You Lead, I’ll Follow

Technically I am part of the baby boomer generation.  I slid in under the wire in 1964.  I’m not sure who drew that line in the sand, but it has never really fit.  I was 5 years old when most boomers were attending Woodstock, protesting the Vietnam war or experiencing free love.  I missed out on all of the big trends of “my” generation and I’ve always felt kind of like their annoying kid sister who was too young to be part of their fun.  I’ve never felt any advantage to this position, till now.  

As I’ve been describing my blog to people I talk a lot about how the image and reality of midlife has changed.  Teenagers are still not dying to be in our shoes, but we are not seen as over-the-hill, dull or lifeless anymore.  Like every life-stage they have passed through, the boomer generation is responsible for recreating, rethinking, and updating this part of life.  

The generation that wanted to (and did) make huge, sweeping social changes in their 20’s was used to the power of their massive group think.  If they all felt vibrant, exciting, and far from half-dead in mid-life then that was how they would redefine it.  They threw expectations of how a middle-age man or woman should look out the window.  Rules about what age is too old to have long hair (on both sexes) or wear a short skirt (mostly women) were scratched in favor of their motto, “If it feels good, do it.”  They wrote the first chapters in the book on how to be a working mom, dating with kids, and finding yourself.

This blog wouldn’t exist without their new attitudes.  

I sometimes feel closer to Gen X; the more tech savvy, individualistic generation that loves to question authority.  But it’s clear to me that rampant individualism is the result of the group-think boomers tearing down the rules of society in advance of their Gen X kids. Questioning authority is a given for those who follow the radicals who questioned the Vietnam War and fought for civil rights.  

I see that my annoying-kid-sister position has its advantages.  I say to the (slightly) older boomers, you lead the way into the next phase, into retirement.  Show me how to do it in a whole new way.  I’ll follow.  

Why Crazy?

One of the unexpected positive side effects of middle age is a mental transformation.  Until I got to this stage in life I never understood why people seemed to go off the deep end in their 40’s and 50’s.  I get it now.  

As I crept closer to turning 50 it dawned on me that I am finite.  My logical brain has always known this, but I pushed the thought to the back burner because my demise (from old age, of course) was so far away.  Now, logic tells me that I may not live to 100 (or want to).  This body may shrivel up and wither away sometime in my 90’s, or even my 80’s.  That really doesn’t leave me much time . . .to do what, I’m not quite sure, but now I feel a psychic time crunch.  

It is this ticking clock that brings on what others might see as crazy.  When I look at my dreams, my bucket list, my BIG to do list; there are things I have had to let go of.  Scratch rock concert promoter off my career list.  Right now I am deep in a career of raising two teenagers and when I am done with that job, I can’t see myself wanting another one that involves extremely loud music, cleaning up after people and juggling multiple schedules.  

Other things have moved up on the list.  Tour Europe before I need a walker or a Hoveround.  Skinny dip more often.  Take gourmet cooking classes (and eat my homework).  Brush up on my high school French, in Montreal or Paris.  Hug and kiss my kids as much as possible before they slip away.  Date my husband.  

I see that my time is too limited and too precious for people who are petty or mean.  I’m filling my life with people of all age groups who are fun, and kind, and live with a carpe-diem attitude more often than not.  

I also understand why the divorce rate spikes in middle age. People change during 20 or more years of parenthood and that can become glaringly obvious when the noise of child rearing quiets and you can hear your clock ticking.  You either decide to tackle your bucket lists together, as lovers and friends, or you don’t.  I count myself lucky that my sweetie wants to drive me to the tattoo parlor and video my skydive.  He wants to join me in my crazy and I’m looking forward to his.  

I could deny growing older and pretend my birthdays away, but I really don’t want to.  I like having a hall pass for breaking out of my box; a get out of jail free card for tattoos and bikinis, sports cars and romance.  I like my middle age crazy. 

The Curvy Girl Revolution

I worked in a fancy restaurant at Disney World one summer when I was 25.  Around 10 p.m. every night huge families visiting from South America would arrive for dinner.  I remember them for two reasons.  One, since the restaurant was mostly empty this late they would request one table for the adults and another for the kids, on the other side of the restaurant.  

The second thing I remember is the women.  The mothers of these children (and possibly the grandmothers too) would dress in very sexy, revealing clothes for their evening out.  And these were not small women; there was skin spilling over hem lines, waist bands, low-cut tops.  But the thing that made my jaw drop was their attitude.  They strutted in with a walk and a look that said, “yeah, I’m sexy, I know it, you know it.  Ain’t it great?!”  (only in Portuguese)  Even at a stick-thin 122 lbs. I was jealous of them.  They ate (real food!  Not the diet plate!) they drank, they laughed, they flirted.  (OK, so they also left their kids to be baby sat by the wait staff, but hey, they were great tippers too.)

I grew up with super athletic women being the ideal.  Stunning tan goddesses who could spike a volleyball, run a 10k, and keep up with the guys.  I was a day-glo white Irish girl with long nails that prohibited volleyball, double D’s that prohibited running, and no desire to out bench press anyone I was dating.  I never associated curvy and girly girl with beauty. . . till Christina.  

In 2010 Christina Hendricks was voted the sexiest woman by the mostly male readers of Esquire magazine.  It made headlines.  This woman had CURVES, and, it turns out that many (many, many) men like them.  Who knew?  Since then I’ve discovered Kim Kardashian (weird show, but she rocks her curves), Sophia Vergara, Beyonce, and Salma Hayek, just to name a few.  Burlesque artist, Dita Von Teese, is not only curvy and sexy, but also super pale (my skin idol!).  I figure if she can rock it, so can I.  I’ve stopped apologizing for my lack of a tan (or burn, in my case).  

I hope this new love of curvy girls will let more women see that size negative 0, model-thin women are not everyone’s ideal.  You can feel sexy without six-pack abs and cut triceps.  The women having the most fun and the ones eating and drinking and laughing and flirting.  They enter a room with a walk and a look that says, “ain’t it great?!”