If I enjoy the same longevity as most of my grandparents, I've not yet reached middle age. However, the life expectancy of a woman in Wyoming is 80, which means by that definition, I have. There are some presumably advantageous things I've left behind in this last half of my life. I find it liberating to leave them. I've pondered for the past year why I love being older. Today, I'm listing some of those thoughts.
1. I've never been great at following fashion trends--and I've never felt happy about spending the money necessary to do so. I live in comfy jeans whenever possible. I'll dress up if I have to, but the occasion needs to end within five hours or I'm ready to strip down and finish the event in my underwear (don't worry-- I won't). I kind of love that when you hit middle age you can wear whatever you want. People might think you're weird, but when they remember that you're halfway to death your fashion sense is tolerated, and even celebrated as you get older. I have fashion plans that will mortify my children before I'm 80.
2. This one goes hand-in-hand with the first: hairstyles. Let's face it, having curly hair like mine doesn't allow for a great deal of style flexibility. Add to that the fact that I hate doing my hair, and suddenly middle age feels great. People don't expect those advancing in years to have immaculate, gorgeous locks unless they're celebrities of some sort--and I'm not. I straighten my hair most days because that's predictable and fast. The curls might stand up and break dance on my head if they're allowed to develop naturally, and I'm not excited about attracting that kind of attention. However, there are certainly days when the straight hair is less straight than is trendy, and I don't care. If I've spent 10 minutes on my hair, that is enough. I have things to do outside of my bathroom.
3. In accordance with the first two, since I am now middle-aged, I don't wear a ponytail to the gym (that's right, I just let the morning hair hang as it chooses), nor do I sport cute workout clothes. I wear leggings because they're comfortable and they don't chafe, and one of Chris's or Alex's old t-shirts. I used to wear the t-shirt given me by the surgical department when I had my appendix out, but it wore out. I also wear whatever running shoes I want to. I don't care if they match the rest of my workout clothes. And most days I walk out of the gym tired and sweaty because I prefer to shower at home.
4. When I'm at a social event and I want to go home, I do. I used to worry about staying an appropriate amount of time, or making sure I talked to everybody, or some of those other obligatory things, but now that I'm middle aged I can just poke my head in the door, wave at everyone, and go home to read whatever book is currently claiming my attention. Okay, that's an exaggeration. But the truth is that I don't worry anymore about doing what's expected. I come when I choose and leave when I feel like it and I'm comfortable with that.
I suppose what I'm saying with my above list is that life is better when you stop trying to look or act within the confines of societal expectation. I've never really been swayed by that, but now that I'm not trying to attract someone sexy, or make new business connections, or climb some weird social ladder, everything feels happier and I expect the trend to continue as the years slip by. I don't need to wear makeup unless I feel like it, I don't have to fill my calendar with lunch dates. I don't have to buy something just because a magazine tells me it will make me, somehow, more beautiful.
As for beautiful, I stopped worrying about that years ago. People are just people, and the representative beautiful images we see in magazines are photoshopped. They're not real. I refuse to emulate something imaginary when there are so many amazing people to admire. I'd prefer to make life-shaping choices that follow the wisdom of Mother Theresa, rather than break my hair straightener attempting to emulate the glossy locks of Kim Kardashian (seriously--why is she famous? Probably not for her hair...). And the truth is I'll never be sexy or gorgeous, and that's okay. I don't have to be those things to appreciate the beauty of a sunset, or be entranced by shiny beetles or colorful butterflies. I can share my smile with everyone I meet and I'm guessing they won't be evaluating the whiteness of my teeth. And when I dance, the last thing I'm thinking about is whether or not my hips need to be photoshopped.
I'm loving this middle-aged thing. I should have done it years ago.