I think I’m having a mid-life crisis. I know I’m not even forty yet (I’m close!), but my world is starting to shift, little signs here and there, indicating that maybe I’m not as young as I used to be. Advertisers don’t cater to women my age unless it’s about intestinal flora, A-list actresses look young enough to be my zygote, and I look like I’m playing the trombone when I try to read things. Perhaps the most alarming symptom is that I’m finding the TV show Friends funny. Yes, Friends—that wildly popular show about six absurdly gorgeous people living in unrealistically huge apartments in New York’s Greenwich Village who always seem to get the prime seating spot at their local coffee shop. Not just funny, hysterical! I, who get all the high-brow, erudite jokes on 30 Rock and The Colbert Report, who love to use the word “erudite” in a sentence, suddenly find the sophomoric antics of Chandler and Joey as amusing and comforting as Lobster Mac ‘n Cheese. I wait until the Hubs is asleep before quietly switching over to Nick at Night to see if Ross and Rachel will ever get back together. And I’m now convinced that “Friends” will eventually become the “Matlock” of my generation.
I’ve also notice my posture is wretched and getting worse. That rounded, hunched shoulders look may appear glamorous on skinny runway models, but I look like Quasimodo in drag. Recent pictures confirmed as much. Despite the cute sweater dress I wore to my office holiday party, my slouch made my once buoyant bosom look as weighted and barnacled as a sunken treasure chest. (Rim shot!—TMI, I know.)
Hence, the mid-life crisis, which begs the question: Do I go for the sports car or the hot young girlfriend?
When my parents were my age, they were old as far as I was concerned, just as my fifteen-year-old stepson looks at me and asks what life was like before the invention of the wheel. (I can’t remember what I had for lunch yesterday, you think I’d remember that??) My brain acts like I’m still a teenager: I like playing Lego Batman on the PS3, watching “Doctor Who” reruns, sledding in winter, and wearing Wonder Woman bracelets. (No joke, if they make adult-size, non-fetish Underoos, link me up in the comments section.) Like most mid-life crises, I don’t feel middle aged. But the calendar, and the fact that I remember Norman Lear television shows, tells me otherwise.
Much of this age angst is pure vanity. I’d like to think I don’t look my age, but I may simply be delusional on that. I suspect I have what I call reverse body dysmorphia—I think I look younger/better/thinner than I actually am. I’m blind to the deepening laugh lines on my face, the dark circles under my eyes, and the sporadic strands of silver hair that spiral out of my scalp and only show up in the fluorescent light of the subway. Mind you, I’m not so far gone as to think I could get away with a thong bikini or even a mini-skirt. (I read an article that stated women should stop wearing mini-skirts after age 30. My sister-in-law said, “I’m Dominican. We wait until after 65.”) But I still have dreams of one day being as kick-ass as Xena, Warrior Princess—another clue to exactly how old I am.
For what it’s worth, this younger-than-I-really-am thinking is genetic: my mother put a picture of herself at forty beside a picture of her at twenty years old to remind herself—and anyone else who might see it—that she hadn’t aged a day and was still sexy, dammit. But, let’s face it: no one over the age of twenty looks like they did at twenty. Not even twenty-one-year-olds. Yet I get the sentiment: I still want to be hot like I was when I was twenty-five—thirty pounds lighter with a Pilates-sculpted six-pack. Back then I was oblivious to guys flirting with me. Nowadays, the only guy checking me out is my gay neighbor asking if I’m pregnant. I’m not. (Note: I don’t care if she’s in labor and crowning, never ask a woman if she’s pregnant, got it?) Yes, I know I could spend three hours a day getting that rock-hard body back, but I would also look like I was trying too hard…because I was trying too hard. Plus, I’m not sure it would solve anything. As my friend Erin likes to say, “Your ass or your face—they can’t both look good at the same time.”
But there’s more to this mid-life meltdown than looks. Maybe OCS, or Only Child-Syndrome (a term I just made up), is at work here, too. When you’re an only child like me, you are the center of your parents’ world. Whatever you do—school, art, tying your shoes—is brilliant. I won’t lie, that’s a tough drug to kick. But expecting praise for every accomplishment over the age of 35, or even 30, is a little much. People have better things to do than applaud your efforts at learning something new—like, say, the ukulele, for example. (What? I’m not necessarily talking about me. I mean a friend . . . yeah, my friend who just took up the ukulele. That’s it!) And if I put up my accomplishments up against those of Tina Fey or Hilary Clinton or Katy Perry, I curl up in a fetal position for a week. The clock is ticking on my dreams of singing backup in a rock band (do rock bands even exist anymore?), earning a degree in quantum physics (even though I’m terrible at math), or becoming a child violin prodigy (okay, I may have to let go of that one).
I know I’m not breaking any ground here. Women have been struggling with growing older since before Countess Elizabeth Bathory (1560-1614) was bathing in the blood of virgins to retain her youth. (Others I’ve known have done the sports car, the hot girlfriend, the boy toy, tattoos, windsurfing, and Thelma & Louise-esque adventures because, really, there just aren’t that many virgins to go around these days.) I also know I’m suppose to have a pithy wrap up for this post. But, I don’t—I’m growing older by the minute and that’s still unnerving. Ten years from now (God willing), I’ll probably look back on this age and say “I was so young. I had the world right at my feet.” No doubt I’ll be going through my second or third mid-life crisis by then, too.