My sister-in-law refers to aging as the ability to see ‘the end of the conveyor belt.’ While I still have the horizon in my vista (as does she!), I’d be lying if I said that some of the conversations in my head weren’t thinking along those lines. “How many cars do I have in my future?” “If this latex mattress is supposed to last 15 years, I may only have to buy a couple more so probably a good investment” or “I may only have one more shot at the home of my dreams, before it’s into the home of jello lunches and nightly bingo so do I want the blue pearl or ubatuba granite in the kitchen?” As you can imagine, those thoughts are a little stressful. I don’t want to make the wrong choice and be stuck staring at ubatuba in my twilight years. All this confirms is that I’m feeling very middle aged. Actually—probably a little more like middle aged crazy (MAC). And, trying to do the math of consumer spending is just the beginning.
Lucky for us, the transition to middle age has a whole host of challenges to entertain. In the past, happy hour conversations revolved around vacations. Now they revolve around retirement locations. XXL will ask me over a glass of chardonnay—“so what’s our next step? Where do we go from here?” Wow. I thought marriage was a big commitment, but retirement planning kinda blows that out of the water. Where do you decide to live out the rest of your dreams? Mountains? Beach? For a girl who has never lived outside of Virginia—and by Virginia, I mean Northern VA, that’s a mind blower. Heck—I only have two passport stamps. I love hearing other people’s plans—some of whom have their plan all mapped out like my friend Peggie. She knows she wants to go to Arizona. She has a whole state already. I worry because XXL can have strong debates over where to go for dinner. How in the world are we going to narrow down retirement destinations? North Carolina? Not sure I like barbeque that much. Georgia? Sounds hot. Florida? All those kids and blue hairs? We would be the retirement tweens.
While on some levels, I feel like I’ve still ‘got it,’ I’m starting to lose my grasp on what ‘it’ actually is. I’m still pretty cool to people in their twenties, but they don’t invite me to their parties or happy hours. I joined the running club at work, and I’m the caboose. After a long run last week, I mentioned the need for some Ben Gay, and no one knew what I meant. Sigh. I’m on Facebook, but I don’t tweet or post on Instagram. With all these doctor appointments, who has the time? I find myself cursing the manufacturers who make clear bottles with white print. Who on earth can read that? I swear if my hair falls out because I couldn’t read the shampoo bottle, I’m suing. And—I’m old enough that I actually have an attorney.
This may be the summer that I give up shorts because of spider veins and crepe paper skin, but that thought is too depressing. I’m trying to convince myself that it’s just the particular angle that I’m seeing them that makes them look so bad. If you see me in shorts, consider yourself warned. I’m not really obsessing over wrinkles or gray hair or rooster neck. I like to think my newfound beauty marks add character. The new morning aches and pains do make me a little sad. I used to wake up and do a little yoga. Now I wake up and squat on the commode and consider that part of my practice. I’m actually starting to master the stand up position because getting up feels a bit too intermediate and I don’t want to push myself.
Not sure about the rest of you Gen X’ers, but this is hard for me. I was the youngest of four, and the youngest cousin of my extended family. I was also generally the youngest among my friends and co-workers. No one refers to me as ‘kid’ any longer. When did that happen? I still have to remind myself that I’m actually a grown up when faced with decisions such as do I buy this adorable one-of-a-kind Italian leather handbag or pay my AMEX bill? Or—do I purchase tickets to Bon Jovi even though it’s the night before my scheduled presentation to the Board? Being a grown up is highly overrated.
Of course, there are many positives to this chapter. I know longer worry about paying cover charges—I’m in bed way before those start. I actually have real-life experiences that guide decisions and conversations. It’s only a matter of time before I start getting discounted movie tickets and memberships to AAA and preferential seating on public transportation. I’ll probably never have to take another entry-level position. I can afford to pay someone to do the things I don’t excel at like cleaning the house and hemming my pants. While I’m starting to get invites to botox parties (eeks!), I’m usually still the first person on the dance floor at any given party (no videos, please).
Aging doesn’t have to be a bad thing. I am privileged to know a lot of cool baby boomers who really changed the way we think about the conveyor belt. Thanks to them, I know it’s possible to enter this period not only with grace and dignity, but also with styles, power, strength and beauty, with perhaps a tinge of MAC. Let’s face it. A little dose of crazy is what keeps us young.
Written by: Lori Welch Brown