Quit Telling Me My Life is Over


Is it just me, or is anyone else tired of being told middle age is the end of the road? I saw a  review for a new book by Laura Fraser, All Over the Map, which was described thusly:

Laura Fraser, bestselling author of The Italian Affair, buys readers the plane tickets and takes them in search of adventure and romance as she wonders whether it’s possible, in midlife, to have it all.

Does this imply that by midlife, we should admit defeat, curl up our toes and die? I can’t tell you how many books I’ve seen that seem to take this same stance, but then try to be uplifting with the seemingly shocking message that maybe there still IS something to live for past the age of 30!!! It’s like they’re saying, “Who do you think you are, trying to have a life at this age? Get real, it’s over.”

Why don’t they just come out and say it,  that if you haven’t seen and done it all by age 30, Silver Era Deathyou might as well give up, it’s never going to happen, and you can just sit back and watch the grass grow and wait to die, because DAY-UM, you’re over 40, you missed it. You missed your chance. You should have done something BIG before now.

I don’t need entire books philosophizing about why you should or shouldn’t dye your hair to hide the gray (seriously, there’s a book called “Going Gray” by Anne Kreamer. I am not making this up. Non-fiction).

I don’t need books telling me why I should be doing strength training (Strong Women Stay Young, by Miriam Nelson and Sarah Wernick). I’ve been working out for years. Did these authors somehow miss the rise of health clubs in the 80s?Bohemian Gothic Death

A quick stroll through any bookstore will probably lead you to more titles about reinventing yourself after 40 than Oprah could cover in a year.

They all seem to be saying, “Hey, ok, the Grim Reaper is stalking you but good news! There’s still breath in your body, we won’t call the undertaker just yet.”

Honestly, since when did 40s = dead? So that must mean by the time  you hit 50 you’re already decomposing. Why is it such a revelation that someone in their 40s would still be interested in travel, or romance, or learning, or anything else?

I’m not quite dead yet.

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44 thoughts on “Quit Telling Me My Life is Over

  1. submerina says:

    I started going grey at 20, turn 34 in just over a week and am definitely feeling old and ugly and totally past my best-before date. I realised that I have to smarten up re: job choices because I am no longer “viable” waitressing material and that’s the standard fall-back plan for when you don’t know what else to do. HELP!

    p.s. Your choices of Death are brilliantly beautiful.

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  2. Digital Dame says:

    OH COME ON!! You don’t get to have a crisis at 34! BZZZZZZZZT thank you for playing.

    Kids today, sheesh.

    I don’t imagine waiting tables is much more fun than answering phones, you’re still dealing with cranky people. Although, I have known people who thought it was fun.

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    • submerina says:

      😀
      It’s not *my* crisis, it’s the world around me deciding it’s time to be put out to pasture. Can I still play now? 😉 I don’t particularly want to waitress, but if I had to find stop-gap employment, I don’t think they’d hire me. I’m not *ahem* perky enough.

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      • Digital Dame says:

        I beg to differ, although “perky” probably isn’t quite the right word. 😉 Snarky, perhaps? I think a waitress needs a little snarkitude. But let’s all hope it doesn’t come to that. And you certainly may come out to play now, I’ll save you a seat in the sandbox.

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  3. maryjblog says:

    “I’m not quite dead yet”
    I think I’ll go for a walk 😉

    Honest to Christ, when are people going to turn off the television and start living (the next 20, 30, 40 years of) their lives? Myself, I’ve never felt as comfortable in my skin as I do now – after 40, as I became more and more invisible to popular culture, I became freer and freer to choose the kind of music, clothes, and hobbies I wanted, instead of the ones everybody seemed to think I SHOULD be choosing (plus post-40, people finally realized that I wasn’t kidding about not having kids.)

    p.s. merina – I got married for the first time, went to law school, bought my first 2 homes, and changed careers AGAIN, all after I turned 30. I’ve never regretted any of my choices. Short of Olympic gymnast or Miss Teenage America, you can be anything you want @ 34 – enjoy!

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  4. Digital Dame says:

    Amen! I swear I’ve had more fun post-40 than I did the first 40 years of my life. I’m starting to think life begins at 40. And like you, I have never felt freer or more true to Who I Am(tm) than I do now. Once you get over society’s expectations, the only things that matter are the things that matter TO YOU.

