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Healthy Living

I wrote this essay on my 43rd birthday and decided to share it by publishing it here. I have since learned that the feelings I was having are quite common for women my age. Enjoy.

Walking cane

Midlife Crisis?

by Sheryl McKenna

I read a survey once that asked men and women at which age they found the members of the opposite sex the most and least attractive. Strangely enough, men were found least attractive at age 19 and most attractive at age 40 while women were found most attractive at age 28 and least attractive at age 40.

Today I turn 43. What does that mean? Am I getting better? I can't possibly be getting worse if women are at their least attractive at age 40. So have I aged three more years toward perfection? When will I reach perfection?

Why is it that as women age they get ugly, old and fat, gray hair, lines, wrinkles etc, and men get distinguished looking, barrel chested or burly but never fat, old, ugly and wrinkled? Why haven't men ever had to wear makeup?

In my teens I protested everything. I was too young to protest the Viet Nam war, so I protested the prom, dress codes, dresses and makeup (Too young for Viet Nam but not too young to remember when girls had to wear dresses to public schools - pants just weren't allowed). Somehow that carried over into my adult life. I'll put on a dress if I have a "dressy" or formal occasion to attend. I have worn dresses and skirts on job interviews. I even wear makeup on special occasions because society dictates that as a woman it is something I must do. Women must be beautiful at all costs! However, in my day to day life, I wear slacks to work, jeans and shorts at home. I will wear blush if I wear any makeup at all. My face is me. Why should I have to cover it up just because it's not perfect? I had a friend once tell me he hated the way women tried to hide their curves by dressing in long shirts, loose clothing, etc, yet he thought all women should wear makeup. Why should I show my "curves" but hide my face behind layers of makeup?

43 years old. If I had been born in my mom's generation, I would be a grandmother by now. As it is I am childless. Will I regret that? I'm not sure, how can I miss something I've never had? I helped raise my step-daughter for the 10 years I was married to her father and we still keep in touch with each other. I've never met her two children, although I have seen pictures of them. I meet people every day who tell me "Oh you're not too old to have children!" Then they cite people they know who had their first at age 40, 41, 42. I am now 43. The risks are too great now even if it were possible (which it is not.) I really don't regret being childless. It almost feels like not having fish or a pet bird. I've never owned fish or a pet bird, so having them mean nothing to me.

2nd Childhood

So here I am 43 years old. A prime number. I should be in the prime of my life, but all I can think about is "midlife crisis". And is it really a crisis? Is it really midlife? Well, let's consider my family history. My father passed away at age 68 so if I live only as long as he does, I passed midlife 9 years ago...I'm almost at the 2/3 point in my life. My grandmother, on the other hand, lived to be 86 years old. So that would make me at exactly midpoint right now. Perhaps I'll live as long as my great-grandmother did. In that case, I have 8 years until I reach midlife, since she lived to be 102 years old. So is the cup half full or half empty?

I could wring my hands and say "Oh woe is me. My life is half over." But I could also celebrate that I still have half my life to live - I have 100% of what I have already lived to live again. Oh if I could just go back and do it all over again. But would I, even if I could, change anything? Probably not. I have made a lot of mistakes, woke up in the morning on plenty of occasions hating myself but I've learned from every horrible mistake I've ever made. I went through a period in my early 20s "looking for love in all the wrong places" and had a couple of coyote mornings. I spent 10 years married to the wrong man. I spent another 2 years wandering aimlessly over the net, visiting friends all over the U.S. and finally met the man of my dreams.

Well, so what? The fire and romance never lasts, does it? So here I am, 43 years old, feeling old, fat and ugly, unsexy, unattractive.

I guess what I'm supposed to do when I have a midlife crisis is lament about how my life has been wasted so far. I can't really do that, though, because I feel like I've done a lot of good in my life. I dropped out of college, but I did return several times over the last 25 years. The good in that is that my education is fresh. I didn't get my degree 20 years ago then become complacent and smug. I have kept on top of my desire to learn new things. I have done everything from cleaning motel rooms, working on a General Motors assembly line, giving music lessons, cashiering, bookkeeping, bartendering, to my current position geek. Unlike most computer geeks, I didn't crawl inside my computer and get lost in the technobabble. I have taught the most untechnical people to use their computer without fear. And I've taught them without ever having to use phrases like 'your bios chip stores your configuration and is read only memory" or "your scanner won't work on a parallel port because what you have a SCSI [but always pronounced scuzzy] interface. You need to install a scuzzy card on your motherboard." Nobody wants to put scuzzy stuff in their computer. It's bad enough spilling beer on the keyboard. And besides that, I'm an old woman. I'm not supposed to know that stuff. (I do have fun at stores like CompUSA when they little pimple-faced pre-pubescent adolescent boys try to talk technical jargon to me and they usually don't know what they are talking about. I just love knocking their sox off with my technical questions ;-) But I digress (must be my addled brain - happens as people get older doncha know.)

Rocking Chair

So am I going through a midlife crisis? Well, it's been going on too long to be PMS. Yeah, I guess you could say I am. I'll get over it, though, eventually. I always do. And if anyone teases me about my age I'll beat them with my cane (if I can ever remember where I put it). Oh, and have I mentioned I'm having a midlife crisis?

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