Every once in a while, I realize that I don’t know how to be middle-aged, probably because I sort of fast-forwarded here, like a Tivo through the “Last week on Parenthood” part of the show.
Diagnosed with an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at 40, I went straight from my thirties to the hospital, where the other patients were all twice my age. For me, 40 was the new 80. And it looked nothing like “This is 40,” with all its “let’s exercise and cut back on screen time and make something out of life.” My “This is 40″ was more like “This is Me Hoping I Make it to 41.”
But today is not all that. Today, I turn 46, and frankly, I’m not sure what to make of it. I spent my early forties (wait, where did those go?) trying to make it to the 5-year cancer-free mark last November 9th — and I did it! As a result, I never even considered being 46 (or 50 or 60.) I never made the transition to middle age.
I never growled at my wrinkles in the mirror or lied about my age or flirted with a 30-year-old waiter just to see what he’d do. I don’t look for gray hairs and I refuse to take up running. (There’s no ball. Why are you running?) And I continue to kick soccer balls with teenagers and hang upside-down from jungle gyms whenever a kindergartener asks me to. What’s more, I don’t complain about getting old because that is the point of life.
But now and then, I wonder, “Should I be leaping over puddles? Shouldn’t I go around them at my age?” Or “If I hate the music in this clothing store, does that mean I’m too old to shop here or just that it’s bad music?” Or, “When should a woman stop wearing lip gloss?”
I don’t know the answers because I didn’t ease into middle age; I backed into it from old age. I have been fussed over by concerned nurses, and I have watched “Jeopardy” with the Medicare set while waiting for a CT scan. I have had people rush to open the door for me and carry things for me because it appeared that I was too frail to handle it. I have had a close-up and personal look at death. Ah, but, as the song says, I’m younger than that now. I’m the Benjamin Button of Generation X.
Today, I turn 46. Please bear with me. I don’t know how to be middle-aged. If you have any answers for me, please do share. I’d really like to know when to stop wearing lip gloss.