I was recently told by my physician that I am in my “prime.” I found this remark to be somewhat ironic considering that we had just finished discussing the merits of bifocal contact lenses, signs of an impending midlife crisis, and my slowly increasing cholesterol level. Leaving his office, I realized what he really meant when he said that I was in my prime: it’s all downhill from here, kiddo.
I’ve always known that growing older was going to be especially difficult for those of us engulfed in the last wave of the Baby Boom. We were a little too young to be a part of the Me Generation but not quite old enough to be considered true Yuppies either, all of which resulted in a sort of schizophrenic adolescence, sandwiched between the early ‘70s when long hair and hippies were all the rage and the late ‘70s when John Travolta and disco ruled. Talk about your diverse messages—free love or one night stands? Peasant blouses versus polyester pants? Commune or college? No wonder so many of us haven’t wanted to admit we’re middle aged. How can we be middle aged when we still haven’t figured out our teenage years?
But as the old saying goes, time and tide waits for no man. As much as we are loathe to admit it, my fellow classmates and I are middle aged. Make that firmly middle aged. We can no longer giggle when the liquor clerk smirkingly i.d.’s us since we are now aware of the fact that he doesn’t truly think we’re under 21. He’s just having a little fun with us—the kind of fun we used to have with doddering, over-the-hill old people.
One of the surest signs that you’re getting is older is that suddenly you no longer recognize any of the stars on the tabloid covers while you’re waiting in line at the grocery store checkout. This is a much more reliable indication than glancing into your shopping cart and noticing that instead of the Nacho Cheese Doritos and twelve-pack of Tab that you used to buy for breakfast, you’re instead waiting to purchase such yummy morning wake up meals as oatmeal, flax seed, and an industrial size package of Tums.
It seems to me that for years I spent my grocery store waiting time reading such intriguing headlines as Dolly Parton Due to Implode by Thanksgiving! Princess Diana Engaged to Frank Sinatra? Elvis Alive and Well in Yugoslavia! I could thumb through the National Enquirer and learn a whole host of fascinating facts before my produce was weighed.
Then one day I got into line and there were all these strange people on the covers of the magazines lined up at the counter. I don’t recognize a soul in the Enquirer anymore unless there’s a sad end of life story on (fill in the blank with anyone famous in the 1960’s or 1970’s).
It’s all about payback. All the times I snickered at middle aged men driving fire engine red Corvettes, laughed behind my hand when my mom told me that she thought Ponch from C.H.I.P.’s was “cute,” and honestly and truly believed that I was never going to go gray have finally caught up with me. I have arrived at middle age and the view, frankly, is humbling. Not to mention fairly nauseating.
Now my children laugh at me. They roll their eyes when I play Journey in the car and reminisce about a world without cell phones, YouTube and Kindle. But that’s really all right because with age comes wisdom and I now know that they’ll get theirs someday too.
If the middle years are this hard, I wonder what my generation will be like thirty years from now when we’re out of this awkward stage and into the senior years. Will Donny and Marie still be performing in Vegas? Will we remember who Donny and Marie are? Will we care? I don’t know but here’s to hoping we’re all around to find out.
Ah, yes. In my prime indeed.