middle age

Hit 40 and run!

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There is a new wave of runners in my generation. It’s been a few years now that every week there is a new Triathlon or Marathon or whatever running competition coming on and a long lost friend asks for funding with a long and detailed e-mail on all the fantastic uses of those contributions to his performance. Children’s hospitals, earthquake survivals, orphanages in Bolivia. You name it, there is someone running for them.

Very noble actions, of course, I am all in awe of that. What I can’t help but noticing, though, is that no runner is under 35. Call it middle-age crisis (something I know about), an irresistible need to get fit or a Siddharta-like search for the deep meaning of the Universe. It is a fact that today, apparently, once you are about to hit 40 you should shed away laziness, sedentary hobbies (knitting? Come on, it is not by chance that knitting is so popular among pretty girls in their 20s) and embrace the run.

I haven’t been able to satisfy my nerdiness by sourcing down the exact origin of this trend so I am still wondering who came first: the runners or the charities looking at them as potential ambassadors? While I keep searching for an exact answer to my doubts I can’t forget what a friend told me a few years ago. We were at a 30th birthday party and the dance floor was empty, early in the night. People were drinking, chatting, flirting, going to the ladies’ to chat more, reapply makeup and hide from prettier love rivals. But none would hit the dance floor. Suddenly, a bunch of over 60s men and women appeared in the middle of it and started dancing as if there was no tomorrow. They were the father of the birthday girl and his friends. “It’s always the parents dancing first, because they know time their time for having fun is not infinite”, my friend observed with what I then registered as a certain cynicism.

I guess it’s the same for this obsession with marathons. When you hit 40 (and a little before that) you start realising that it’s now or never, you won’t sculpt your body or get rid of the fat in the next decade. So why not teaming it with a good cause to feel more motivated to get out of the bed every morning to jog around the neighbourhood and then fill weekends with trainings and local competitions? (and the good cause makes all the hiding from your family on weekends so much more excusable:-) I even heard that running gives you a sort of high, so I imagine one can qualify it as middle-aged people’s marijuana.

As for myself, I am not immune to the big call of the 40s. I hate sweating and have never been able to run properly so I resumed my childhood passion and I started swimming. Like everyday, just to be sure I go to my rendez-vous with my 40s in a decent shape. I asked for a water-resistant ipod for my birthday. The times they are A-changin’, after all.

When does Middle Age start? Thoughts on turning 35

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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?