I absolutely love being middle-aged. Above all, it’s the things you don’t have to do any more. Work on the washboard stomach? Forget it, you can’t fight nature. Send Christmas cards to people you don’t really like? They’ve probably moved or died, so don’t bother. Go and visit that Byzantine church on the other side of the Mediterranean island? You can look up the pictures online, so you might as well just stay on the sunbed. Never mind all that moaning about the menopause, it’s time to give up and start enjoying yourself, rather than striving and competing. Leave that to the young, their time will come.
Far from being a dreary stage of life, middle age offers so many opportunities. Now you’ve finally got rid of the kids (though that is in question these days as they all live at home until they’re forty), you can be really selfish and think only of yourself. You often hear resentful complaints from young adults about how their parents are always off on holiday. In some cases, mid-life narcissists deliberately sell the family home to force their adult offspring to finally stand on their own two feet. They then buy a tiny flat and spend the rest on international travel. If they are still working – and why wouldn’t you carry on as long as you can, otherwise you might be obliged to look after the grandchildren – they spend weekends indulging in the hobbies they never had time for when the children were little. And let’s not forget that ultimate midlife cliché, the flash sports car. How often do you see one driven by the handsome young man envisioned by the designer? Inevitably it will be someone bald and jowly behind the wheel.
In middle-age, you are less troubled by ambition. If you haven’t made it by now, you probably won’t, realistically, and frankly who cares? You are also less bothered about what people think of you. Currying favour is a young person’s game, you might as well just say what you think. You are also increasingly aware of the years flying by and how you need to make the most of your remaining time. It’s no longer the case that you shuffle off on a cruise then come home to till the allotment. You can do those things, of course, but you can also enjoy the pleasures of your youth without the annoying parts. And wake up each day with a sense of gratitude. If you’re not, you’re doing something wrong because being over fifty is great.
The heroines of my novel INVISIBLE WOMEN are not overjoyed to find themselves hitting their half-century. How could they possibly have got so old? But by the end of the story, they are all enamoured of this new stage in their lives. It really is a whole new beginning.
INVISIBLE WOMEN by Sarah Long is published by Bonnier Zaffre