Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Perils and Perks of Aging

Middle age is fraught with unpleasantness. Your body begins to turn on you in vicious and previously unimagined ways. Your adult children make known their grievances. If you are a woman, you become invisible to males under the age of forty. Despite being the high point of Sunday nights, “Mad Men” makes you wonder for the first time in years what your parents’ sex lives were really like.

This is not to say that being middle-aged is without benefits. There are a lot of things I like about being fifty-two. There’s the fact that I no longer bleed on a monthly basis. That’s something. And I like not having to pretend to enjoy rock concerts anymore. Plus, there is the fact that I know all kinds of things of which younger people are ignorant: which actors played the brothers on “Here Come the Brides,” for instance, and what it was like to ride a bike without a helmet, and how it felt to be able to wander your neighborhood entirely beyond the reach of the parental units, who were unabashedly thrilled to be rid of you.

But it is safe to say that, in general, being “of a certain age” sucks ass. I’ve asked my friends, and most of them say that they hate the changes in their physical appearance, the increasing number of doctors’ appointments penciled in on their calendars, the realization that they can no longer run as far or as fast as they used to, the sense of being “peripheralized” by the media (and teenage girls), the notion that the world is really intended for younger people, the fading of memories, the way newsprint seems to get smaller and blurrier, the ever-increasing number of pills on the nightstand. There’s no denying it. No one would choose to age if the other available option was Stay Young Forever.

So I’ve decided to remind myself, on a regular and public basis, of some of the nice things that have happened to me since I’ve turned fifty. To wit:

--My daughter was graduated from high school;
--My son was graduated from college and had relatively little trouble finding a job with a salary that allows him to pay his own bills;
--I saw Paris for the first time with someone I love;
--I sold my house for more than it was objectively worth, in time to avoid the recent economic collapse;
--I moved in with my boyfriend (which brings to mind yet another indignity associated with aging: the absence of a reasonable word with which to refer to one’s significant other when one is over the age of thirty and unmarried);
--I now live in a beautiful part of the world that features fog, crashing surf, pelicans, sea lions, a non-working lighthouse, and KPIG reception;
--My colonoscopy was clean;
--My kids usually pick up their phones when I call;
--I have a new book coming out early next year;
--I read Amy Bloom’s AWAY;
--I am currently planning my mother’s ninetieth birthday celebration;
--I am still able to wear the same size jeans that I’ve worn for ten years.

That’s twelve things to be happy about, my ever-threatening physical decline notwithstanding. That’s not bad.

I will try to remember all this tomorrow as I stand in line at the pharmacy, waiting to refill three prescriptions and buy new reading glasses to replace the ones I’ve unaccountably misplaced.

1 comment:

  1. I, too, think the word for one's partner one is not married to cannot just be boyfriend or girlfriend. There is too much frivolity and too little richness and depth in that word. My favorite is "my beloved."

    It makes me smile that you are planning your mom's 90th birthday and makes me envious that you can wear the same size jeans.

    Wonderful blog, Gina