Friday, July 11, 2008

When do you become middle-aged?

A couple of posts over on Blogher have me thinking about the terms we use for people of various ages. Myrnatheminx is looking for BlogHers of a certain age who aren't "Mommies" and Msmeta asks Where are all the middle-aged women bloggers? The comments to Msmeta's post include a lot of people trying to define 'middle-aged', and actually evolved into a separate group blog for midlifers.

But at 37, it just doesn't feel right to call myself middle-aged. Yeah, I know, given average life expectancies, I could be technically quite close to the middle of my life (or with the way I've been avoiding exercise, well past it!), but I don't feel middle-aged. But I don't feel 'young' either. So what do you call people in the 30-ish to 40-ish age range? I usually just refer to myself as a '30-something' and leave it at that. But what happens when I turn 40? I guess I could call myself a Gen Xer (which, according to Wikipedia, includes anyone born from 1965 to 1982) but I'm not crazy about the connotations associated with that.

The thing is, all of those terms carry connotations, stereotypes, images in our heads that inform how we think about the person to whom we are referring. That's what labels do, for good or for bad. Calling myself 30-something is a shortcut for all the things I think that means, most of which I usually think are good (that is, when I hear '30-something', I picture someone who has grown past the immaturity of being 'young', who is somewhat more settled, who has some idea of who she and what she wants, though perhaps hasn't attained all of it yet). Actually, as I write this, it occurs to me that maybe the key is that when I start seeing the good things about the middle-aged label, that's when I'll know it fits. Right now, 'middle-aged' feels too old, too over the hill, but I can imagine a day in the future when it will feel more like it means wisdom, confidence, contentment. So I guess that's when I'll become middle-aged...


zandria said...

I think 30-something is a much better label than "middle-aged," too. Middle-aged seems to be related to people having crises... :)

dawn said...

I'm in my early 40s, never married, and haven't associated myself with the term middle-aged, either. Then again, I try not to assign those kinds of labels to myself. There are enough labels assigned to single women without me doing it to myself, too. :-)

My area of research is on women's identity in social networks, so I find this area of blogging very interesting.

Jenn said...

"There are enough labels assigned to single women without me doing it to myself, too"

Amen! Someone over on Blogher pointed out that they specifically use the term 'midlife' instead of 'middle-aged' in order to avoid some of these (negative) connotations but I like the idea of just avoiding labels in general.