I’ll be 40 next year. Did I say 40? I meant 60. Same difference. They both fall under the benign-sounding umbrella of “middle age,” though it seems to me calling 60 “middle” might be a tad optimistic.
Still, it’s a lovely time in life. I’d even go so far as to say it’s the best time in life. For many of us, middle age offers more freedom than we’ve had since we were 21. And somehow we gain some credibility as we mature. Everyone believes me when I say I’m 59. No one believed me all those years I said I was 29.
But middle age has a downside. My siblings call it geezeritus, and I can sum it up in two words: Now what?
One day we notice we’ve got less hair on our heads and more in our noses. We go to buy shoes and find out our feet are still growing. As it turns out, so are our noses and ears. I’m not making that up. Cartilage continues to grow until the day we die. Not only that, gravity makes our lobes hang down like the ears on a basset hound. This is all very disconcerting to someone whose feet, ears and nose were already ample.
To be fair, we also shrink in a few places. The subcutaneous fat that fills out youthful faces decreases as we age, as does the fat that cushions the soles of young feet. I don’t know about you, but this is not where I was hoping to lose inches. I can only conjecture that during middle age, fat leaves our feet and faces and migrates to our abs.
Middle age comes with an assortment of aches and pains too. Not long ago, I had a case of trigger finger though I don’t own a gun and I’ve had tennis elbow in both elbows. I haven’t played tennis in years, though apparently I have the elbows for it.
These sorts of issues make middle-aged people acutely aware of body parts we barely knew we had when we were younger. I know what you’re saying. “You didn’t realize you had elbows before?” Sure I did—but just on my right side. Being right handed, I was only vaguely aware of my left elbow in the same way I’m only vaguely aware I have a spleen. I know it’s there; I’m just not sure what it’s good for.
More serious issues tend to show up in middle age too. I was 53 when I learned I’d inherited both glaucoma and thyroid disease. Some people inherit money. I think that would be more fun.
It’s no wonder middle age people start getting anxious about all sorts of things we never gave a thought to before. Every stomachache could be cancer, every headache could be a brain tumor and we start fearing early-onset Alzheimer’s every time we forget something. Obviously one of the things we’re forgetting is that we’ve been forgetting things our whole life.
On the bright side, geezeritus doesn’t happen all at once, which is lucky. If we went to sleep 22 years old and woke up 62, we’d probably call the police and report an intruder.
And we can all take comfort in the fact that as long as we’re middle aged, we’re not old. Of course, we are, without a doubt, the oldest we’ve ever been. But most of us thought it would take a lot longer to get here. In fact, many of us were sure we never would. Somehow all young people think they’re going to live a long time but never get old. Once we hit middle age, we see the foolishness in that and a lot of other things we used to think. I guess we can have fat in our faces or we can have brains. We can’t have both.
Dorothy Rosby is the author of the humor book “I Used to Think I Was Not That Bad and Then I Got to Know Me Better.” Contact [email protected] or see www.dorothyrosby.com.