Category Archives: Age

You’re Like A Suburban Midlife Crisis In America–No Middle Class

peacock mid life crisisHooray! Last week I entered my midlife crisis! No Saturn Return, no Pre-Midlife Crisis, no Late Onset Puberty; I’m talking the exciting big mirror in the aging face “Oh $hit What Am I Doing With My Life” Crisis. I’m at the point where adults finally become mature and live out those inspiring second chance stories that give people hope and aging rock bands one last chance to tour. And since so many people before me have been through it, I know I only have to survive some existential hell for a couple of years until I come to the conclusion that what I really need is to get rid of my old life and start a flashy new one! Problem is that with the middle class going extinct, middle class protégés like myself are finding that we are no longer able to afford the kind of satisfactory crisis that we are accustomed to. While some fear that with the demise of the middle class, motivated stoners and Teva wearing revolutionaries will finally rally to overthrow our current capitalist system, I fear that it will cause my midlife makeover to suck.

Without the same time and resources the middle class once enjoyed, the peacocky crisis we’ve come to know and mock will soon be a thing of the past. Of course there will still be two others available. There is the Rich Man’s Crisis carried out by those in the upper stratospheres of rich. This crisis as opposed to others, does not question career paths taken since the wealthy have always had the money to do whatever they’ve always wanted to do. These enviable midlifers are only subjected to the fear of losing their youth and the promise of impending death. So with a few new spouses (each one younger than the other), Botox shots and some hot sweaty yoga their midlife crisis is complete…ly Zzzzzzzzz.

Then there is the Poor Man’s Crisis, also known as The Struggling Artist’s Crisis. These are the ones who in their 20’s and 30’s did everything people in the other classes of crises try to emulate at 40 or 50. These creative types always dated much younger people but for like-minded conversation not for youth-sucking purposes. They chose day jobs that required little commitment so that they could concentrate on an artistic career that nearing 40 they discover never happened. Tired of living with roommates for 20 years and wishing for a few creature comforts they once scorned (Brookstone foot massagers), these once rebellious folks suddenly question their lifelong misgivings of society’s norms and immediately want to shed all semblance of their nonconformity. Ready to prove that they can succeed in a conventional way, they suddenly work hard to find someone their own age to marry, find a “real” job and settle down by buying a home or a fuel-efficient car in place of the incredibly cool beater or Volvo station wagon they swore they would keep until they died. Even less exciting than the rich, the poor man’s midlife crisis makes me go through another midlife crisis just reading about it.

It is because of the rich and the poor man’s midlife crises that we need to safeguard the middle class. Theirs is the iconic American midlife crisis. They followed the rules for so long they’re ready to break them! With 80’s style self-reflection and real jet-ski consumerist pizzazz, here in the middle you are promised toupees, red hot convertible sports cars, motorboats, cheesy young dates, divorces and the chance to sell that suburban home to buy yourself a downtown loft and finally live like all those cool artist types you stood in line with at the coffee shop and hated on your way to your 9-6-or-more job. You can go out to nightclubs, get college-style wasted on Manhattans and Old-Fashioneds because that’s what you last heard was hip from a temp a few years ago, leave your job in corporate America and make a new small business venture in something cooler like a distillery that makes bacon flavored whiskey with kitschy bacon flavored fruit roll-ups or by making specialty facial hair clips for wine tasters in Napa Valley, then get photographed in Sunset Magazine and show it off to your new family you just made with that temp you met a few years ago in your long-gone corporate job! That my friends, is a real crisis! Something I was ready to join in until I realized I couldn’t.

mid life crisisLike a chubby girl who lost weight but still sees herself as chubby, I like so many others raised middle class, learned that I had been mistakingly considering myself middle class when financially I am nowhere near it. So when my crisis turned up as a 16-year-old me to evaluate what I had made of her life and was unimpressed, I couldn’t escape or hurriedly make things better in a colorful, over-the-top, expensive way. I was sorry to let Young Me know that Now Me can’t just pack up and move my family to Paris or New York and live the life she wanted because I can’t afford to. Instead, the two of us have had to settle for lying in bed to piece together what makes sense from my past, discover what traits hold me back, support the ones that move me forward, take a close look at what’s important, what I want to spend my time working on and how to go about doing it. I discovered that I am part of a new class that is gaining traction in America, and our Lost Class Midlife Crisis is completely…ho hum practical.

*16-year-old me is completely over me and has moved on to her next victim.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

I Want A Baby?

