Much like gaining weight, middle age seems to have snuck up on me. Sure, somewhere in the back of my mind I knew all those nights spent in front of the television with bowls of salty snacks would eventually come between me and the button of my jeans (sorry, Brooke, there is something between me and my Calvins….it’s called a muffin top). I knew it the same way I knew all those birthday candles would eventually add up. But it is slow and nefarious, this getting older business. Sometimes it catches you by surprise.
All those small steps don’t seem so bad. A little wobble here, a little paunch there. A chin hair here, an enlarging of your Kindle font there. But then one day you realize it’s not a question of getting your jeans buttoned or even getting them past your knees but more not remembering when you just gave up and bought a bigger size. Or like when you find yourself sitting in the front seat of the car merrily singing along to Margaritaville.
I’ve never been a parrot head or whatever bird Jimmy Buffett fans are named after. To me Margaritaville has always embodied the kind of generic, store brand complacency I ran away from as a youth. Singing about wasting away and claiming there’s a woman to blame? It has always been the epitome of older than your years middle age music to me. So when I found myself enthusiastically singing along about lost shakers of salt with my husband on a road trip recently, it was the mental equivalent of trying to get my jeans up over my squishy thighs and realizing they weren’t going anywhere.
But I know….it’s my own damn fault.
Oldies stations that play 80s music, soft rock which includes the metal bands of your youth, the length of time it takes to scroll down to 197X. Ticking a different demographic bracket. Being okay with a little squish, a little soft around the middle–literally and figuratively. They’re all signs of life in the middle ages. But there are more. Oh so many more.
I amble down the aisles, meander around the malls and the styles that fill the racks and stock the shelves? I’ve owned those styles already in some other decade. I’ve owned them and donated them to the Salvation Army. It’s hard to get excited by clothes you’ve already worn and deemed out of fashion once upon a time.
Here’s another sign: a Groupon to your favorite rock band. That’s right, folks. The hair bands of your high school days, the ones your parents begged you to turn down, they’re touring again and you can get a Groupon deal to go and see them. Yes, David Lee Roth, I’m looking at you. When you can get a deep dish discount to see the premium bands of your youth, you may as well jump. Jump! Who knows, maybe Eddie Van Halen’s standing there, his back against the record machine wondering when the hell he got so old.
When the idea of staying up all night makes you physically ill, you know you’ve hit middle age. When you can’t start watching a movie after 8:30 pm because you’re not sure you’ll make it up to see the ending, and you’re ok with it? You’re probably middle-aged.
If your teeth hurt watching kids gobble up cones of cotton candy bigger than their heads and guzzle orange soda, all those things you lived for as a kid–Fun Dips for crying out loud--you’re probably middle-aged.
If you remember a time when peanut butter wasn’t a weapon of mass destruction, but just a sandwich filling you’re probably middle-aged. If there are dance clubs that play the music you cut your teeth on and they’re billed as retro? It’s a good sign you’re middle-aged.
If you start talking bout my generation, starting statements with “in my day” or waxing on, waxing off about how much better things used to be, you’re probably middle-aged.
If you think the current crop of kids is the end of the world as we know it? You’re probably middle-aged. Video killed the radio star, but if you’re pretty sure YouTube killed the video star? Welcome to the middle ages, my friend.
Can’t find your lost shaker of salt? Don’t worry, most of us are having trouble remembering where we put stuff lately.
Perhaps Jimmy Buffett is really singing about life after 45. Maybe Margaritaville is really a retirement community bursting with paunchy men in Hawaiian prints and women in culottes and big hair. Think about it. Flip-flops and blender drinks. Baggy, elasticized clothes without buttons. Not remembering where you put the salt.
Damn. It doesn’t sound nearly as bad as it used to.
Dina Honour, a New Yorker for over 20 years, currently lives abroad in Copenhagen. She’s a wife, mother, daughter, and sister. A lover of books, wine, and salty snacks. (Though increasingly she has to watch her intake of both the wine and the salty snacks.) Thankfully, she says, there are still books. Dina writes about life, parenting, living abroad and anything else that falls between the cracks. Her blog is Wine and Cheese (Doodles.) where this wonderful essay first appeared. You can follow her on Facebook or Twitter @DinaHonour. For another example of her writing, check out her essay Smells Like Teen Spirit on Andrea Reads America, a literary tour of the USA.