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Cholesterol and Cartwheels

On the Contradiction of Middle Age

By Misty RaePublished 2 years ago Updated 2 years ago 5 min read
Me, doing what I do

Here’s the thing about time, they tell you that it flies, but they don’t tell you the other part. Sure, it flies, but oddly enough, it also stands completely still. Well, maybe not completely, but almost. It’s a strange contradiction, or more accurately, series of contradictions, that pop up sometime after 40 and really makes itself known once you hit 50. Somehow, I find myself stuck somewhere between young ingénue and cranky old lady. It’s a fine and strange line to straddle. Here are some examples:

1. Seriously, NOW I’m hot?

I never received a memo on this. Nobody warned me about it, but apparently, I got hot. That’s funny in and of itself for several reasons, which I’ll get to in due course. I was never ugly. I was never beautiful. I was a cute, nerdy girl who basically dreamed of being noticed by the boys, but wasn’t. Fast forward the clock 35 years and the boys won’t leave me alone! I mean this seriously. Will. Not. Leave. Me. Alone. Apparently all I needed were a few lines around my eyes, and 20 extra pounds. Now, I’m happily married and just wanting to go about my day without any fuss. The attention, while sometimes complimentary, is more often than not, a nuisance. Where were all these fellas when I was 18? Also, why do they all look like old men? Even worse, when are they going to stop? There’s an odd awareness that this “cuteness” has a shelf-life, and a relatively short one, at this age. I mean, I don’t want the attention, but I don’t DON’T want it either.

2. Can I See Some ID?/ Can I Help You, Ma’am?

Yet another fun fact when you’re straddling the middle ground, you never know whether someone’s going to see you as young or old. Go out all dolled up, feeling cute, and invariably, you’ll be treated with the reverence reserved for our most senior of citizens. Crawl out in shorts, a t-shirt and throw a baseball cap over a messy head of hair to buy some beer, you’ll be asked for ID and giggle as the bemused clerk tries to do the mental math when faced with a birthdate from a century he’s only read about in books (well, online, do young people even read books? Sorry, I digress, that’s another article.).

3. Turn Down That Awful Noise!/Crank Up My Jam!

I’ll admit it, I’ve become one of “them.” You know who I mean, the “olds,” the same people that yelled at us to “turn down that awful racket.” They bitched and moaned about how music was so much better in their day. I even had a French teacher in junior high school, Mme. Zaruchya that used to tell us, as we’d blast our music on whoever's portable stereo was available, “ce n’est pas de la musique, c’est du bruit.” In other words, “that’s not music, it’s noise. Oh, the indignation we felt; the absolute nerve of them calling our treasured tunes noise!

Now, I’m the guilty party. I don’t get the music that kids listen to now. I don’t understand the appeal of Justin Bieber or Zendaya or whoever else is hot. I’m not sure when The Weekend became a singer and not just those 2 days at the end of the week and I’m often tempted to start my own band called “Work Week,” but you get the idea. When my kids would blast their tunes, I’d hear my parents’ voices shooting out of my mouth, demanding the offensive onslaught be ceased immediately. If any of it comes on, I turn it down or off.

But, you give me some Jimi Jamison, George Michael, Journey, Aretha, Tina, or anything else from MY era, and I’ll crank that shit up and party like it’s 1999!

4. Fear and Loathing in Midlife

Okay, it’s not really fear and loathing, but admit it, it was a catchy heading. Getting to this age has made me simultaneously terrified and fearless. I’ll start with fearless first.

There’s a freedom that comes with growing older. We begin to realize that what others think of us is of little, if any consequence, and what really matters is our satisfaction, along with that of our families. That freedom allows us to do things we only dreamed of before. I wore my first bikini at 40. I shared my first written work at 48. I leave the house without makeup and the world has never caved in on me. Bra? No thank you, it’s 35 degrees, you worry about your boobs, I’ll worry about mine. I act silly in public. I do cartwheels in the park and at the gym. It’s all good.

Well, it’s all good, sort of. There’s another side to the coin, the fear. Every ache, every pain, every strange feeling somehow became a potential symptom. Sore arm, oh crap, is this a sign of clogged arteries? Better eat more oatmeal just in case. Tired after a run, is a heart attack looming? What’s this bruise? I don’t remember hitting my leg there! And what’s this insomnia and sweating? Menopause, certain death, what? The fear is real, and it’s scary.

5. Life and Death

This one isn’t funny. I feel very much alive, in fact, more alive than I have in ages. I feel young and vibrant and useful and like I have at least another 50 years in me. But many don’t get to enjoy the privilege of getting older. It’s hard enough to watch our heroes, the people we looked up to, get older and die. They’re somehow frozen in time in our minds, preserved just as they were, so it always shakes us up a bit.

But even worse are the more personal losses. At this age, we begin to see, or read about our classmates’ deaths or illnesses. These are our pals, people we knew, people our age. I think I’ve counted 14 people that I went to school with that have passed on. Each time it’s sad, shocking, completely unexpected and leaves me thinking, “but they were only (insert age here).” I’m over here, living my best life, as they say, acting foolish, writing my little stories and doing acrobatics while my entire youth seems to be dying off all around me. And it sucks and I’m not ready.

All that said, I wouldn’t trade my life now for a model with less “mileage.” Sure, I go from creeping former rivals on Facebook and giggling with glee at how much older they look to freaking out about the latest fine line, sagging part or 5 pounds. Who we are is the sum total of our experiences, the good, bad and the ugly. There’s been plenty of all 3, and it may have taken 50 years, but I turned out pretty good.

* Originally posted on Medium


About the Creator

Misty Rae

Retired legal eagle, nature love, wife, mother of boys and cats, chef, and trying to learn to play the guitar. I play with paint and words. Living my "middle years" like a teenager and loving every second of it!

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