What Are the Parameters of "Middle-Aged"?
An open thread...
Five years ago, when I was on the brink of 53 and Brian and I were in the process of making our foreclosure house livable, a young woman from the local power company came to asses the new electrical wiring to make sure it was up to code.
I was dressed sloppily, like a person in the midst of fixing up a house—paint-splattered carpenter pants, a tee shirt, sneakers—and had thrown my hair into messy pigtails. As is often the case, internally I felt like 10-and-a-half-year-old me. I assumed I also looked like her. Then I heard the woman, on a call to her boss, describe me as “an older woman.” My heart stopped.
An older woman?
I mean, I was definitely older than the person describing me, who looked to be in her late 20s or early 30s, at least to my eye. So there was a certain accuracy to what she’d said. And, yeah, my hair is gray. And since 50 I’ve gotten a little wrinkly around the eyes and forehead and neck. But I had been operating under the assumption that at most I registered to other people as “middle-aged.”
Afterward I thought about it; in order to truly be “middle-aged” in my 50s, I’d have to live past 100. I wondered, before our lives end, how can we possibly know where the middle lies? Making matters even more confusing, growing up, I heard adults refer to themselves as “middle-aged” beginning around 35—fairly realistic given that, according to “Provisional Life Expectancy Estimates for 2021”, the most recent CDC report, the average life expectancy for a woman in the United States is 79.1, and for a man, 77.7. But these days I hear people refer to themselves as “middle-aged” all the way into their mid-60s.
So, what are the acceptable parameters of “middle-aged”? Does it have anything to do with math, or is it just a state of mind? This question is especially pressing for me right now because on Monday, I turn 58, which is getting awfully close to 60. Each year it becomes progressively less plausible to refer to myself that way. And yet, like a lot of Gen Xers, I still don’t quite feel like a grownup. I never have.
How about you? Are you “middle-aged”? At which chronological age did you start to call yourself that? And if you’ve stopped, at what age did that happen? What does the term mean to you? Tell me in the comments…
P.S. This week for…reasons…I was reminded of one of my favorite comedy sketches. Enjoy.
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