on being middle-aged

From my third-grader’s spelling homework last week:


He handed me this page for my typically cursory parental review.

ME: Uh, Seamus. One thing.

SEAMUS: (already putting his pencil away) What?

ME: Well, it’s just– 45 isn’t “middle-aged.”

SEAMUS: (quite sure) Yes it is.

ME: Usually people say that, like, 60 is middle-aged. More than they would say that about someone who was… only… 45.

SEAMUS: But 45 is in the middle.

ME: Well. It IS, but–

SEAMUS: So that’s middle-aged.

He zipped his backpack with great finality. End of scene.

Two days later, I received my college alumni magazine. In my class notes, my college class secretary stated that since all of us who graduated that year were “halfway to death,” it might be an opportune moment to send in news of where we had ended up.

I’m not middle-aged, strictly speaking, since I’m not yet 45. But I’m darn close. So both of these events have really stayed with me. Halfway to the end– if I’m LUCKY? In that case, what am I thinking wasting another moment watching the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills?

These days, I pass a mirror, and I think: OLD. You are OLD. Which I am. My forty-something friend told me that this decade was all about stepping up your game. No more fitting into that dress by just skipping dessert for a few days. No more heading out to your kid’s soccer game in messy bun, sans makeup. Everything gets harder and takes longer, she explained, and so you have to work harder.

And perhaps that is why, last week, I got Invisalign braces for my teeth. This was after two decades of adulthood in which I 1) thought I should have straighter teeth and 2) did zero about it.

They’re not horribly deformed or anything, but after one of my first auditions in New York City, a casting director explained to me, not unkindly, that I had to do something. (He showed me how they looked in closeup on camera.)

But for several years, I didn’t have the money to do anything about it.

Then I had the money, but couldn’t wear braces on my teeth because I was acting. (Yes, I am middle-aged, so I am speaking of a bygone time in which Invisaligns didn’t exist.)

Then I looked into movie-star Chiclet veneers, but I laughed out loud when I heard how much those would cost.

My oldest friend said, “Don’t do that! Your teeth are fine! You’re like Kirsten Dunst!”


Which was a comfort, for a time. But then two things happened:

1) Kirsten Dunst got her teeth fixed

2) Kirsten Dunst sort of stopped doing movies

By then, I wondered if I was too old to bother. What was the point of fixing my teeth now? I was middle-aged! Halfway to the end! Time to get fitted for a rocking chair, or something. But there is a part of me that rages against the dying of the light. If I’m going to look in the mirror and notice how old I look, I might as well have straighter teeth as a little pick-me-up.

So here’s my question: how does one age gracefully? Is it about increasing the upkeep? Or decreasing the amount that you care?

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Kizz January 25, 2014 at 10:29 pm

I would say that its about decreasing the amount we care but, let’s be honest, I’ve already set the caring bar pretty damn low.


steve February 8, 2014 at 8:49 pm

By middle-age, you must make the shift from “looking attractive,” to “looking orderly.”
Part of that is good dental work.
The more you ignore, the more you wind up looking like one of those laughing ladies sitting on a barrel in “Pirates of the Caribbean.”
If you can maintain a weathered facsimile of your prior attractive self, you win.


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