Arriving at the milestone of being middle-aged is more about one’s own mind set than an actual age. At least, that’s what I kept telling myself. I also explained this to my husband when he made a comment about my recent banter with a college-age babysitter. “You talk like you graduated college last year, not two decades ago!” It seemed impossible that the memories I kept of nights out with friends and on warm, sunny days spent on the college quad was that long ago. It seems like only yesterday my roommate and I sat in her car, outside a fraternity party that was only serving beer, attempting to use a pen to open a bottle of wine. I mostly remember the laughter. Those days often seem more memorable than my last weekend when we shuffled kids here and there, attended several sporting events for each child, completed a few weekend obligations, went out with friends but came home before our teenagers, and then crawled into bed, exhausted, by Sunday evening!
Okay, back to the day I learned I was middle-aged. Getting ready for a trip to Boston with my family sealed the deal. I stood in front of my closet, pondering what to wear. It was a typical first of Spring day, sunny but still cold. A floral-print blouse with a pop of bright color along with my new peek-toe shoes beckoned me closer. The other outfit choices consisted of the same drab items I had worn all winter — a long gray sweater, my heavy calf-length parka and tall boots. Dilemma ensued.
I slipped on my short leather jacket. I already felt like I was stepping into that city vibe. Then, I pondered my shoe selection again. I looked at the taupe suede shoes I had just purchased for this season. I loved the wedge heel and ankle strap. As I began to put on one shoe, a pounding began in my chest. I thought it was excitement until I realized there was one word bursting to come out of my mouth. I wasn’t sure what it was until I blurted out, “Comfort! I want comfort!” It felt like I had just been punched in the gut. Comfort was not a word that rolled off the tongue of a young, hip mom. Comfort was a word my mother would have used, when I was little and she was old. A long time ago. Now she was much closer to my age and just seemed wise. Comfort. It was suddenly the most important aspect of selecting my clothes for this trip!
It was then I knew I had crossed the invisible threshold into middle aged. I had a moment of silence for my youth. I thought I would have mourned more, but I think we had all seen the tell-tale signs: the wearing of black yoga pants day after day, the increasing crease on my forehead, and a new pair of every day glasses. Now that I had stepped into middle-aged, so many things suddenly become clear. For example, I suddenly understood why my mom had to do the math when someone asked her how old she was, why my mother-in-law needed more light to see the menu at restaurants, and why both of them agreed gravity was a bad thing. I finally appreciated my mother’s habit of purchasing the exact same pair of shoes when an old pair needed to be replaced or why she would purchase a well-fitting shirt in several different colors. I wasn’t too thrilled that I also gained a new resting place for my folded arms (although, to be honest, I wasn’t sure which parts were holding up which.)
As I stood dressed in my ankle-boots, blouse, and jeans, I smiled, both comfortable and ready for this next chapter. After all, I had learned a few things along the way. “Middle age” gave me permission to expose my real super powers. For example, I did not apologize for giving “the look” or when I gracefully said no. I viewed this world with a larger and wider lens than I did in my yesteryears. I had an inner knowing, which was from the culmination of all my life stories. I also learned how to use my superpowers for good and not evil and how to only reveal them when necessary.
Being middle-aged also gave me a bravado I didn’t have in my thirties. I started to feel more confident in who I was becoming and felt relieved that I didn’t need to push so hard to fit into a certain mold. I had envisioned I would kick and scream into being middle-aged, but here it was in all its glory. Don’t get me wrong. I wish I didn’t suddenly understand and commiserate with phrases like “I will pass on dessert- I would rather drink my calories” or “unwanted gray hairs sprout in the oddest places” or “Is Botox really that bad for you?” It is just that there are so many daily reminders that this time is not owed to us. It is precious time that is not always handed out to everyone. It is definitely not a given.
As we drove home the next day from our adventurous trip, the kids enjoyed being plugged into their phones and other devices, as my husband and I tackled real-world problems in the front seat. My favorite discussion being that of paint colors for our new home. My husband was hesitant to paint any of the rooms beyond pale yellow or light beige, preferring slightly off-white colors for the entire house. “Honey,” I started, “did I tell you about this study I recently read? It said that painting the master bathroom a brighter color resulted in couples having more sex. Who knew?” Suddenly, my salmon pink paint color seemed like the most obvious choice. I think I am going to like being middle-aged.