My little darlings informed me recently that I was ‘middle-aged’.
While my brain screamed “WTF?” my mouth worded: “Excuse me?”
Apparently the topic had been discussed in Miss 12’s Year 7 health ed class and at 45, I slotted into the bracket of middle age.
The look on my face soon had my Mr 10 clarifying that actually, “Dad is middle age because he’s 50. You’re still young mum.”
That child has learned fast how to keep a woman happy.
I did say to the kids that technically, I suppose I am – if I keel over at 90-ish, then I am literally at the middle mark.
I am not middle aged, a term that I find as outdated as the calculation.
The middle is moving
There is plenty of commentary to back me up here: they say that 60 is the new middle age and that 75 is now when we are officially ‘old’.
One headline said 60 is the new 40 – so hip-fucking-hooray, by that calculation, I’m only 25.
While we were once considered middle aged in our 40’s, as we are living longer and staying healthier for longer, we’re not ageing either (thank YOU very much Yr 7 curriculum!).
The concept of middle age is a little old-fashioned and look, the numbers are becoming less and less relevant.
In past generations, there were very clear demarcations in life stages. Most notably, having kids and retiring.
You were married and had kids in your 20’s. You retired at 60 or 65. So your 40’s were the middle I suppose.
Those lines are gone. We have children later, don’t necessarily get married at all, or we marry more than once.
Retirement is fast becoming a different concept to what it once was, with more people aiming to either retire earlier, or purposefully planning on not retiring at all but continuing to work in some way for as long as it makes them happy.
So these life stages are no longer to be expected at a certain age and we are free to stay as young as we want for as long as we can, because ageing is really, a state of mind. You can be older, but not old.
The baby boomers really led this redefinition of ageing. They were a generation bucking trends from the start. They have driven the most significant changes in history – they changed our culture forever, to be free, more hip and one in which the rules were for breaking (thanks Elvis and James Dean). They changed the music industry, they were affluent, they travelled and embraced health and movement more, especially as they have aged.
My parents, both in their mid-60’s, are not the same type of grandparent that their parents were. They still work, they still play sport, they travel, they party, they have busy social lives. They’re also divorced and have ‘second’ lives that don’t involve babysitting, baking and wearing knee-high socks.
And they will both be very happy to hear that according to the stats, they’re still in their 40’s.
My in-laws, a decade older than my parents, are world travellers, very socially active and living a very full life.
When my in-laws moved into a gated over-50’s complex this year, I took great delight in informing my husband that he too, now being 50, qualified to move in beside them.
I think he actually thought about it for a second.
The retirement village or over 50’s resort concept needs a recalculation – today’s 50 year-olds come with kids still in primary school.
So I don’t buy this middle aged caper.
I’m not diminishing … I’ve just started rising
I feel, actually, like I’m really just coming in to my most powerful years. Rather than diminishing, I am rising. Stronger, braver, and more certain.
I am wiser – so much bloody wiser – than I was in my 20’s and 30’s. I have my shit far more together in so many ways simply because life experience is the ONLY way to accumulate deep wisdom, the kind you can’t learn from click bait.
Yet, we’re surrounded by media, advertising and industry that tell us that we’re past our best-by date.
How can you have reached your best already, before you’ve had any significant life experience?
I don’t feel like I’ve reached anywhere near my best.
We can’t be defined by our age now. This idea of being middle aged is meaningless to a generation of women who are shrugging off the stereotypes of the numbers.
What I see around me are women stepping in to their own. Women who have earned, learned and become stronger from the experiences that more than 40 years of life give to you.
Having sacrificed so much for their children and families, coming in to their 40’s and 50’s is a time in which they are ready to really own their talents and strengths. To lead and shed the restraints of the past. To no longer worry about the things that have constrained them previously.
These are powerful women. They have a greater sense of what they want, what they will tolerate, and most importantly, what they won’t.
Any business, organisation or industry that continues to worship youth over wisdom and experience is leaving not only money on the table because they’re not interested in who we are and what we want, but they are missing a golden opportunity for intelligent – significant – guidance and contribution.
This is why women over 40 are starting their own businesses in droves. Tired of beating their heads against a glass ceiling or brick wall, tired of being held back, ignored or patronised – overwhelmed in a structure that won’t budge even a little to accommodate and keep them – these wise, amazing and talented women are walking away and creating a fulfilled life on their own terms!
Because ambition doesn’t diminish either. It may change focus but if anything, ambition grows stronger when you realise how much more you have to offer, how much more to give, than you did a decade or two ago.
We’re not to be underestimated. Not to be written off.
And with that, I raise my middle finger in salute to the idea of being middle aged, and implore the education authorities to re-write the health ed curriculum.