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Rant #305
(published November 23, 2006)
Middle Age
by Windy Harris
I see the signs of change all around me. Each day more gray hairs join the anti-brunette war being waged on my scalp. Is there no end to these new recruits? And yesterday while answering yet another on-line survey I came to a screeching halt. I don't know why I keep answering them. I never win the "fabulous prize" they claim is out there but I just can't help myself. Anyhow, I was shocked to realize I no longer get to mark the "25-35 yr. old" box. The next choice read "36-49 yr. old". 49?!? Are you kidding me? That category is clearly saying "middle-aged women check this box"! I can't be middle-aged. I don't feel any older than I did when I was in college. More tired maybe, but not older. Let me think: my first born is in junior high, I have been married for 15 years, I have to do a lot of sit-ups on that stupid yoga ball just to keep my pants from cutting off the circulation at my waist, invitations to 40th birthday parties come as often as my bank statements, and what is with the music these days?!? Oh crap. I think maybe I am middle-aged!

I was at my doctor's office recently to check into my fatigue issues and saw my "general health" file. My doctor has one of those high-tech computers in every room that records your weight and keeps track of any prescriptions, etc. I think the technology is great but it is just too impersonal, which leads me to what I saw on my "general health" posting. Here is how I am described in medical cyberspace: married female, two children, moderate drinker, homemaker, non-smoker. Does that really describe my life and how it affects my health? I mean, shouldn't my chart say: married to a neat freak, two pre-teen children, doesn't drink often enough, overworked and underpaid domestic goddess who used to smoke in the '80s but now only sneaks clove cigarettes with her friends a few times a year. Wouldn't that give my doctor the kind of information he really needs? I don't need a blood test. Just write me a prescription for a vacation.

Every Monday morning after the kiddos are finally off to school I meet with a group of fellow suburban moms for "coffee talk". We gather at a local breakfast shop and share stories about our week. Eventually the conversation comes around to getting older and how to avoid it. It is amazing how many products are out there to "cure" me of aging. Hair dyes, eye creams, facial peels, lip plumps, and the big "B" — Botox injections. Apparently wrinkles are so easy to fix these days that all you need is a few hundred bucks and a high tolerance for pain. I have seen the results on my friends and it is astonishing - once they are able to smile again, of course. I am certainly vain enough for Botox but needles freak me out. Really freak out. I am going to be the oldest looking 40 year old in my neighborhood.

The bikini question looms large these days as well: Am I too old for a tan tummy? Growing up on a quiet lake in Washington I used to wear a two-piece bathing suit all the time. I hated it. I never liked my skinny body and I was really self conscious but all the girls were wearing bikinis so I had one in every color too. Now I have post-childbirth curves and a little tummy pooch I call "Lois" but my self-worth has improved dramatically. I currently own 2 great bikinis and I wear them regularly.

I don't remember when I stopped hating my body but it is nice to realize that I have. I don't care that my thighs look lumpy when I go boating with my friends. I no longer suck in my tummy to fool others when I am having a fat day (Lois looks much smaller when I am standing up anyway). And I can't remember the last time I cut the tag out of my pants so I wasn't reminded of the size. When did I get to this place of acceptance? Aren't I supposed to be seeing a surgeon to "fix" me right about now?

I actually love the freedom that I have with this age. I am not expected to be cool anymore which is good since according to my kids this is impossible. I have found a style of my own. I can afford a good haircut now and none of my furniture is from my college days. I like to go to bed early . . . so I do. I can wear comfy shoes in public. I have friends who have been with me for over a decade. And I have finally outgrown acne!

This 30ish (okay, late-30ish) time of life is actually my favorite so far. I have never felt better. I don't need the praise of others to lift me up (although it is nice). Instead I check my life's progress in my own mirror at the end of each day while brushing my teeth. Did I really put my family first? Did I give back more than I took? Am I proud of the woman in the mirror? Did she get a hug today?

I think my only real problem with middle age is the title. It sounds like half-way to lilies and eulogies. I am way too young for that. Hmmmm . . . not middle-age but mellow age. Yeah, I like that much better.

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