Philosopher Alain de Botton is quoted as saying
“By the time we are 50, we are definitely in the suburbs of mortality.”
I like this quote a lot. It’s far better than all the bollocks about 50 being the new 10, etc. Isn’t it time we put an end to the late running of previous decades and got them back on track? Plus as I hurtle towards 50 I see mortality in different terms. It’s less something to be feared and more a chance to finally get some decent unbroken sleep.
It only struck me a few days ago that being 50 is the same as being a half-century old. I’ve only ever thought of a half-century as something you get in cricket but I suppose that’s because 50 is about the age when cricket starts to make sense.
It also means that I am now definitely middle aged. I do not intend to live to 100 so at some point I passed the actual mid-point of my life and am now firmly stuck in no mans land. On Christmas Day old me and young me will meet and we’ll play football.
It’s hard to know how long this period will last (said the perimenopausal woman. Damn I am hilarious today). People with kids judge middle age as the time when their kids leave home and thoughts turn to remodeling their bedroom into a yoga studio. I associate the start of middle age somewhere around making your own soup and I believe it becomes official when you willingly go on a painting holiday.
50 is clearly a milestone year because the Huffington Post has a section for it, sensibly titled Huffingtonpost.com/50. Today’s Onion-inspired features included: ’51 Year Old Runner Has Heart Attack During Race, Still Completes It’.
Here’s part one of my (slightly less heroic) experience and insights into middle-agedom so far. Part two to follow when I become properly old.
Middle age spread
(1) Unlike Nutella middle age spread is not something to be enjoyed. Overnight your stomach will look as though you have consumed a shipping container worth of chocolate hazelnuty goodness. On artery clogging white bread.
(2) The significant thickening of the hips and thighs can be temporarily explained away if you lift heavy weights and do squats. The Nutella waist is trickier and you may have to tell people that it’s a new form of weight vest invented by Crossfit.
(3) Look out for articles that claim “5 surprising health benefits of being pear-shaped”. If these do not exist, write them yourself and post with a click-bait picture of a half-peeled pear.
(4) Make sure you maintain a thigh gap. If the toothpick fits, you’re still good.
(5) Middle age is when you finally stop comparing yourself to others in the gym and instead look at everyone who is younger than you and let the sense of smugness envelop you. Make a commitment to keep going to the gym until those people are the same age as you are today. At that point, laugh and go home knowing that your work is done.
(6) Stop thinking of yourself as a runner and more as an enthusiastic jogger. You’ll know that you’ve reached this stage because you’ll start carrying more energy-enhancing gadgets, like a portable defibrillator. This will be handy because your newsfeed is now full of dire warnings about your increased risk for a heart attack (see 51 year old above).
(7) The beauty of no longer being a runner means that your running shoes become all season footwear. So you can wear them with your all-purpose (except yoga) yoga pants.
(8) You’re old enough to have watched Misery and seen Kathy Bates mash up James Caan’s ankles with an axe. This is how middle age feels when you get out of bed in the morning. See also: lower back pain and neck cricks inflicted by sleep monkeys.
(9) In your late 40’s you may start to think about baking bread and/or pies. This is a slippery slope towards soup making. Throw out any old family recipes so that you aren’t compelled to recreate them for your grandchildren. You want to be part of the solution, not the problem.
(10) If you do bake something by mistake do not eat any of it. To avoid massive weight gain your body now only needs 300 calories a day. Your entire meal should fit in the palm of your hand. Fortunately pills are very low-cal which is great as you’ll be taking 30 a day.
(11) All of these things will suddenly seem appealing but each will age you by an average of 10 years:
– Going to an antique sale.
– Going to a reading by an NPR personality.
– Going to a recording of an NPR show.
– Joining a choir.
– Sitting on a bench and being mindful.
(12) If you absent-mindedly find yourself in the car listening to the ‘Splendid Table’ on NPR, switch off immediately before Lynne Rossetto Kasper whisper-talks you into 21 ways with gremolata.
(13) If in doubt about your entertainment options, there’s nothing like an episode of Masterchef and a Topo Chico to prove you’ve had another great evening in.
(14) Cultivate an air of stupidity. People will try to foist wisdom on you as some kind of middle ages compensation for your loss of looks, strength and general coolness. Do not accept this trade. Wisdom is over-hyped. No-one liked Owl in Winnie the Pooh.
(15) Do not become a mentor. Even if no-one asks you to.
(16) Do not tell people that you no longer care what others think of you. This is the equivalent of putting on sweatpants and Uggs.
(17) Throw away any gift books you receive with a title that begins ’50 things to…’ Their only purpose is to remind you how little time you have left.
(18) Do not make plans to celebrate your 50th year.
(19) Do not create a document with the title ‘My Bucket List’ or say these words out loud to anyone. Only the over 60’s and young-fogeys have bucket lists. You still have goals. Also do not ever watch the 2007 Jack Nicholson movie of the same name. It’s rubbish.
(20) Monitor your emails for increased use of exclamation points. Risk factor increases for the middle-aged at the rate of 1 additional per year. See also: use of the word sassy.