Why Hello Middle Age, Actually I Don’t Have a Real Job Yet, Thanks for Asking

The sole recurring beef I have with my husband—that makes me just mind-meltingly, vision-blurringly livid—is about another woman. Specifically, a very nice young lady with whom he went on one date once, after we knew each other but before we were A Thing.

I can’t go into specifics because this is a private event that didn’t involve me, but from what I know—as a result of repeated, humorless, openly insane interrogations that I have peppered throughout our seven-year relationship—he and this individual went to one movie.  And yet, when I first found out about it (I say that like it’s a thing to “find out about,” showcasing just how insane I am), during the last two hours of a fourteen-hour drive, it was as if someone had knifed me in the gut. The next morning, the second it became a decent hour in California, I called my friend Debra furtively, and hissed into the phone: DO YOU KNOW who he went out with once? DO YOU KNOW? Martine* (nhrn). I spat the name with more venom than I have used to utter the word Hitler.

MARTINE? Debra replied.

Yes, I said. That disgusting skank. It was, and I am not making this up, a potential relationship dealbreaker.

Martine is a very nice person totally undeserving of my wrath, and the fact that someone with whom I was not at the time in a committed relationship went on a date with someone who is not me is, I believe the technical term is none of my fucking business. I realize this completely.

At the time of the fateful drive-time revelation, I had met Martine twice, which is not at all a sufficient amount of time to determine that someone is A Skank, nor do I think it is even remotely appropriate to call a woman A Skank in general. I know this. FEMINISM.  Yes, Martine was (and still is, as far as I know) very pretty—although that is not the reason I remain so incensed that the man who is now my husband once spent two hours sitting in her proximity. She is pretty—but the reason for the venom I still possess to this day, even though the guy just married me on purpose, is that Martine is over ten years my junior. That’s it.

Someone I love and trust who is my own age (all right, 22 months younger, but whatever) dating someone who is in her early twenties resides, to me, somewhere between genocide and people insisting the academic meritocracy exists. Much younger women, and the idea that all of my male peers are attracted to them, make me positively seethe with barely concealed (all right, totally unconcealed) jealousy.

Because here’s a riddle: what did I once have so much of that I hated it, but now I don’t have it and want it, and the harder I work to get it, the more obvious it is that I don’t have it? Two-part answer: youth, and also, I am a shitty riddlist. I started this blog just over ten years ago to the day, days after the Blackout of 2003, before wifi existed. I was twenty-six years old, just about to turn twenty-seven, and this is what my life was like:

I lived mostly rent-free in a ground-floor apartment in the West Village paid for by my then-boyfriend’s acting work (at that time, it was A Separate Peace on Showtime and Eurotrip). Our “furniture” in its entirety consisted of a bottom-of-the-line 1-800-MATTRES (leave off the last “S” for Savings!) that was always in some stage of cheap-sheet-falling-off-of, and a half-broken futon. For a living, I spent a fateful semester teaching composition at a weasly for-profit, I collected (briefly) Unemployment, I wrote a biweekly column for the magazine The L for 100% free, I was Associate Editor (briefly) of Dance Teacher Magazine (where I gained 20 lbs in 5 months), and mostly I was a Professional TV Watcher (not as cool as it sounds). I earned between $0 and $35,000 a year, which in New York Dollars is like negative seventy-jabillion Francs after the introduction of the Euro. (Also, I drank a lot and that is probably where all my money went). My financial security plan involved me withdrawing $300 in cash every payday and hiding it in my underwear drawer from myself, doling out $20 every few days. My boyfriend, though very kind to me, was usually out of town shooting a movie, so my relationship was rather unfulfilling, and my “career” basically involved me doing whatever it took to pay a small portion of the bills while working on m “real work,” which was my unpaid L column.

Although I never went hungry (far from it, heh), I was not what I’d call existentially happy or even particularly whole. I had a lot more friends than I do today, but other than that, I have to say there is little I miss about being 27. All things considered, I’m pretty proud of who I am today. I am the closest to whole I have ever been—but the one thing I am most certainly not is young.

Today in class while discussing The Epic of Gilgamesh, I asked the students if they would accept eternal life if someone offered it to them in a magic plant. One said: “Yes, if I could stay under 35 forever.” “Excuse me?” I said. “Well,” he explained, “I want to be able to go around and do fun stuff.” The class burst out into laughter: “Keep digging,” one of his classmates said. But I get it—and I will be 37 in three days.

These days the main torture that keeps me up at night is my indecision about having a child. It’s almost too late! Is it already too late? At the OB/GYN my first year in Ohio, the doctor sneered at me that the main “issue” of a pregnancy with me was my “advanced age” (I was barely 35). Now I’m even older. Do I have to squeeze one out before there’s no longer time? Do I even want one? I mean, I adore my niece but I’ve also never spent more than an hour feeding and soothing her, and she happened not to take a crap during that hour. I know that Kanye West is talking about child support payments when he laments “18 years/18 years/she got one of your kids and that’s 18 years,” but I take that to heart. Do I want to give myself an 18-year sentence where my identity, precariously fought-for that it is, becomes Mom, which is not my name?

So this is why when I think about willowy-limbed, cute twentysomethings and the fact that they don’t have to worry about any of this even though they manage, if I remember correctly, to find plenty to worry about, I am livid that men my age value youth and inexperience over wisdom (or whatever I have instead of that). I am livid, even though men having boners for younger women is a completely clichéd fact that has existed for time immemorial. To this day I still get angry, with a wrath not unlike what caused Medea to drown her children, when I think of my husband in the movies with That Skank, because she (or rather what she represents) is that godforsaken youth I will never have again. I am insane in my envy about it—and I really should calm down about it, because you know all that frowning causes wrinkles. 

