Confessions of a Middle-Aged Hippie Geek


Is it possible for one person to be middle-aged, a hippie and a geek? Such an odd combination of personas almost seems to be a contradiction, an oxymoron of sorts, but I am living proof that it is, in fact, possible. Messed up, maybe, but a possibility nonetheless.

I read recently that middle age is that extended period of time following young adulthood and prior to the onset of old age, somewhere between the ages of 40 and 65–which puts me firmly within the grasp of its loathsome clutches (and much closer to that “other” stage than I’m willing to acknowledge). Ugh. Arthritic knees, eye crinkles, arm flaps and virtual invisibility to the rest of the world. Is that really me? And is that you, too?

Don’t get me wrong. As much as I loved being a mom to little boys, I have no desire to return to those tumultuous, anxiety-ridden days of young adulthood. Now, in these “middle aged” years, I can luxuriate in the tub until the water turns cold, but back then  a two-minute bathroom trip that was anticipated as a brief, glorious reprieve from mommyhood was instead an opportunity for little fists to bang on the other side of the door (“Mom! Mom! Mommy!”). Now, I can sip leisurely on a glass of wine before enjoying a three-course meal in a dimly lit restaurant, but back then all restaurant selections were based on the desirability of the prizes on the kids’ menu, the size of the play area and the cleanliness of the restrooms. And now I can more often than not get a decent night’s sleep, but back then night was when monsters were growling in the closet, fevers were rocketing out of control, and too many cookies were heaving and hurling onto the sheets, the carpet and the bathroom floor. Do you want to return to those days?

I also have no desire to rush headlong into the upcoming days of pill boxes, sensible shoes and volume buttons and thermostats set on high. I’m sure “old age” has its advantages–like being able to spout outrageous comments just for the shock value (I am looking forward to that part)–but I’m just not ready for those days of looking back fondly instead of gazing forward expectantly.

So maybe middle age isn’t so bad after all.

So what if I can’t remember what I had for breakfast yesterday or if I wore the same outfit just a couple days ago? So what if I get into heated arguments with myself–arguments I never win? So what if I’m sometimes halfway through a novel before I start thinking that maybe I’ve read it before? If I read it before, it must have been pretty good, so what’s the harm in continuing on just in case and then realizing, on the last page, that yes, I could have stopped reading 300 pages ago?

So what if it sometimes takes more than one attempt to rock and roll myself out of bed in the morning and the “snap, crackle, and pop!” isn’t coming from the cereal bowl? And so what if I sometimes don’t get out of my pajamas until right before my husband gets home–or in the 30 seconds it takes for the UPS man to pull into the driveway and walk up to the front door?

And so what if I am a sucker for any product that advertises itself as “age defying”? I’m not ashamed to admit I’ll do whatever I can to fight against the ravages of time, and if I had the money to lift, tuck, suction or enlarge, I probably would. (Or I’d just swear off mirrors entirely and use the money to buy new camera lenses instead. Decisions, decisions.)

I’m not just middle-aged, though. Like so many of my “other side of 40” brothers and sisters, I’m also a self-proclaimed hippie, which in my befuddled mind rescues me from midlife drowning and keeps me from boring myself to extinction. I may not be a full-fledged, 1960s throwback hippie–most of us aren’t, and that’s probably a good thing. I’m not anti-establishment, and I don’t wear dreadlocks, beads and bell bottoms (anymore), but I do like purple and tie-dye, daisies and peace signs, sunshine and rainbows. And if I thought I could teach the world to sing in perfect harmony, then you bet I’d find a way to buy everyone a Coke (even if it meant spending all the money I don’t have on cases of pop instead of on much-needed body enhancements or much-desired camera lenses).

And as a middle-aged hippie chick, I’ve never worn a pair of Crocs or bermuda shorts–and I don’t intend to. They’re just not my “style.” However, a pair of Birkenstocks coupled with a peasant skirt (wool socks for the fall, shaved legs for the summer) would be the perfect fashion statement when I start peddling my own garden-raised veggies and herbs someday. In fact, I’d much rather sweat for dollars and dimes at a farmers’ market every Saturday morning than spend a single day stuck in the purgatory of a cruise ship with several thousand middle-aged strangers (even IF the toilets are working). The only cruising this hippie chick will be doing will be behind the wheel of a convertible or on the back of a Harley.

Not only am I middle-aged and a hippie, but I’m also a bona fide, card-carrying, hard-core member of the geek squad. Anyone who knows me can testify to that. I certainly did not admit to such membership when I was growing up–back then the label was a social death sentence, so I tried hard (and not so successfully) to hide the evidence behind my thick granny glasses and a tall stack of library books. But I have since learned to accept my geekiness as just another aspect of my multi-faceted make-up, and I wear the label proudly. As Popeye would say, “I yam what I yam.” (And if you somehow previously doubted my geekiness, surely my quoting Popeye erased that doubt.)

