Yesterday at the gym while stretching post-workout, I overheard two women talking about Bruce Jenner's recent announcement that he was transitioning into a woman. (I wasn't exactly eavesdropping; if you saw the small area devoted to stretching, you'd understand why it isn't easy to ignore nearby conversations.)
"Why do you think he waited so long to come out with that?" asked one. (I had often wondered that myself, but was pretty sure I understood the possible answer.)
I was already getting annoyed.
She lifted one leg effortlessly into a yoga-like pose, adjusted her stance slightly, then continued.
"I mean, he's old! He's in his sixties, at least! Why even bother to live your life over at that point?"
Now I was really annoyed.
"Well," answered the other, adjusting her posture as she bent down to lay her palms flat onto the floor. "It's obvious he's going through some sort of midlife crisis."
I had to remind myself to breathe and hold myself back from hurling obscenities her way.
I've heard people call Bruce Jenner's announcement a publicity stunt. I've heard some say that he's doing it just for the money. I've seen them roll their eyes. And then again, I've turned a deaf ear to the ones who like to ramble on judgmentally and equally without sympathy about the insanity of it all.
Everyone seems to have an opinion. And they're entitled to it.
I don't usually get involved in politically-charged conversations, especially with perfect strangers. Come to think of it, I don't like heated discussions even with close friends and family. Call me meek, but I'm happy to call it a typical Libra trait: non-confrontational; valuing fairness and justice above most things; steering clear of conflict or argument.
But I really had to fight to keep my mouth shut when I heard that midlife crisis comment. Oh, and that other one about 60 being "old" and too late to make changes.
First, midlife is not a crisis. Rather, it's a time when we are able to reevaluate our choices in life and realize that there is time to change those choices, turn things around, learn from the past and step forward with renewed wisdom and vigor -- and confidence. I like to call it Midlife Opportunity. In fact, when I started my other blog, MidlifeMatters, in 2009, it was one of the very first things I wrote about.
So it's possible, after all, that Bruce Jenner waited all these years because -- simply put -- he realized that now was the right time to do it. Which brings me to my next point about 60 being "too old." Banish that thought! I wanted to scream out that day in the gym. I went back to school when I was in midlife and I also ran my first half-marathon at 60. I don't think I'm so special or an aberration, either: there are people in midlife all over the place who are stepping out and starting new and important chapters in their lives. With great accomplishment, I might add.
While Jenner admitted that his feelings dated back more than 50 years to when he was 8 or 9 and shamefully tried on his sister's clothes, carefully putting them back exactly where they hung in her closet so he wouldn't be found out, can you imagine coming to real terms with his confused feelings, or even coming close to understanding them, in that era? He, like that entire generation, was caught up in the shame of being different and swept up by the urgent need to conform and belong. And he played that game to its extreme by becoming a idealized physical symbol of a male: athletic, muscular, strong and bold.
To me, Jenner is taking the precious years he has left and giving himself -- and many other transgender people -- a precious gift: to live a life in which they are comfortable and secure in who they are. Finally.
Crisis? I think not. I think any "crisis" Jenner might have been experiencing is a thing of the past.
That male/female battle is no longer so tightly locked.
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