When does Middle Age start? Thoughts on turning 35


Last Monday I turned 35. And I never really processed the fact that at some point I would actually enter my scary age.

My husband is almost 8 years my senior and I still remember when his friends (and especially girlfriends) turned 35. They had plenty of kids (well, like 98% of them but remember this is Belgium and baby making is one of the preferred activities of the locals), a mortgage, crow’s feet around their eyes and started talking mammography and other cancer screenings. No need to say I considered them the oldest persons on Earth.

According to WHO datas the average life expectancy for a European woman is a little over 80 years (85 in Italy, 83 in Belgium. I guess olive oil and sun exposure give one that little final advantage) so mathematical middle age would be still 5-7 years ahead. Given though my ignorance of my personal life expectancy plus the fact that I am surrounded by a growing number of mentally aging individuals, I guess I can declare my middle age season open. And make a list, something I always do when turning a chapter.

Things I know now that I am 35:

1. Nothing in life is perpetual. Bad times, good times, they just keep alternating. Even the most tiresome phase will at some point end.

2. Troubled people don’t look charming anymore. They look like sociopaths and instead of pitying them, you start avoiding them.

3. Red hair, trilby hats, derby shoes and skinny jeans don’t look good on me. So I can finally stop wasting time and money on passing trends that don’t suit my figure.

4.Your body will start to rebel against prolonged sloppiness. Sunscreen, make-up remover, dental floss and sleep are not accessories anymore. They are your assets. And I can’t go out and drink alcohol for longer than 4 nights in a row. After that, it’s detox or collapse. 

5.You can’t please everybody. No matter how hard you try, someone is going to dislike what you say, do or write. 

6.You enter a phase where unpleasant stuff happens and that “stuff” is your adult life. I lived a relatively peaceful existence till a couple of years ago when disaster sort of strucked my house. Every week seemed to bring its own charge of bad news, failed plans and unforeseen difficulties. I spent hours with a friend who was encountering the same problems, wondering if bad luck did actually exist and in that case, if and where we caught it. I now realize those set backs and obstacles are just what adult life is made of and they suddenly come to light because for the first time you are fully responsible of what’s going on.

7.When you reach middle age, some people start to act like it. Young people are all young in the same way. On the contrary, middle-aged people live their time in dozens of different ways. Some decide to become directly old, and you see the string of pearls and the pastel little twin-set suddenly making its appearance on an ex-biker girl or a sudden interest for ancient art fairs and real estate. Some others desperately seek the lost youth and sport around new tattoos, impossible miniskirts and hooded sweatshirts at night. Some stay somewhere in the middle, trying not to look too young while they wait to become old.

8. You start wishing you could go back for a day to your 20s with that body and this, 30-something mindset. Oh, you would have so much more fun!

9.Time is not on your side, so you appreciate every moment. As you grow up and your life fills up with schedules and obligations you feel you are not master of your personal time anymore. You can’t keep in contact with all of your friends, you can’t run with your dog as much as you’d like to, you won’t be able to share precious moments with everyone. So, every time you do you are really happy.

10. Everything does not end at 35. One of the reasons I’ve always dreaded the mid-30s is that I was brought up with the idea that you have to peak before middle age, otherwise you’re done. Luckily that’s not true anymore and there’s plenty of things you can achieve later on.

What did you learn so far about getting old?


  1. My friend, 35 is still very young. But you have definitely lost the carefree attitude of your 20’s. Probably having kids also speeds up the amount of responsibilities one has to juggle – it’s not about you anymore. One thing I have learned is that life doesn’t become easier as you get older. On the contrary. The advantage is that you are better equipped for what comes your way and minor problems and detours fall to the wayside. If it can make you feel better, I would never go back to 35 – rather my mid-40’s or I would stay the way I am now: still looking reasonably good, less worried, less concerned about what people think and generally happier in the face of a more difficult life. Happy birthday! And many many happy returns.

    1. I know! I asked (and received) a sports club membership as a birthday gift. I don’t think the random yoga and pilates will do it anymore, I have to resume proper training to regain control of the future 🙂

  2. 30 seemed like a big deal to me at the time, but 35 came and went without a thought … I have two years until 40 and plan to be so busy with something exciting that I don’t notice it.

    Happy Birthday!

  3. Whippersnapper…. 35 is very young, or else I am an old fart.

    I remember (vaguely) when 40 sounder old, then 45 sounded old when I reached half a century I realised I was old.

  4. My thirties went by in a haze of dirty nappies, permanent exhaustion and the complete submersion of my own identity. I am very happily in my fifties now. At this rate, if it keeps getting this much better, I`ll be thrilled to be in my sixties.
    I second taking care of yourself, however. Massively so.

  5. I have the feeling that 35 is when my life got started…. I am now 51 and finally slowing down a bit, pearl necklaces and all (no twin sets though, I hate them). All in all, it’s been great.

  6. Great post! I will say I’m in my early 30s and feel quite young. Don’t waste your 30s feeling old. Save that for your 80s or 90s. It amazes me we define young adult from like 16 to 30. You’re considered a kid from infancy to 16. Then you’re old for 40 to 50 or 60+years. It never made sense to me. I wouldn’t go back to my teens or 20s for all the money in the world. All I did was study and help take care of a sick parent. I enjoy owning a home, having money, freedom, a career, and the ability to set my own life course.

    So, eat healthy, workout, take care of your body, and most of all-enjoy the journey!!! Carpe Diem. Time once spent can’t be retrieved. 🙂

  7. 35 isn’t middle aged even technically. Its actually 37.5 and that’s for men! But you know I dont think its middle aged socially. I tend to think of middle aged today as around 44 and over. I dont know. You turned 35 , but you write like you just turned 50. Just 10 years ago you were 25. The irony is I wasnt in good shape in my 20s, and now I’m almost 35 and I’m the best shape of my life. So maybe while some are aging, I’m in the reverse? I dont know. Other than a few grey hairs, I look about the same as I did when I was 22. I feel younger too!

  8. 35 is in your prime, enjoy! Ten years on and everything aches… I’d love to be 35 again – although I wouldn’t enjoy the sleepless nights (from babies crying, not partying!)

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