Is Mid-Life a Valid Life Category
Random and persistent thought:
Is the fact that I cannot remember how Alice fell into the rabbit hole a testament to my having reached midlife. I realize this is a very unscientific approach to the midlife conversation but IÂ am stumped when I try to define it.Is midlife a chronological age based on the lifespan of women in Europe, Africa, Asia or the west. Or maybe it’s based on the type of life one has led in their younger years and how tired one feels now. I started to think about this again in reading Laura Shapiro’s review of Patricia Cohen’s book, In Our Prime: The Invention of Middle Age.Â According to Shapiro, the term midlifeÂ has no fixed definition. And here’s the crack up line from the NY Times review,
“Nearly any span between 40 and dementia appears to qualify, depending in part on whether we’re talking about ourselves or all those people who show up at our college reunions.”
There is something profound about those lines. We can look at someone else and see aging but our own understanding of self is not about that unless something hurts. Middle age did not exist as a life category at the turn of the century in the west. This point was brought home for me during a visit to Mali in 1994 when I climbed the Dogon cliffs. Â I learned the Dogon women’s life span was in their 40’s. In that culture I was already old. I lean more toward Cohen’s optimism regarding the midlife experience. She thinks the midlife people are healthier and more productive than previous generations. Most of us are trying to keep our brains active even when our bodies are still. Just think. I did not physically go out last night. But thanks to the computer, I mentally attended the National Urban League’s State of Black America Town hall meeting in Washington, DC. I went to a private opening of Kehinde Wiley’s at the Jewish Museum in New York. And I attended a webinar to learn how to create better landing pages. You know even if I forgetÂ the circumstances of why Alice fell into the rabbit hole, I can always google the answer. Are you old or do you just have days?