What’s so bad about middle age?

In the midst of a busy season that deprives me of time to write or reach out to YOU to submit to “True Stories Well Told,” I’m reaching back into the files for something to post. (I don’t want you to think this blog has gone dark!)

Last year about this time the New York Times published an essay by Patricia Cohen titled “Get a Midlife.” You can read it here.


What caught my eye to clip this one for the TSWT files? Here are quotes I highlighted on first reading–

  • “Although middle age may seem like a universal truth, it is actually as much of a manufactured creation as polyester or the rules of chess. And like all the other so-called stages into which we have divvied up the uninterrupted flow of life, middle age, too, is a cultural fiction, a story we tell about ourselves.”
  •  “The problem with the physical inventory of middle age, though, is that it inevitably emphasizes loss — the end of fertility, decreased stamina, the absence of youth. Middle age begins, one cultural critic declared, the moment you think of yourself as “not young.” The approach is the same as that taken by physicians and psychologists, who have defined wellness and happiness in terms of what was missing: health was an absence of illness; a well-adjusted psyche meant an absence of depression and dysfunction.”

The author describes recent research on middle age by Carol Ryff, director of the Institute on Aging at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, who developed a questionnaire to measure well-being–not the fleeting, post-beer kind, but the real deal.

  • “The search for positive experiences showed researchers that a narrow focus on disease and dysfunction had skewed perceptions of midlife. For example, previous research had found that middle-aged women tended to have higher rates of depression than men. What they neglected to note was that women also reported better relationships and more personal growth, which strengthened their psychological resilience.”

And finally…

  •  In a 2010 article for the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, economists who studied how different age groups handled 10 different financial transactions involving car, home equity and mortgage loans as well as credit cards found that people between 43 and 63 were best at sizing up the options and choosing well.

    “Middle-age adults may be at a decision-making sweet spot,” they concluded.

Yeah, I like that! Now, if you want to read more great True Stories Well Told here, throw me somethin’, mister!

-Sarah White

About first person productions

My blog "True Stories Well Told" is a place for people who read and write about real life. I’ve been leading life writing groups since 2004. I teach, coach memoir writers 1:1, and help people publish and share their life stories.
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