I’m not one of those technologically savvy geeks (although I wish I were), and I’m not one of those comic book fanatical geeks, either (although all three of my geeky offspring are). According to dictionary.com, I am the kind of geek “who has excessive enthusiasm for and some expertise about a specialized subject or activity.” Specifically, I am the kind of geek who gets mushy-gushy ecstatic, starry-eyed silly over words.

That’s right–words. How many other people do you know who have dictionary.com as the homepage on their  computer? Every time I log in and am treated to an unfamiliar “Word of the Day” (recent favorites: mordacious, whangdoodle, and logomachy!), I experience a moment of spine-tingling bliss, and every time I already know the meaning of that day’s word, I feel secretly thrilled and momentarily vindicated. From that point I sip my morning cup of tea while Googling random words and stalking Wikipedia just for the fun–Oh, the fun!–of learning something new.

Further proof? Several years ago I visited Sullivan’s Island off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina. I was excited to make my very first trip to the ocean, but I became downright giddy when I discovered I was walking the same sandy streets that wordsmith extraordinaire Edgar Allan Poe had once traversed. An upcoming trip to Key West has me over-the-moon happy because I will be frequenting the same locales where Ernest Hemingway lived and wrote and drank and stumbled, and someday I will make a pilgrimage to Stratford-upon-Avon just to pay homage to the greatest of all great dead poets, my boy Willie Shakespeare. Geek nirvana.

If you need additional proof of my alleged geekiness, I could elaborate at length about my absolute passion for grammar–how expertly placed commas give me goosebumps and correctly used subjunctive mood elicits a standing ovation–but I think you get the point.

I am a middle-aged hippie geek, and if that makes me an oxymoron, an anomaly or just plain weird (eccentric, peculiar, or odd), then I’m okay with that. And I have a sneaky suspicion that I’m not alone–that a few of you readers fall into the same category. Welcome . . . welcome to my groovy world. Pull up a beanbag while I light some incense and put Simon and Garfunkle on the iPod. Then I’ll pass around the dictionaries, and we’ll see how many synonyms we can find for “geriatric.” C’mon, it will be fun. I promise.

hippieThis is what one version of the middle-aged hippie geek looks like. Note the apparent lack of self-respect required in posing for such a picture–a trait frequently found in this particular species. 

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About icedteawithlemon

I have recently retired from a 30-year career in education in one of the best school districts in the world. I hope to spend my second life reading, writing, photographing, traveling, biking, cheering on my favorite baseball team (the St. Louis Cardinals), and soaking up glorious sunshine. In my spare time I enjoy playing with my pet tarantulas, trying out new flavors of chewing gum, and knitting socks for prison inmates. I'm almost positive that in a past life I was one of the Seven Dwarfs (most likely "Grumpy"), and in my next life I'm going to be either a taste tester for Hershey's or a model for Victoria's Secret's new line, "Bloomers for Boomers." I want to travel country back roads, singing Vanilla Ice songs at every karaoke bar and rating bathroom cleanliness at every truckstop. And someday I plan to own a private beach where skinny girls aren't allowed. I want to be a writer when I grow up. "Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake."--Henry David Thoreau
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17 Responses to Confessions of a Middle-Aged Hippie Geek

  1. SUE says:

    As always – I love your blog – hippie geekness is a perfect self description and a perfect way to feel. I’ve secretly enjoyed staying locked in the 60’s (skipped the drugs, I’m happy to say) w/ the peace signs, flowers, long comfortable dresses, throwing the bras away and especially the folk music. Oh, how I still love the music !! Peter, Paul & Mary and Simon & Garfunkel, etc etc. Also, have you noticed that young girls now are back into the same things? I love that with my grand daughters! So, thank you for calling to our attention that there are a lot of us still out there!! PS – I also LOVE your ball cap!!!

    • Thank you, Sue! Some of the best music ever produced came out of that era, didn’t it? And yes, I’ve noticed some of those same styles have come back in style–makes my shopping much more enjoyable! Norman bought the hat for me last fall at Hootin an Hollarin in a booth for a store called Mother Earth–appropriate, I think!

  2. SUE says:

    A store with the name of “Mother Earth” just sounds like my kind of favorite store.
    PS – your “geekiness” for the English language is not only inspiring, it must also make you proud that your sons grew up with the same appreciation!! (I also noticed that my spell check does not approve of the word “geekiness”, but I don’t care – I love that word.

    • It makes me incredibly proud. I’d like to think they learned a little from me through osmosis (i.e., constant harping), but I also know much of the credit goes to their teachers and to themselves.

      • SUE says:

        Oh yes, you can be proud and take the credit. It was definitely your influence that originally gave your sons their love of words. After all, My kids still give you all the credit for their love of words and good books. Because of your influence, their favorite store is still a book store and now they are teaching their kids the same appreciation. So, for sure, you can smile and wave your hands proudly – for your own sons and many many others. You’ve done yourself proud and you have made me happy.