    I just wish they’d quit depressing people with these kinds of books and attitudes.

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    • submerina says:

      “I’m starting to think life begins at 40.”

      Oh good, because I seem to be having a hard time getting started 😉 One thing I’ve never had a problem with is knowing who I am. It’s the rest of the world that has an issue with this (and you can probably guess what they can go do…)

      These books are for the SATC crowd. The one who claim Twilight is great literature. I fear they might be beyond help, but maybe I’m just being an insufferable snob?

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      • Digital Dame says:

        Eh, as my hero Dorothy Parker said, “If you can’t say something nice, come sit next to me.” 😉 And sneering at middle-aged housewives who think Twilight is good lit is simply a sign of your vastly superior intellect, which is why I’m holding that seat in the sandbox for you. All the best people will be there, and I’ve ordered new pails and shovels for everyone from Williams-Sonoma.

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      • maryjblog says:

        We had dinner over the weekend with some acquaintances we hadn’t seen in a while. They were very sweet & hospitable and all, but the one (an educated woman in her late 40’s) was trying to tell me that she only read the first 2 Twilights and saw the movie for her niece’s sake. Mind you, the niece is a married mom in her 20’s – there’s gotta be something else they can find to discuss, no?

        can you tell “snarky” is sorta my middle name these days?

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      • Digital Dame says:

        For her niece’s sake? Why? What would have happened to her niece if she hadn’t read the books and seen the movie? That’s weak. I have no qualms about going to see an out-and-out kids’ movie, like “Finding Nemo” (which is a scream, see it if you haven’t already) or any of the “Toy Story” installments, but there is nothing that could persuade me to watch those god-awful movies. If I ever read the books it would be to get data to back up my arguments for why no one should read the books. Life is too short.

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      • maryjblog says:

        This was a friend from college, a very bright woman who’s gotten very intellectually lazy over the years – a few years back she gave me a copy of that YaYa Sisterhood book, raving about how great it was, and boy what a drag that was! Nothing is going to persuade me to read those crap Twilight books, and I have a beloved niece who lives for that shit, altho at 16 I think that it’s a bit more excusable. If Auntie Crapreader had just flat out admitted that she doesn’t have the energy for anything but junk anymore, I would have had more respect, honestly. Did I tell you about the couple we had over a few weeks back (nice, nice, people, but again, their taste in reading is from hunger, and I don’t mean that dark blood hunger that leads Didge & Gypsy to gothic horror) who were telling me how GREAT those Mitch Albom books are? I don’t think they saw me gagging …

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      • Digital Dame says:

        Oh lord, if you could see my upper lip curling up in distaste… Mitch Albom (making bitter-beer face). Oy.

        As much as we have defended the idea of these kids reading anything, even this stuff, as better than nothing, it is tragic that adults have found value in these books. I saw the movie, Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood, and it had some cute moments, but it was the by-the-numbers sentimental, tug-at-your-heartstrings sort of sappy stuff with a gooey ending. Along the lines of “The Notebook.” I think the whole thing points to a lack of grounding in reality. Hollywood has fed us so many fairy tales, people now actually expect their lives to be like those silly movies, and are disappointed that they’re not, so they keep trying to find it in these books and movies.

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      • maryjblog says:

        I avoided The Notebook – I love a sweet little story as much as the next person, but if you pour honey on a pile of crap, it is still crap, you know?

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  5. Rosie says:

    We are no “silent majority” of old gray-haired mares (or stallions, for that matter) so I will say it out loud: Don’t let anyone say you are “too old” (or too young) to do anything. (Also: Don’t put off doing something until you lose 10 lbs., or get the house painted. ) Recognize those convenient excuses we tell ourselves to keep our energy low. I’m not saying making changes is easy ~ there is some discipline involved in keeping to a writing schedule or working out consistently or getting out and meeting new people. And it isn’t easy to go back to school when you have a young family, but lots of folks do it. And they do it bravely and quietly. They don’t write books about it. They just live their lives.

    Thank you, DD — you are a very contemporary (and inspiring) person. I love to visit your blog for just such posts.

