Seven Ways I’m Aging that No One Warned Me About
When I was in my early twenties, I spent the majority of my nights club hopping and dancing to Madonna until 4:00 a.m. I drank an obscene amount of rum concoctions and still made it to work each morning without a hangover. I felt unstoppable, and from my young perspective, “middle-aged” was a dirty word synonymous with orthotic sandals, naps, and flower print muumuus that looked like they were sewn from a shower curtain. I pitied the women at the grocery store who were my mother’s age—their carts stocked with probiotic yogurts and pain relievers, a fatigued look in their eyes as they perused the vitamin supplement aisle. I couldn’t imagine how dull their lives must be and swore I’d to never become like them.
Until I hit my fifties.
The changes were subtle at first…..squinting at a menu, plucking a lone grey hair from my head, and discovering a little less wiggle room in my favorite pair of jeans. The mirror was not kind, reminding me each morning that I was beginning to look more and more like those women in the grocery store. One morning when I glanced at my reflection, I hardly recognized the exhausted woman in the rumpled bathrobe staring back at me.
Dear God, I was becoming my mother!
No one warned me that once the outer changes started, the inner changes would soon follow in the race to transform me into a middle-aged woman. I wish I had known in my twenties what would become inevitable once I hit my fifties:
At first, I blamed the bad lighting in my bedroom when I struggled to read the small print in my novels. Then I blamed the book manufacturers—surely they’d shrunk the words on the page to microscopic print similar to the clauses at the bottom of an insurance policy that no one ever reads.
But once I began squinting at road signs, I knew it was time to consult an optometrist for a pair of reading glasses. I dreaded the eye exam, but it was either that or live the rest of my life with the vision of a mole.
I never used heavy moisturizers or concealers on my skin because my complexion had always been supple and smooth when I was young. It’s no coincidence that after the birth of my fourth child, the first set of frown lines appeared on my forehead. This was soon followed by a small cluster of age spots along my jaw and a ring of neck creases similar to the folds on an accordion. I began slathering my skin nightly with creams that were as heavy as wall spackle to fill my wrinkles and avoid a massive collagen meltdown. Despite these efforts, I still live in perpetual fear that after all the years I spent sun tanning by a pool during my teens, I’ll end up with a face like a peach pit.
Muscle Aches and Pains:
When I was younger, the only pain reliever I needed was a few aspirins to chase away a mild headache. Today, my medicine cabinet resembles a Walgreens pharmacy. It’s stocked not only with aspirin but anti-inflammatory medication, analgesic ointments for sore muscles, heartburn pills, and a variety of remedies for upset stomach, diarrhea, and constipation. The heating pad that once sat unused in my closet is often retrieved for my lower back pain after a session at the gym. But the real sign that I’ve officially entered middle age is the fact that I have to rub arthritis cream on my knees, then strap velcro braces on them before heading out to Zumba class each morning.
It started after a family trip to Disney World. I noticed my shorts were a little snug after vacation but figured I could easily drop the extra five pounds by sacrificing my weekly indulgence of caramel frappuccinos. When I didn’t see immediate results, I cut back on my food portions and removed sugar from my diet. Sadly, none of these tactics worked, so I bought yoga pants in bulk and wore loose-fitting shirts that could double as pop-up tents if I was ever stranded in the woods. I now realize the wisdom of elderly women in elastic waistband shorts; it’s smarter to choose comfort over style once you reach a certain age.
In college, I could hold my own in the beer drinking contests that were popular at nightly keg parties on campus. I was proud of the fact that I could put away more shots of tequila than any of my male friends and still wake the next morning without feeling like crap.
Now, all it takes is a glass or two of chardonnay the night before and I wake looking like I’ve joined the ranks of The Walking Dead. On mornings like that, it’s nearly impossible to perform a simple task such as dropping a slice of bread into the toaster when my stomach is churning and my head feels like someone’s using a jackhammer on my skull.
I once had the stamina of the Energizer bunny. But after years of chasing four toddlers around the house and running a taxi service for them in my minivan, I am TIRED. I’ve become immune to caffeine, and the only cure for my fatigue is a midday nap. The nights of dining out and dancing until dawn have been replaced with Netflix marathons and lights out at 10:00 p.m.
Another change since I’ve gotten older? Sleep wins over sex nine times out of ten.
I never needed a push-up bra or waist trimmer when I was in my twenties. Everything was firm and cellulite-free. Nowadays I have quite a collection of Spanx in my drawer along with heavy-duty support bras in every color of the rainbow.
My fanny is also beginning to sag like two wet sandbags, which explains why I’ve been paying extra attention to those infomercials for Brazilian butt lifts and sales on padded jeans designed to raise the derriere.
But it’s not all bad. Getting older has its advantages.
I’m wiser and less impulsive in my decision making.
Years of experience have taught me not to rush through life and to savor the moment.
I appreciate the little things more and stress less.
I’m also one step closer to retirement and to becoming an AARP member with some great senior discounts.
I may be picking up a few more wrinkles along the way, but that’s okay. These little lines by my eyes and mouth are merit badges that I proudly wear, earned from years of laughter and a life well lived.
(This article first appeared in its original form on Monopausal Mother)