When does one officially know midlife is a thing of the past? Some claim it is when your first child turns 40 or the first time you are called "Nana" or "Grammy." For others, it is when not one word can be read without glasses, or when they can't find the damn glasses. For some, of course it's staring at your old friend and needing to race through the alphabet to remember her name. For still others, it's when Early Bird dinners become, well, dinner.
I had my kids late so the first two aren't close. With enough sunlight, I can read a headline, if not the movie times. I still prefer dinner at eight. But this past week, I experienced an aging trifecta of my own: I attended my 45th high school reunion (ouch); I purchased my first SENIOR ticket at the movie theatre (double ouch) and I left the supermarket with a bottle of Ensure in hand.
In baseball, they would call that going down swinging. But as Tom Hanks reminded us, there is no crying in baseball, and I pride myself on being able to spin anything into a positive light. Furthermore, just days before, I had been feeling downright heady about the TSA agent at the airport who scanned my passport and said, "Michele, you could not have been born before 1968."
But then I walked into the Landmark movie complex in Los Angeles that heartlessly starts senior status at 62. To be fair, the ticket seller didn't ask me if I qualified. But I pulled out my driver's license so quickly, he hardly had the chance. After a brief visit to the toilet stall to get a hold of myself, I slithered into the 2 p.m. showing feeling two dollars richer and a whole lot older.
The pain was somewhat alleviated by the movie I proceeded to see, Hope Springs. Meryl Streep continues to bring, well, hope, to all her age. As does the exceedingly grumpy -- and hot -- Tommy Lee Jones, who has been paying for a senior ticket for a few years himself. Amazing how we still take such comfort in admirable role models. (Did I mention the coming attraction was for 82-year-old Clint Eastwood's next film?) Exiting the theatre to a sexy Van Morrison song helped bring me emotionally back to a healthier place.
Until the reunion. Those occasions are, if nothing else, great equalizers, illuminating vehicles for reassessing, if not replaying, one's life. One is truly shocked to realize so much time has passed. But rather than focusing on the horror of it all, I ultimately found myself relishing the flattering male attention, albeit four decades behind schedule. I was not surprised when Robert Probst confessed he had loved me for years: I still have the Valentines. Dave Shapiro, on whom I harbored a major crush, asked, "Why do we wait 40 years to tell each other these things? I would have dated you in a minute." He didn't and he wouldn't, but the line was good. I entered the reunion expecting to feel all my old invisibility: I left feeling oddly rejuvenated.
Until I bought the Ensure. Okay, no excuses. They say you can't be too rich or too thin, but when a friend asked another friend if I was okay, (Sort of like asking "are you pregnant" when you're not), I realized it might be time for a bottle full of healthy nutrients. Did I hide them under the packs of diet cokes? Darn right. Did I joke with the checker about buying these things for an elderly parent? I am proud to say I did not. Hey, these days, it could have ended up on YouTube.
Back to the positive and the perspective. During this same week, I co-produced a multi-media program about the obsession with aging and sent the proceeds to an organization which helps women around the world whose faces have been disfigured by male violence, specifically, acid. It's a growing phenomenon and was the subject of last year's Oscar winning documentary Saving Face.
The idea was to force all of us -- especially in Hollywood, where it was performed -- to acknowledge that it's all relative. No one likes looking in the mirror and seeing the creases that scream been there, done that. But as I watched a still luminous Meryl Streep let it all hang out; as I watched the men and women of the class of '67 speak of their regrets and accomplishments; as I watched the brave women of less fortunate countries say they don't want to wake up in the morning because they have been deprived of the chance to smile or show expression ever again -- well, suddenly a bottle of Ensure did not seem like that much to swallow.
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