      • Thank you, Sue. 🙂

  3. Karen, first thing’s first: that FUNKY “Haight-Ashbury” San Fran 60s outfit you’re sporting in the provided pic…LOVE.IT! And that necklace is to die for. You look great, and your skin looks fabulous. That said, I can so relate to your current state of mind and time. You’re not alone, sister. I think we’re about the same age, and I too have entered Willy Wonka’s Middle-Aged-Crazed tunnel. (Watch the Youtube link below at the bottom, and tell me if I aint off the mark! LOL!).

    As Willy Wonka proclaims in this infamous scene:

    There’s no earthly way of knowing
    Which direction we are going.
    There’s no knowing where we’re rowing
    Or which way the river’s flowing.
    Is it raining?
    Is it snowing?
    Is a hurricane a blowing?

    Not a speck of light is showing
    so the danger must be growing.
    Are the fires of hell a glowing?
    Is the grisly reaper mowing?
    Yes! The danger must be growing
    For the rowers keep on rowing.
    And they’re certainly not showing
    any signs that they are slowing!

    Peace out, sister. Do your groove thang!

    Tiger Lil 😉

    • Thank you, Tiger Lil! I already had the shirt when my husband found the hat at a local crafts festival and thought it would make the perfect accessory, the coup de grace, to the outfit. 🙂

      I love the Willy Wonka quote and the video clip! Definitely appropriate. If only we could convince those rowers to slow down … I know I’m already inside the mouth of that “middle-aged-crazed” tunnel, but I’m in no hurry to get to the end of it.

  4. Oops…forgot my customary quote for you. This may be a tad on the depressing side, but, still…so true.

    “No matter how you tell yourself
    It’s what we all go through
    Those lines are pretty hard to take
    When they’re staring back at you
    Oh, scared you’ll run out of time
    When did the choices get so hard
    With so much more at stake
    Life gets mighty precious
    When there’s less of it to waste”

    – Bonnie Raitt, Nick of Time

    • Poetic, perfect, and oh-so-true. How different our perspective is from this side of the hill!

      And please forgive my ignorance (forgetfulness?), but do you have a blog? When I click on your name, it just takes me to a gravatar …

  5. No, sister, forgetfulness is my handsome 52 year old husband, who is of late constantly forgetting to “zip up”, if you know what I mean! LOL! It must be an over-50 guy thing.

    Funny you should ask…I’ve been giving serious thought to starting a blog…a zillion ideas and thoughts buzzing around in my feeble brain like frantic fireflies dancing around a porch light. Your blog has actually inspired me – very much so. I’m thinking of launching it in October. Will definitely alert you. Me thinks I shall call it “Tiger Lil’s Den”…or something like that.

  6. RayEtta says:

    I think it’s great that you can fit into a few categories. It makes a more interesting person to my thinking. Just a few days ago at lunch a friend and I were talking when I admitted that as a teen I collected stamps, rocks and insects. She was amazed and I have known her over 20 years. During high school I lived in San Jose, Cali, just outside San Francisco and somehow seeing the “real thing” up close and personal, I never would attach the tag of hippie to myself, this was during the 60’s by the way. Much of it was pretty scary to be honest. I did always appreciate handmade items, clothing and such, so in that way it fits. I had never thought of myself as a geek, but my friend called me that the other day at lunch, and I did not mind. Just enjoy, and I have a feeling you do.

    • Thank you, RayEtta. I was a grade schooler in Southern Missouri in the late 1960s, about as far away from the California hippie environment as one could possibly be, so I have no personal experience with any of the negative aspects of the culture. I was never a stamp collector, but I had a closet shelf full of pretty rocks, and I liked catching big insects and amphibians in order to dissect them and take a look at their insides–I never thought that made me geeky back then, but now that I think about it, I never told anyone what I was doing, either. To me, being “geeky” just means being interested in the world around me–interested enough to poke and probe and research and question. And I think that makes being a geek pretty darn cool.

      • RayEtta says:

        Me too, I had just never labeled myself that way until my friend did. I think it is a great way to be, it is someone that wants to keep learning whether for a while or a long while. Whether it is about one thing or several, you just want to know. The way that whole conversation started the other day, she had shown me a necklace that had been her mother’s and I told her what kind of stone it was. Many moons ago I could identify quite a few rocks.

  7. bronxboy55 says:

    Middle-aged hippie geek. Karen, you’ve redefined and taken the best of all three. And your writing and photography just keep getting better and better.

    “…the purgatory of a cruise ship…” Let’s make a deal that neither one of us will ever step foot onto one of those floating retirement homes.

    Excellent post, as usual.

    • Thank you, Charles. I’ve been working on my “blog book” and hope to put the finishing touches on it within the next few weeks, and I’ve recently had several requests to purchase some of my prints, so I’m in the process of matting and framing and preparing to display them in a local business. Not a bad way to supplement the retirement income. 🙂

      And that deal is an easy one to make–we don’t even have to shake or pinky swear on it.

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