Copyright 2001 Linda Marcas - All Rights Reserved

Crank's Corner: Commentary by Linda Marcas

                                     Middle-Age Crazy

    What would possess a middle-aged woman to dye her waist-length
hair fire-engine red in honor of her favorite band, and then to go chasing
said band around the countryside like some deranged stalker or elderly
groupie?  What would cause a forty-something man to spend entire days
washing and waxing a little red zippy car, when the two other cars in the
driveway get washed only by the rain?  What would cause this couple to
remodel a room in their home for the odd purpose of decorating it with a
scheme based on the words "the Russians dropped the bomb in '57?"

    Despite what it might seem like to the casual observer, we haven't lost
our minds during a joint mid-life crisis.  At least, I don't think so; I don't feel
unbalanced, but then again, how would I tell if I were?  While attempting to
come up with some reasonable explanation of our behavior in order to stave
off well-meaning relatives who are ready to sign the commitment papers (I
like you, too, Harvey), I've been analyzing the causes of our middle-age

    For one thing, we are fairly recent empty-nesters, and, after years of
responsibility, we are now free to leave the house without worrying about
what sort of crisis might occur while we are gone.  Board the dog, have a
friend come in to feed the cats, and we can go off on a road trip.  When the
kids moved out, we gained three more rooms to utilize to our own purposes;
our guests can now sleep in feline-free comfort instead of sharing a sofa
with several furballs.  We can go to visit people, and more people can come
to visit us, which has broadened our social life considerably.

    My husband was recently laid off from work, and I'm glad he had a
major remodelling project to throw his energies at, or else we might have
driven each other bonkers.  As it is, he has been working harder and longer
hours on this "fun" project than he usually needed to work at his job.  While
this kept him out from under my feet, I found myself getting jealous,
because, while he was making massive home improvements, I was still
doing the same-old same-old, laundry, dishes, and cleaning.  Ordinarily, this
repetitive labor doesn't bother me, but it is neither interesting nor creative,
and, ultimately, one doesn't have much to show for it.  So when I explained
this to Hubby as the cause of my grumpiness, he gladly ran the sweeper for
me so I could have fun dyeing the curtains for the Red Room, even though it
made his back hurt.

     Thus, you see, the lay-off has been a stress for both of us, each in our
own way.  Add to this the fact that his son, the younger child, is now 18 and
will be graduating from high school this year, and that his daughter, the
elder child, is about to make him a grandfather for the first time.  Again, add
the fact that I am an only child, my mother is in poor health but okay for
now as long as she stays on her oxygen, and I can see 50 looming on the
ever-nearing horizon.  We are not shying away from our own mortality, but
passing 40 does make you think about how much life you have left in you.

    We are fortunate in having some respite after caring for our
youngsters and before caring for our elders, and we are aware of our good
fortune in this.  We know we aren't getting any younger, and that, someday,
we might not be able to do the things that we can do today.  We are
therefore bound and determined to make good use of our middle years, not
because we long for or hope to re-capture our vanished youth, but because
we cherish and value the relative "youth" we have remaining to us.

     Our passtimes are harmless, if somewhat odd; I didn't dye my hair to
cover my gray, and Hubby didn't wax the car in the hope of attracting some
svelte 20-year-old with whom he could have a fling.  We don't entertain
because we can't stand to be alone with each other, but because we enjoy the
intellectual stimulation and exchange of ideas that our friends bring into our
lives.  We don't remodel to keep up with the Joneses in some competitive
suburbanite pecking order, but to improve our surroundings and to make
ourselves happy in a concretely creative manner.  We know that things
could be different, and much worse.  We actively appreciate what we have
right now.

    Life is too short to go through it worrying about "what people might
think," especially if you're on the downhill slope.  Explore, travel, talk, and
create; do whatever it is you need to do to keep yourself interested in living,
and enjoying, your life.  Middle age can either lock you into an "act your
age" mentality that makes you old before your time, or it can free you from
that ever-felt pressure toward comformity that makes high-school students
gun down their peers.  We Baby-Boomers might be willy-nilly turning into
our parents, but that doesn't mean that we'll all fade away without a fight.
We might pay our income taxes on time, get fat, and go bald, but that
doesn't mean we can't be middle-age crazy.

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