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13 thoughts on “Why Hello Middle Age, Actually I Don’t Have a Real Job Yet, Thanks for Asking

  1. Many [MANY] years ago when I was considerably younger and dumber than I am now, I gleefully informed my cousin that thirty was one foot in the grave. Some thirteen years later she was able to enact her revenge. Speaking now as someone who now has over a decade on you, I can tell you that you mature like fine wine… the under thirty-fives do not know what they are missing. Life has a tendency to aqua-plane, submarine and occasionally do donuts on the skid-pan, but heading towards fifty gleefully and utterly irreverently I can honestly say I am having the best fun I ever had. Being 37, celebrate it, enjoy it in all its form and colour, take the pressure off, twenty-somethings can keep it. Knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t trade my forties for my twenties any day of the week.

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  2. Just to let you know that your case is less extreme than some others: one thing that I will never forgive my husband is that he dated somebody 19 years older than I am. Nine years before we even met. He knows that I’m not getting over that one. Ever. And I don’t even have a good explanation like you do. It just bugs me.

    But I have many good qualities, so this little touch of complete insanity can be forgiven. 🙂 🙂

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      1. Of course, I would have minded him having a life before he met me no matter what that life looked like but an old lady is especially disturbing. Even more than a young one for some reason.

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  3. If it helps at all, I’m just barely skimming into 30, and I’m *already* thinking, “Is it too late to have kids? Should I have kids? I don’t look as young as I used to and maybe now my chances of getting a date much less a let’s-share-common-goals-for-decades Relationship are nil because I am *just* starting to show wear and why would you want worn when you can go for not?”

    I am also Regretting My Misspent Youth, which mostly involving sitting around on the Internet and not dating or making Real Friends. Basically, I wish I could do my 20s again with the experience I now have going into my 30s, because than I would date ALL THE PEOPLE. At least all the cute ones.

    I think wanting to do the past again with the experience of the present is a consistent human condition sort of thing, topped off with a dose of social and/or biological pressure.

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  4. My mother told me her thirties and forties were her best years, so I was already prepped for awesome before I hit the 3-0. (My momma is amazing, yes).

    I’m about the same age as you (I’ll be 37 in January, so a few months behind) and, I’ve gotta say, other than that whole wasting time on a PhD thing, my thirties have been pretty great. While I’ve always walked a fine line between brave and stupid, I got much braver in my 30s, less caring about what folks think or how my choices might be perceived by others. I turned two hobbies into amazing side jobs / businesses that get me by better than picking up extra classes at other schools, which is what most adjuncts I know do. I don’t think I would have taken those risks in my 20s — I KNOW I wouldn’t have. I was too busy trying to follow “the rules,” whatever that means, and being all angsty about it. Now? I could give a shit. As long as I’m not hurting anyone else, I pretty much do what I want.

    I met my partner of 6 years when I was 30, and he’s nearly four years younger than me. I don’t envy his former ladyfriend, who is in a mainstream way considerably hotter and younger than me. She was / is kind of nuts and treated him like complete crap and since my crazy is less intrusive in terms of his well being, he is all about some Melissa. But I do understand why you might feel a little ugh toward the youngster, as it were. Remember, though: she will have the same concerns as you soon enough.

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    1. I am almost entirely on the same page as you age-wise, despite my wobbling to the contrary. On the whole I would say I’m ten thousand percent happier in my 30s than my 20s (and I met my husband when I was 29 1/2!)–it’s just ironic that the one thing that’s afforded me the stability, happiness and “wisdom” I now have, experience, is also the wily minx who stole my youth.

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    1. 🙂 I use the “natural” alternative from Korres. Religiously. Wouldn’t go without it for a day. Also, SPF 50 every time I leave the house + special SPF wrap from Coolibar and a HUGE-ass hat.

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  5. Hmmm.. I do believe I am the first male to comment here, and mayhap no one will read my wee contribution – nonetheless I enjoyed the above, so thought I should contribute as well.

    I am a 37 year old human male, pretty darn good looking and fit as far as these things go, and have been clinging to my degrading good looks with feverish intensity. I also still don’t have a ‘real job’, though I suppose I could teach or engineer as I am qualified to do these things.

    That being said, I don’t want a ‘real job’, as it seems to represent to my deranged reluctant to grow up psyche as the death of all things youthful and frivolous. The horror of the late 30’s for me has not been any alteration of concerns – but in my 20s there was always ‘more time’.

    However, I am just now starting to realize, after chasing and having my heart broken by one of the aforementioned beautiful young adventurous confused females mentioned above, that the next phase of life will be glorious in its freedom (relatively speaking) from vanity and worries re: one’s portrayed image of ‘success’ and such.

    Men chase these young women because, ya, they’re physically desirable, but I feel it has more to do with them providing a way to cling to the past and attempt to ignore the transition that is occurring. That said, I’m not one to judge an age gap in either direction – all the power to you. But, older women are beautiful in a totally different yet equally poignant and compelling fashion – there’s beauty in your eyes, in your grace, in your movements, and in the wisdom represented by laugh lines and the odd sun spot and such. It’s all about perception lovely ladies – just make sure the lens you turn on yourself is appreciative, and be grateful that at 37 or 47 or 57 etc that we all had a decent crack at bat.

    Not everybody gets one.

    I’ve written the odd novella re: chasing young birds and aging not gracefully from a males perspective, and am 1/2 way through a novel of a similar nature – if someone wants one, it’s free, just email me:

    phrant@hotmail.com

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