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]
Forget drinking to get drunk, I don’t even drink anymore. 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.