I’m not gonna lie. I still turn heads. Now, the average age of those who turn their heads to look at me has increased dramatically. It used to be 30 year olds; now it’s the 65-70 year olds at the gym who smile and try to make eye contact with me. I’m pretty sure that in 5 years, the only ones turning their heads will have one foot in the grave.

I’ve always been flirtatious – or as I like to call it – friendly, but I’m at the age where I’m at risk of looking like a cougar, so I have to conduct myself with a little more elegance and subtlety. I also have to decide if I’m going to age gracefully, or fight it with all I’ve got. Do I completely give in to nature and gravity? Or do I resort to pills, potions and needles? Do I get makeovers, dyes and creams? Or just let my hair grow long and gray and put it in a ponytail, and use a good face wash and moisturizer?


There are certain things happening to my body that I observe and say, “Hmmm. Didn’t see that coming.” The way my skin kind of hangs off my arms and looks alarmingly melt-y on my face. The way a couple of my toes curl under in a way that is decidedly not cute. A thickness through my waist that suggests a loss of fertility, not the subtle curves of childbearing. Age spots. Weird hairs in random places.


And it’s more important than ever to be careful about the clothes I buy. Before 40, a fashion mistake is just attributed to bad taste or impulse. Now, it can be seen as “trying too hard to be young,” which is damned ironic since everyone is disgusted with the fact that I’m getting old. Apparently, I’m just not supposed to get old, but I’m not supposed to stay young either. The world, the men, the fashions, the attention is for the young women. Those of us who are not young should just go live in a hut somewhere, pluck out each other’s mole hairs, and stop disgusting everyone with our slow slide to the grave.


My melt-y face and my stiff hips are a harsh reminder to young women that they will not always be the firm, confident, center of breeding attention that they are right now.


But overall, I’m okay with aging at this point. I don’t mind how life is changing and my perspective is getting clearer. I find myself getting more set in my ways about a lot of things – more averse to change for change’s sake, or to drama or things that cause my boat to rock. I feel less nurturing, but more determined. Less likely to tolerate bullshit, but more apt to understand someone else’s perspective. More opinionated about what I like, but less likely to judge someone for what they like. Stronger-minded, softer-hearted. I like people less, but love them more.


There’s a kind of freedom in disappearing off of the radar. First off, pheromones are distracting. They pretty much take precedence over any creative or intellectual pursuit one might have. They have the annoying habit of getting in the way of anything they deem unimportant: aka, anything not related to baby-making. So once they’re not floating around you, chasing you down, bumping into you at bars, grinding into you on the bus, or accosting you on city streets, it’s like a fog clears. The world becomes full of inspiration, wisdom, and creativity energy.


Secondly, as you disappear off the baby-making radar, time frees up and slows down. Days become languorous and long. You can sit at a table for two hours over lunch and a glass of wine by yourself, no worries about being bothered. You have the means to leave a generous tip for the waitress at your regular restaurant, and she knows you and lets you stay as long as you like. You have time to pursue things, both on the surface and in-depth. Your desire to please people drops alarmingly. You literally don’t give a flying fuck if someone thinks becoming a potter is SO lame at your age. You don’t have to attract anyone to make babies or help you raise babies, so who cares? Life becomes your own. Blissfully, wholly, generously your own. You know, you finally get to be a man.


Becoming a middle-aged woman can be horribly disorienting – like you’re the only one who didn’t get the memo about what’s cool. But it can also be like being handed an invisibility cloak – you can be as naughty and as selfish and as generous and as creative as you want to be. No one can see you. And the world opens up with paths that are only visible to the invisible.