later? I’m 58, so well past it (whatever IT is), but I’m happy with my life. It’s just other (and younger people) that mess things up!

    • Heh, I don’t know about younger people messing up my life πŸ˜€ but I’m pretty certain I must be getting close to halfway. If I get to 80, I think I’ll be content. Although I may change my mind when I’m 80!

  3. I am 38 this year too. I am totally happy with approaching middle age, apart from the fact that I ache all the time – i think (hope) that’s more to do with having three little kids. Ill let you know!

    • Ooh, I know what you mean. Thank goodness my youngest is much better at walking now. He weighs a ton, and I really notice it the next day if I have to carry him for any length of time.

  4. Dear Young Puppy:
    Get over yourself, enough with the adolescent angst. It is only at forty that one becomes an actual adult. (Yeah, stop waving the kid at me. I know, ya got 4 kids. Children having children…) The forties are the best years. You are young enough to have vigor and energy, but old enough to have (the beginnings of) wisdom. Enjoy.

    • If I’m a young puppy, I guess that makes you an old dog? You know what they say about new tricks…

      No angst on my part πŸ™‚ I’m looking forward to my forties! Bring it on πŸ˜€

      • Although “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” you can indeed have the old dog teach the young dogs old tricks. That is my role at McGill, and apparently my role here. Happy to help. If you’re good, you can even have a doggie biscuit (um, I believe you call that “tea and cake” in your parts).

  5. Addendum: Since am about to have a new puppy of my own, perforce I will be learning new tricks. Contrary to what you wet-behind-the-ears, young whippersnapper, puppies think, some of us are capable of learning and adapting at any age. Remember: “old age and experience will beat youth and energy every time.”

    • β€œold age and experience will beat youth and energy every time.”

      Yeah… unfortunately, there are a few exceptions to that, and functioning on massive sleep debt is one of them ;P

      However, I’m sure your Offspring will be entirely cherubic and give you no trouble at all in this regard!

  6. My 40th year was my most empowering until I reached 50! Enjoy each year as they come. It’s all good.
    Oh Yeah, I hope you had an great birthday and I hope you have an even awesomer year!

    • Thank you! I’m glad to be in the Club!

      I just started Couch25k again, and am finding it much easier this time round. I’m in Week 2 (which I will probably do for a couple of weeks) and it’s great. Already feeling a lot happier, now I can get out running 2-3 times a week πŸ˜€

  7. Happy Belated Birthday Rebeca. Love reading your blog it is such a privilege. I’m looking forward to a book in the future. Love A Ida ox

  8. I think that’s a very honest and refreshing outlook on the labels of age. As we grow, we learn that society has developed all these labels and categories for things (mostly to make sense of it), but have misused the idea; it’s now causing more harm than good, more solitude than community, and affecting how people see themselves… there’s no reason for that kind of limitation, and it is nice to see someone step out of the stampede…

    • Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I think it’s very easy to accept these ideas about what we think people should be like or act like, until we realise that WE’RE that age now, and we don’t want to be or act that way at all!

      • Yes… but sometimes we find ourselves doing/acting that way, and realize that there was a reason all along that “those people” did/acted that way. If you disagree, think of the number of times you heard yourself saying something to your children that you swore you’d never do when you were a parent.

      • Haha, oh absolutely! And there are other parts of growing older which I didn’t think I would embrace (the resistance to loud music is one) but which I can fully appreciate now.

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