My 11-year-old daughter often asks me if I “feel old.” Hell no, I tell her. I feel young. And I do. (It helps that I still eat Pop Tarts and, worse, enjoy them … but I digress.)
So while I’m fully on board with Joanne Bamberger’s recent post about how it’s really OK to look 50, there’s no denying that as we age, things start to change. Once, several years ago, I wrote a blog post entitled “Five Tangible Signs You’re Middle Aged.” I looked at it again recently and decided that while it was (still) remarkably relevant, it was time to expand on it and bring it up to date.
Herewith, my top ten signs you’re turning 50:
1.You start re-reading classics. I’m a big believer in the value of re-reading. But while in Waterstone’s the other day (UK equivalent of Borders), I saw a bookmark entitled “50 Books To Read Before You Die.” And suddenly I had this panic attack that I hadn’t read every single book on the list. As it happened, I was already re-reading Wuthering Heights for my book group. But as soon as I saw that bookmark, I ran back to embrace Heathcliff with reckless abandon.
2.You leave parties before Midnight. I remember once taking this personality test which asked, “Do you leave parties before or after midnight?” I dismissed the question entirely because at that point in my life, I didn’t show up to parties until after midnight. Boy, how times have changed. And it’s not just that I now have to pay a sitter when I go out. I actually find myself craving the solitude of…well, Heathcliff.
3. You decline alcohol because you need to exercise the next day. OK, in truth I don’t do this all that much. But I do restrain myself far more than I once did. For heaven’s sake, I used to smoke a cigarette *after* returning from a run. Or go running…to escape a hangover. Now my aging body does the mental calculation of how that morning run will feel after just one glass of wine and I find myself re-considering.
4. You start renting BBC Mini-Series. It’s one of those sad truths of parenting that once you have kids, you never go out to movies anymore. My husband and I thought we’d be different from everyone else on this score but, of course, we’re not. Sure, we go see a few of the big hits every year. I’m too much of an Oscar fan to skip those. But most of the time we rent movies about six months behind their release date. Lately, however, we have found ourselves renting assorted BBC mini-series that ran – gasp – back in the ’80s. Worse, we find them bizarrely addictive. Don’t believe me? Check out House of Cards (the British one). Tell me if you’re not hooked after Episode One.
5. You buy that Joni Mitchell album. You know that one – Both Sides Now – where she goes back and sings…Both Sides Now, except that her tone’s a little more plaintive, a little more somber, a little more…middle-aged. Worse, you buy it because you saw it featured in Love, Actually in that scene with Emma Thompson crying in the bedroom. And it’s haunted you ever since. Admit it. It has.
6. You start taking vitamins. Don’t know about you, but if I could encapsulate my childhood in one visual snapshot, it would be that small glass of orange juice sitting on the kitchen table in my suburban New Jersey home with a tiny, red multi-vitamin placed delicately next to it. The vitamin would just sit there, day after day, because much as my mother tried, I simply wasn’t interested in eating it. Who thinks about vitamins when they’re 10? Fast forward forty years and our kitchen table in London looks like a veritable pharmacy. I regularly down zinc, biotin and assorted translucent pills that allegedly make your cholesterol go down – and that’s just the morning routine! Somehow I cling to the fantasy that if I quintuple my vitamin intake now, I might actually make up for all those fallow years.
7. You are unable to decipher acronyms. I fancy myself a fairly hip middle-aged person, if “hip” means that I use social media regularly and have a young spirit. But when a colleague emailed the other day to compliment me for being very WYSIWYG, I was absolutely flummoxed. I had to resort to Facebook to ask my friends to clue me in. (Fellow travelers: it stands for what you see is what you get).
8. You need braces. Again. I was proud to be the very first person in my 5th grade class in Ridgewood, New Jersey to need braces. I thought I was ahead of the curve. But when I recently discovered that my teeth clenching had progressed to the state where I was actually physically moving my teeth, I was really bummed. Seriously? You can need braces twice? Who on earth can afford to pay for braces more than once in their lives? Thank goodness for those new mail order braces.
9. You replace concerts with readings by Public Radio personalities. I just learned that David Sedaris is doing a reading in London later this year. We went to see him a few years ago and loved his performance. Ditto Garrison Keillor. (Maybe the sign isn’t that you do this…it’s that you talk about it?)
10. You start running to Joni Mitchell. See number 5. Nuff’ said.
Delia Lloyd is an American writer based in London. She blogs about adulthood at realdelia.com.