December 09, 2005

"What fresh hell is this?"

D. wrote/e-mailed: "I just had my 35th birthday last month. With all that was going on at the time -- finishing a dissertation, trying to get pregnant a second time, now that [D.] is earning a living wage and her partner can stay home and be the at-home mom to the child-to-be and the 2-year-old they already have -- [she] didn't really have time to realize that she is now MIDLIFE. What the hell?? When did that happen?"

"Whom the gods would destroy they would first make promising," wrote Cyril Connelly. When did we get to be 25, 35, 45? How did we make it this far, we drug-imbibing, neuron-frying children of the 1960s and 1970s?

Is 50 the new 40, as the magazines suggest? Alice counters: if 45 is the new 55, she is not long for that day she gets to call going-to-work quits. In real life, that's not going to happen quite along those lines, not given her place in the baby boomer lineup.

Personally, she has passed the "promising" mark, underachieving according to the dictates of her hard-wired chemical imbalance (not subject to post-partum, take-six-months-of-drugs- and-move-along-depression), not overachieving as she did with scholastic accomplishments that came so easily early in life.

"I'm kind of coming to grips with that middle-aged subject," said another friend. "I've just realized that I need to be concerned about things like heart disease, stuff like that. Especially since my sister recently had her second heart attack. It makes me feel very strange since in my head I'm only 40.

"Middle age *gasp* retirement *gasp*, I'll never see that because I won't be able to afford it. I wish I'd known [Alice] when I was 25!" (For hire, Alice does financial and retirement planning, in case you were wondering.)

In the past year Alice has seen several contemporaries suffer through breast cancer, and two so-called healthy men in their 40s drop dead of heart attacks, watched three marriages disintegrate, one at a cost of $100,000 in legal fees; another, quiet resignation; and the third, a bloodletting that would not go gentle into that good night.

That middle-aged thing? Dare I say, it sucks. Let me count the ways. Why is it every time I see a doctor, it is for a new medical mishap? Who knew there were so many body parts that could misalign and cause pain yet have me still sound healthy on paper?

Dating at 45: please, take these people out for dinner -- away from me.

D., if you had known me when I was 25, that would have been a decade before I got into financial planning -- when I was involved in torrid romance with my once-lover, now-again-friend CC. It would also have been pre-Prozac. I was studying history in grad school and working part-time as a editor.

Overall, that year was the best of times -- three months in Paris, a love affair that finally had traction -- and the worst: my grandmother, whom I loved dearly died, and my father went to rehab under threat of my mom's committing him, and around the new year, the torrid romance went south for good.

45 is, according to my genetic makeup, half the way there. Of course, I've been having nervous breakdowns and major depressions for so many years, who can tell the difference?

This is most definitely not my favorite season, no matter how many hours I put in under my SAD (seasonal affective disorder) lamp.

Medically, you can get tested for more potential diseases than ever before, and I don't think I want to know. (Yearly mammogram achieved; bone density test up next.) I cannot remember the source (French), but the saying is, "if youth but knew; if age could do."

And George Elliot: "If youth is the season of hope, it is often so only in the sense that our elders are hopeful about it: for no age is so apt as youth to think its emotions, partings and resolves are the last of their kind. Each crisis seems final, simply because it is new."

The "been there, done that" T-shirt is so old it's been cut into rags.


Blogger Janet said...

I think 50 is the new 40 and so on...depending on who you are talking to of course.

If you're under 25 anything over 40 I think they think 40 is still old, but as you get older you realize (or at least wishfully hope) middle age is further off then it really is. I don't know if they are ever going to totally reinvent the wheel on this one though.:(

10:42 AM  
Blogger The Misanthrope said...

Well, the government is counting on 65 being the new 55 and thus slowing the collecting of Social Security. The good news is we may be wanted as seniors to work since there were no baby booms that followed the first one.

As Jay Leno said, McDonalds is now hiring seniors. Great, one can now work flipping burgers from cradle to grave.

12:20 PM  

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