They say you are as young as you feel, but if you just hit the big 4-0, most people would agree that you have entered middle age. By my count, I am about halfway through middle age, which broadly ends around retirement age (age 65). I thought when I entered middle age that I had a good idea of what was coming. I had a few things right, but mostly I learned that I was wrong. So I thought it might be useful to set some expectations for new classes of middle agers about this time of your life.
- Midlife crises. Contrary to what you might think, not everyone in middle age has a midlife crisis. Sometimes it amounts to midlife discomfort rather than a crisis. Do not expect that when your midlife “crisis” hits that you will divorce your spouse, find a new job and wholly reorder your life. Because of some internal unsettled feeling of angst, you may do all these things or none of them but doing one or two is not atypical. Don’t fret about your coming crisis. It may be wasted energy.
- Gaining weight. Most middle-aged people gain weight. You may have noticed this already if you compare your weight now to your weight at, say, 25. There is some evidence that this weight gain may be in part due to your metabolism changing. However, it is most likely due to the fact that your live a more sedentary lifestyle while your diet has not changed. There are no silver bullets here, I am afraid. You must either embrace your new and larger self or go through a likely painful process of eating less and exercising more. It is likely that you will yo-yo between gaining and losing weight unless you do something even more painful: permanently change your eating habits. I’m afraid the odds are against you but you may find that some inner angst will make you try anyhow. Good luck. Eating, not smoking or drugs, is your (and my) generation’s biggest health problem. Let’s hope the National Institutes of Health are working hard to find our silver bullet.
- Sex drive. The good news for women is that if they were having trouble finding their sex drive in their 20s they are likely to find it in full flower, at least until they hit menopause. The bad news is that their husbands may not be able to keep up. Ladies, there may be times when you want to be a “cougar” just to get the sexual satisfaction you want. Meanwhile men, who were used to excruciatingly high levels of testosterone, are likely to find their sex drive ebbing. This may lead to one or more periods of impotence followed by the sudden desire to see your doctor for a prescription for an erectile dysfunction drug. The good news about drugs like Viagra is they can help you sustain an erection. The bad news is that they cannot make or keep you horny. So your sex life is probably going to change to be less frequent, which is Nature’s uncomfortable way of telling you that you are aging. If you want to maintain a healthy sex life, you will need to develop excellent communications skills with your partner. This is because you are likely to find that the relationship part of sex, which hitherto you have paid little attention to, is the only way that sex will happen at all. You may find yourself anxious for moonlit walks with your significant other, relationship time and longer foreplay. However, your wife has finally gotten used to not having these things, and may not crave them anymore. You may have to accept the idea that sex will take longer, you may not always succeed and you may not be rock hard through the whole experience.
- Doctors. You really, really want to be insured in midlife, because you will be seeing plenty of doctors. If you do not see plenty of doctors, it is because you cannot afford to do so, which means you will need to either see a lot more doctors later on, you are going to be quite miserable or there is a good likelihood you will die prematurely. It will likely start out gradually but you will probably find you must succumb nonetheless. That’s because your body is getting tired. It’s been working non-stop for forty plus years. Age and gravity are taking their toll and those bad eating habits you acquired as a teen are catching up with you as well. In addition, you are unlikely to have excellent posture or spend most of your day on your feet. This will contribute to common middle age problems like lower back pain. If they haven’t started yet, men will find themselves up two or more times a night to empty their bladder as their prostate begins to puff out. You will probably not make it to 50 without experiencing one weird condition that you would never guess in a million years that you would have to worry about. Attempts to be as physically active as you were as a teen will impart costly lessons. Basketball probably won’t work because it will make your knees hurt or buckle. Volleyball may cause broken tendons. Even if you hit the Gold’s Gym every day and press weights, you will never have the same potential physical strength you had when you were young. The progression will be downhill and the best you can do is slow it. Sorry. Treat your body with care. Get regular checkups, including blood work, and keep up with your vitamins and nutritional supplements. Your body is literally irreplaceable.
- Children. Any children you may have spawned or fostered are likely entering their teenage years. You will probably expect your teens to either be model teenagers or, failing that, at least not do stupid stuff like you did. While you will always love your children, you may find yourself liking them less. In fact, there may be times when you just loathe them. This is completely normal. You are going through a phase too. Eventually they are forced to deal with adult responsibilities and the phase will pass. All that teenage angst will affect your marital relationship, and may contribute to the sex and midlife crises issues. (See above.)
- Age regression. You may also find yourself envious of your teen because they have freedoms that you used to have before you became a sober member of society. Women may want to become cougars and guys will find themselves attracted to younger women. It’s probably not their freedom that you envy. It is their youth because you are realizing the hard truth that the aging clock only goes forward, not backward, you were young and healthy then, and now you look middle age like Sheriff Taylor or June Cleaver. These feelings are natural but look; don’t touch. Only a very usual teenager or young adult is going to be attracted to someone twice his or her age, and if they are it probably will be for your wallet, not your looks or stellar personalities. Moreover, if they happen, it is likely to be ephemeral.
- Groundhog Day Syndrome. The years will zoom by and the older you are the faster they will go. Moreover, you will feel a lot like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. You will feel like you have been down this path many times before. You may marvel at going through two or three sets of appliances while living in the same house. The past will seem crowded together and dates like 1990, 2000 and 2010 will all sort of run together. It will be hard to remember exactly what you did or accomplished in any year. You may wonder how you made it to age 40 at all. Why is this happening? It’s because you are and have been awfully…
- Busy. Unless you have the misfortune to deal with long periods of unemployment and/or have no children, you no doubt have discovered that you are really, really busy almost all the time. You may wonder how anyone has the time to watch TV, let alone blog and surf the Internet. I started this blog in 2002 at the age of 45. It wasn’t until that age that my life became ordered enough where I could take up such a time consuming hobby. When I did of course, I still found it challenging to find the time to blog. To do it, other things were reduced, principally sleep. At age 53, this is still true. The good news is I finally have more time to do things I like, rather than things I must do, but even on a good week it’s about 90% work or sleep, and 10% play.
There is much more to this topic that I will digress on in future posts… if I can find the time.