I am not having a mid-life crisis. Really, I’m not. In spite of what I know has at least crossed the minds of those closest to me. It is not true.
I vividly remember the exact space and time coordinates I was occupying the very first time I heard someone refer to me as middle-aged. I was attending an early summer cocktail party in a friend’s backyard in Stepford. I was thirty-six years old, lightly tanned, and was wearing a denim sundress with white sandals. My hair, freshly colored, was twisted into a loose knot at the base of my neck, my bangs tucked neatly behind my left ear. After spending the afternoon in the pedicure chair, my toes were freshly painted metallic blue. My lips were sporting Philosophy’s latest flavor of lip gloss. I had been back at the gym for eight months, my younger child being two and a half, and was at a very good place regarding my body. I was about two-thirds into my second martini when the conversation turned to grey hair. And as tends to happen half way through martini number two, the filter between my brain and my tongue began to intermittently fail. I proceeded to make a comment that was overheard by a Stepford husband who was sitting about three feet away on the patio. (It’s possible I misjudged the volume of my voice. It happens.) My comment was something to the effect of, “I don’t really mind having to color my hair. But the grey pubic hair I discovered last week is over the top. Who knew that could happen?” And as will typically happen at Stepford cocktail parties, I received the appropriate outrage and sympathy to the plight of a greying pubic patch, but no admission from any of the other Stepford Wives that they had experienced such a ghastly event. (I suspected this had more to do with the prevalence of bikini waxes than me being the only person with the issue.)
After a couple of moments, I became aware that the husband sitting on the patio was not so subtly laughing to himself about our conversation. Not a very clever way, in my opinion, to join the conversation, but I had never in the past thought him clever so I was not surprised. I had always considered this particular husband a voyeur of sorts—you know the type—always lurking around the edges of a party for an opportunistic nugget of gossip, always turning up in the butler’s pantry at the same time as you saying something lame like, “Oh, excuse me ... tight fit in here.” Yeah, dude, something like that. So, I turn to him while finishing off the last third of my martini in one unladylike sip and say, “And what exactly is it that is so amusing to you over on the patio all by your lonesome?” My friends are silent, recognizing the cross hairs of my glare. Mr. Voyeur says, “Oh, I just love hearing middle-aged women talk when they are drinking.” Okay, the dude not only lacks cleverness but has apparently mistaken me for my mother. Not good. What followed was an informational session that I was not, nor would I be anytime soon, middle-aged. At that, I flip-flopped my white sandals and sundress off across the lawn in search of martini number three. This was almost six years ago. Me? I’m still not middle-aged. Mr. Voyeur is now divorced (something about an Internet porn addiction that his wife found intolerable) and extremely active and repentant in his uber-conservative mega-church. I haven’t seen him at a cocktail party in quite sometime.
Which all brings me back to this ridiculous notion of middle age. What is that anyway? First of all, I plan to live until I’m one hundred and twenty, so if we’re being technical about it, I won’t be middle-aged until I’m sixty. An when I’m sixty what if I still feel, as I do now, as good as I did at twenty-five? And what if my mind, as it has so far, continues to become sharper with age? And why exactly does my newly uncovered voice have to be labeled as something as negative as a mid-life crisis? I’m not in crisis. I think the real mid-life crisis is when NOTHING different happens to you after acquiring all the knowledge that surely must be gleaned in every life by just the living of it. Would not it be a crisis to have lived, learned, and grieved over a period of forty plus years and have absolutely nothing to say about it? For sure, for me, it would be a tragedy.
So no, I’m not having a mid-life crisis. I don’t consider myself middle-aged. I refuse to label myself any longer. Yes, I am a wife, a mother, daughter, an employee, a friend, at times a bitch. But I am so much more and I can’t wait to tell you about it.