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.