Stupid sperm are so dangerous. Thanks to them we have to come up with gifts for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Those selfish little jerks have only one thing on their minds…making babies. Because of them women can’t simply relax and enjoy sex, they have to think about it, weigh the options and consider whether or not they want babies. We’re stuck with buying condoms, paying more for healthcare, and suffering through hormonal imbalances caused by pills, shots, and spongy things just to make sure that Band of Squiggles doesn’t make it to our always contrarian and open for business egg brothel. Which is why at some point in her life, a woman has to decide if she wants to give up the fight or not. Of course there are some women who just don’t think about it and continue to not think about it after every child they pop out; but for those of us who have been fully aware of our tiny but long-tailed enemies since we were technically capable of procreating, this decision is always looming and even more so as our 40’s approach.

After so many years of being on the defense, it’s hard to break the habit and consider having kids. If I was always the type that wanted them then great, I’d be one of those women testing their body temperature every day alongside a dedicated happy pee bowl for ovulation sticks and pregnancy tests; the ones who try every vitamin reported to induce conception; read every “Yay I’m Pregnant” magazine like wishful porn; the ones who make it their life’s mission to get pregnant because they can’t wait to be what I can only decipher is some mythical construct of what being a mother is. Are these women so unhappy in their current non-baby state that they become desperate for what is essentially an unknown? I mean don’t they want to try it out? I think a lot more women and even men would be thrilled to attempt parenting if it came with a better return policy. Or even if life with babies or without were like tapas and you could just try both options without having to commit to a full plate. But sadly no tapas for us. Women must choose their direction.

Which is hard for me because the thought of having a baby has always been frightening, but the alternative is just as scary. I’m not the kind of woman to say, “F- it! Mom stayed at home and stopped living to raise me; why sentence myself to that same miserable fate? I want to live crazy with a drink in one hand, fabulous clothes and no responsibilities to anyone or anything–except maybe a dog or cat that I can’t wait to treat like a baby!” Do I really want to do the same ol’, same ol’ with my husband for the rest of my life? Not that a baby’s purpose is to bring me some life-changing excitement, but at least it’s different. It’s growth. Plus if Abraham in the Old Testament was so thrilled to score as many kids as he could make, why can’t I be thrilled with the same prospect–even if I am a woman and it’s my body that would get thrashed each time those little gifts would come out. Is anyone with me on these points? No? Okay so these aren’t the best reasons to have a kid but why else am I tempted to birth a child?

In the end I don’t think there is ever a real reason why some women want kids. The only thing comparable to it that I can think of is sexual attraction. Can anyone sufficiently explain why he or she finds himself or herself attracted to a certain sex? Being attracted to people has no real benefits other than it feels good. And even biologically, I don’t know how much sense it makes. I was only four years old when I looked up in a movie theater and saw Han Solo on the big screen. Downstairs wasn’t talking yet but I froze, looked up and all I knew was that I wanted that man; and that man lead to that man, and that man, and that man, until I ended up with the man that I’m with and suddenly (well, ten years married and later) I want to have his baby.

So why the hesitation? Because I am cursed with having to think everything to death! I can’t even pick food off a menu in less than 20 minutes much less decide on a having a baby. It’s a major responsibility after all! You not only have to consider your financial stability but mental stability too. Have you overcome all of your personal issues so you can be a good guide to the soul you’ve been given? Are you ready for a new chapter in your life where you’ll have to relinquish your freedom? And my biggest issue—have you achieved everything you’ve ever wanted to in your career so you can happily turn your life over to this newborn child? I guess I always saw the babymaking phase in life sort of like retirement. Wait until you’re successful in your career and settled in your life then have a baby. Like in this interview with Beyoncé for Harper’s Bazaar:

“Like everything that Beyoncé undertakes… this next step into motherhood has been deliberately thought out. “It was important to me that I gave myself time to focus on becoming the woman I want to be, building my empire, my relationship, and my self-worth, before I became a mother,” she says. “Now God has blessed us with the ultimate.”

Well good for you B! But what about the rest of us?! Should we feel obligated to wait until we’ve built our empires or are we stuck taking the plunge to have a kid ready or not? Does it pay to be excessively prepared, or is it like those overly researched vacations that are never as fun as the unplanned ones because your preparations inevitably  demand to be in proportion to your expectations wrongly built off the advice of Trip Advisors with awful taste in hotels? FYI–Never trust a Trip Advisor. Maybe it’s time to stop hating sperm and just take a lesson from the little buggers. Start focusing that mind to one track and just go for it.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Ageism, Madonna and Why We’re All Too Old

I feel bad for Madonna. People have been making fun of how old she is ever since she danced during her Super Bowl halftime show in an unflattering black short dress and long black cloak. Everyone knows only young people can dance in bad-looking clothes and make them somehow look good, so what was she thinking?! Still it’s ageist to say so. In fact it’s ageist to criticize anyone because of their age. We’ve all been through it, yet we can’t help but carry on this cruel practice to generations that follow.

