Saturday, September 27, 2008

Creeping Middle Age

What's middle aged, anyway? If the average life expectancy in the U.S. is 77.6 years old, that means, the median "middle of life" is 38.8, a point I passed around June of this year. But little things creep up on you before the bald statistics.

Perhaps it first happens when you get beaten easily playing volleyball against a couple of 20-somethings, and your 40-something teammate turns to you and says, "Whaddya gonna do with a couple of old guys like us?"

Perhaps it's a shift in behaviors, as when you find yourself acting responsibly, doing square things like listening to the weather or the traffic report to decide how to dress or what route to take when you go to work in the morning. Or the moment when you realize that "hitting the bars for an all-nighter" sounds more like a headache than a good time. Or the moment when you realize you really have had one too many and mill around the bar for an hour or two, nursing a half-dozen waters before heading for your car.

Perhaps it's a moment when you talk to someone ten years younger than you and she doesn't get more than half of the pop-culture references you make in the conversation.

Perhaps it's when someone looks to you as the "voice of authority" on something.

Perhaps it's when your doctor tells you to lose some weight, and then hands you a couple additional prescriptions to cope with the joys and ravages of middle age and slightly-more-than-middle weight.

And yet the middle of life isn't necessarily such a bad thing. You've learned a lot by this point, and you're on the verge of your peak earning years. You can still do stuff like help your friends (or yourself) move, but later realize you probably shouldn't have. You know better who you are, what you like, what you can do, what your dreams are, and what sorts of things you will and won't accept from people. You're almost, but not quite, at the point where you feel comfortable being who you are and doing what you like to do. You know what sorts of things are bad for you and what things not to do. Usually. I know there are people who refuse to accept the forward winding of the clock. It's not just a matter of wearing clothes that don't fit the body or the age anymore. It's wearing attitudes and ideas that don't fit anymore that approaches the comical. For men it's the red sports car and the 25-year-old girlfriend. For women, it's the facelift, the miniskirt, and maybe the 25-year-old boyfriend. It's become known as the mid-life crisis, and it hits different people in different ways.

Personally, I'm cool with my age. But then the scary part about middle age probably doesn't hit until later. Accepting middle age means accepting that you're not a young whippersnapper capable of doing whatever the hell you want and then waking up with no pain or hangover or regrets the next morning. The scary part when you start feeling twinges of mortality, actual oldness. I'm not there yet. Just slowing down. And in the meantime, I'm in no rush to get the sports car, or the 25-year-old girlfriend. I mean, really now! As my parents used to tell me when I was young, "Act your age!"

1 comment:

lin said...

It's really not so awful being a grizzled veteran. I wear my old-time values like a badge. To me, I never want to be seen as an old guy in his second childhood. I simply cannot abide listening to an eighteen-year-old singing :I Did It My Way."

May your gods be with you.