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  6. gypsyscarlett says:

    Here’s something I’ve noticed:

    One, I never pay attention to any of those silly books (or the like) that try to tell me how I should feel or what I should do at a certain age. As a result, I’ve never worried or cared at all what my age is in years.

    Two, I never read so-called beauty magazines. (ya know the ones filled with articles about everything that could possibly be wrong with every aspect of your face and body and how to fix them). Thus, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I am very confident and feel very comfy in my own skin.

    Live life to the fullest, laugh a lot, don’t sweat the small stuff, don’t use the excuses that Rosie wisely mentioned, and be yourself. 🙂

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  7. Digital Dame says:

    Excellent philosophy, Tasha. It’s just sad that there is apparently such a large market for that stuff, all the ‘self-help’ books, beauty mags, these novels like the one that got me going on this topic. They all feed on people’s (read: women’s) insecurities and fears, reinforcing the idea that it’s shocking to still be vital and engaged in life at a certain age.

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  8. maryjblog says:

    Good point, Didge: a great deal of the “self-help” industry is based on fear-mongering for the purpose of selling books & DVsD: “be afraid that you’re old/fat/unattractive/a bad parent/a bad son or daughter/bad spouse/bad lover/bad athlete/bad student/not rich enoug/not popular enough, because then you’ll buy my book about how to fix your life and move your cheese in seven highly effective steps”

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    • maryjblog says:

      Browse the “self-help” aisle in any bookstore and note how many of those books prey on peoples’ fears regarding sex/relationships.

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  9. Rosie says:

    so now you are trying to put the magazine industry out of business? 🙂
    after my MIL passed we had all her mail forwarded to our home address and i can sadly say that the only mags that don’t prey on the seven fears of the highly neurotic are the hard core foodie mags that cater to “serious” cooking/dining. In our home we use them mostly as food porn, as nobody really tries to execute them for everyday meals, but they are uplifting in an aspirational way. And i should just put my money where my mouth is and pick one to try one Sunday.

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  10. maryjblog says:

    I’ve never attempted a big project from any of those mags, but you can leaf thru them for stuff like salad dressing or cookies that can really dress up a regular-folks meal.

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  11. Digital Dame says:

    If I’d ever bothered to make anything out of one of those foodie mags, my kids would have refused to eat it anyway. If it wasn’t mac n’ cheese, or pizza or something like that, it wasn’t going past their lips.

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  12. maryjblog says:

    From the pix I’ve seen, they appear to have grown to adulthood in robust good health – you must have done something right, Digital Mom. Last summer my teenage niece stayed with us in the mountains for a weekend, and mostly she ate Lucky Charms and white spaghetti the whole time. She is a beautiful, articulate girl and I figured on the scale of things that teens could do to worry their loved ones, this didn’t even break 2 on a scale of 1 – 10.

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  13. maryjblog says:

    p.s.

    Just coincidentally, the challenge on Top Chef last night was to prepare a healthy, tasty lunch that middle-school aged kids would eat, within the constraints of the budget that the school permits its real cafeteria. One contestant, apparently even more childless than I am if you get what I mean (or maybe just more clueless) was screeching about how BAD peanut butter is for kids, but she couldn’t understand why it was a bad idea to give them chicken braised in sherry.

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  14. Digital Dame says:

    Apart from the fact that they probably wouldn’t eat it anyway, I wouldn’t waste my good sherry on the kids 😉

    Peanut butter IS nasty, though, but they love it.

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  15. Digital Dame says:

    Entirely possible 😉

    Maybe that’s why when Evil Son #1’s pet rat, Ebola, escaped and I tried to use pb to lure her, she didn’t take the bait. She was actually very sweet, she put up no struggle when I found her in his bureau drawer and picked her up by the tail to put her back in her aquarium/cage.

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  16. maryjblog says:

    OK, we’ve veered way off the original topic but I’ve gotta ask – did Ebola live at your house, with the cats? They didn’t try to eat her?

    Ebola probably snubbed the peanut butter b/c she feared cannibalism, but I will say if you get them used to their own chow, some animals won’t go for people food. I dropped some flaked salmon on the kitchen floor last week (you know the kind that comes in those little foil pouches?) and I figured I’d drop it in Kitty’s dis, along with her kibble, instead of wasting it. D’yknow she wouldn’t go near it? I had to empty out the whle dish and start fresh.

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