At the age of five, I too was a victim of ageism on a daily basis: in school I could only have lunch with kids my age and on the playground, eight-year-olds laughed at me when I asked to play with them. “You’re a kid,” they’d yell, “play with someone your own age!” During my sister’s high school ragers, her teenage friends would put me in a closet and not let me out. Back then I thought it was because I was Catholic, but in hindsight I realize it was because of my age.  Then like a bad cliché straight out of a psychology textbook, I took what I learned from my experiences and turned into a practicing ageist myself. When my little brother asked to play with me and my friends, I rejected him solely based on his lack of years and experience in playing. I should have stopped the cycle of prejudice but I was too weak. Some would even say, too young.

In elementary school girls my age would gush over Ricky Schroeder, but by this time I was a full-time ageist. I made fun of them and anyone who liked him. “He’s just a boy,” I’d say, then I’d proudly declare my love for older men, in my mind “real men,” like Han Solo and Indiana Jones. This way of thinking limited my dating possibilities.  In High School I refused to date anyone younger than me and I was so blinded by my bias, that I could only find older guys attractive. My first boyfriend was a senior when I was a freshman and my second boyfriend, though not quite old enough, was at least one year older. After we broke up, a hot blonde kid with a body like young Brad Pitt was interested in me and asked me out. Alas, he was a year younger. But it wasn’t his fault that he was born a different year than you. True, but I could not compromise what I saw as my principles at the time. So like a nasty ageist, I told him I couldn’t date him because of his age. Still I let him take me to his homecoming dance.

But ageism is tricky. Just when you think you’re the one calling the shots on who to be with according to their years on earth, ageism comes to take you down. Years after college, a talent agent I interviewed with once asked me my age. He kept prodding until finally he coerced me by saying, “Well if we sign you anyway we’ll find out sooner or later.” I told him I was 30 and immediately he pushed back his chair and smirked as if there was nothing he could do for me. In his eyes I was 500 years old and not in a cool Vampire way. He told me I was too old for this business, rolled his eyes and thanked me for my time. If this agent had been around, he probably would have passed up Phyllis Diller when she first started doing stand-up, since she didn’t get to doing it until she was 37.

Being placed back on the receiving end of this narrow-mindedness, I started to see how thinking this way even limits our appreciation of life. How much more attractive would the general population be to us if we saw people of all ages as beautiful. I once met Carla Laemmle at her home. A silent movie star and niece of Carl Laemmle (Universal Pictures founder), she opened her door and I was struck by how beautiful she was. She was wearing this intricately designed silk house robe, had stunning blue eyes with even white skin and a thick mane of hair that matched. I could not stop sharing with friends how gorgeous this woman was. No plastic surgery–at least no facelift or Botox by what I could see–just old-fashioned beautiful. But she’s old. So? She’s 102!Everyone I told looked at me like I was sick. In fact, people even seemed grossed out by the thought that a woman her age could be considered gorgeous. Finally someone made sense of what I was saying by adding, “For her age.”

I don’t fault anyone for their inability to respect the young or the old. After all, ageism in our country is ingrained and structured by law: DMV’s nationwide don’t let people drive until they’re 16 (unless you get a hardship license which always makes the driver sound young with a sad home life), our nation doesn’t let us vote or join the army until we’re 18, courts don’t  allow citizens to sleep with anyone over the age of 17 until they turn 17, discounts at theaters and amusement parks are given age markers of 21 and 65, and before you are finally allowed to drink alcohol at the age of 21, you are given the ageist name of “minor”. Still it’s something we can be aware of and another thing we should consider adding to our “Please Be Sensitive To This Subject” list.

Carla is on the left.

Now Madonna isn’t necessarily a champion against ageism herself–she seems more interested in being seen with young already established artists rather than older ones, but what she did do was make public a hidden discrimination. Madonna is not afraid to do whatever she wants at an age most people believe you should no longer think you can do whatever you want. This prejudice though is not just for those over 50, but rather people generally feel the need to stunt everyone and tell them what they can and can’t do at any age because of their age.

Tagged , , , , , ,