Valerie can regularly be found at Midlife-A-Go-Go, where she shares stories of her journey through midlife. This post was originally featured there.
When I turned 49, I considered that time to be the year of my life on the cusp. I was teetering on the edge of a true and certain mid-life status. Prior to that time, I really didn’t feel like a midlifer. Soon I began to wonder …
Is this the stage where I’m finally supposed to behave as would other prudent adults? Should I trade in my two-seater Miata (the color of which I have dubbed “Midlife Crisis Red,”) for a sensible and drab tan four-door sedan with anti-lock brakes and enough cup holders for my Ensure, Boost, coffee and water bottle? Do I steady myself for the chopping off of my locks and embrace a shorter, more mature hairstyle, as seasoned women are somehow expected to do?
For me, these are questions of a rhetorical nature. Societal expectations don’t dictate the actions that I exhibit. I live my life in the skin that I’m in because it fits me comfortably, like the stretch and give of my favorite black yoga pants with the purple and white printed waistband. It scarcely matters that I am not necessarily a fan of yoga… I just like the pants and they make my butt look cute.
As my 49th year began to melt away and the half-century mark was slowly coming into view, I began to contemplate my conscious behavior—those deeds over which I had full control—and ruminated on what changes, if any, I would weave into the fabric of my life from that point forward. I began to think of those a generation or two ahead of me, the ones who have earned a measure of respect simply by virtue of existing, of being, as long as they have. I thought, “Is this me? Is this the woman I am expected to be?” and immediately dismissed the notion. You see, my shoes are my own to walk in; sliding my feet into the penny loafers, flip-flops or six inch stilettos of anyone else would be as ill-fitting as squeezing into footwear two sizes too small to accommodate my size 10 (sometimes an 11, depending on the designer).
There is, however, one illuminating aspect of aging that appeals to my vociferous proclivities: just like the frail 80-something year old woman who shuffles past you in the grocery store and sizes you up with a slow and steady gaze of red-rimmed eyes, I long for the day when I can say whatever the hell I want, consequences be damned!
With the gift of age comes a right of passage of sorts. Elderly folks (one of which, admittedly, I am not) have the uncanny ability to go boldly and brazenly into their golden years without a single hint of a filter. The time between the tiny spark of a thought that has just begun to form in their head and the words which come spurting from their mouth like they’ve been shot from a cannon is minimal … a nanosecond, really. Like children, they will say whatever is on their minds without fear of recrimination. They offer their opinions on every damn thing, whether you want to hear it or not. And most times they can get away with that special brand of verbal spewing.
Oh how I long for the day when it’s my turn to be that blunt, inappropriate, crotchety old lady.
The cautionary tales that admonish people to ‘think before you speak’ somehow don’t apply here. The strain of verbal diarrhea has less to do with angry outbursts (although this can be a source of elder-speak) or potty mouth and more to do with acquiescing to the unwritten permission to let loose and let the words fly. I can no more fathom telling a total stranger to “shut the hell up” than I can strapping wings to my back and flying over New York City stark naked.
It’s not that I want to be an obnoxious old lady. Really, I don’t. I merely want to impart upon an unsuspecting world the gravity of my vast years of knowledge, experience and sage advice. Uttering “shut the hell up” would be the gravy.
Honestly, getting older really doesn’t bother me that much. Oddly, that’s a far cry from the nightmares I had at the very thought of aging which haunted my very existence 20 or so years ago. Ahhh, the vanity of youth. However, there could be credence to those fears. The litany of old lady issues is both startling and creepy: dying my hair blue, false teeth soaking in a glass on the nightstand, reeking of moth balls, gumming the life out of a chicken bone and, the worst of them all, floral print muumuus that could fit me just as well as it does my car. I am not ready for that.
What I am ready and willing to take on as a natural progression of life is the sanction, nay, the approval, from the Old Lady Goddesses to be able to open my toothless mouth wide, take a deep breath and drop an F-bomb, tell you your hair looks like the back of a sheep’s ass or inform you, in as loud a voice as I can muster, that you’ve gained weight and it doesn’t look particularly good on you.
I will be old, I will be tactless and you will likely be tempted to call me an “old biddy,” “witch” or a whole host of other such colorful derogatory phrases, but that’s okay; my guess is I’ll be able to deal with that and won’t give a flying flip. I may not live forever, but without a filter, I’ll likely be the victor and have the last crotchety word.