At this age, I am sincerely grateful to have kept an enduring friendship with my childhood friends, Malyn and Monet—girls whom I had grown up with in high school and college. We had long christened our friendship “Tres Marias.” Now, in our midlife, it seems that we find more reasons to enjoy each other’s company over dinners, spa treatments and travels together.
Spending time with childhood friends is like re-living high school all over again. Every time, we simply talk about anything under the sun—our children’s lives, parenting issues, life dramas and even perimenopause woes.
These days, as we fan ourselves in air-conditioned rooms, we smirk at how strange it must look that the three of us are sweating it out in a cold room. Even funnier is one instance at the airport when the young lady behind the check-in counter asked us, “Ma’am, is any one of you pregnant? Because we cannot assign you all to the emergency aisle on the plane.” At this question, Malyn, Monette and I all looked at each other incredulously and burst into laughter.
Malyn then teased the lady saying, “Good gracious hija! Thanks for the compliment that we look like we can still get pregnant at this age.”
And as we left the counter, Malyn wittingly added, “Well, that said, at least she thinks we all are sexually active, still!” At this, the Tres Marias burst into a really loud guffaw.
I suppose the value we put into our friendship has to do with all of us realizing that we have shared so much of ourselves with each other over the decades. Yet, over dinner last week, our conversation turned to a slightly somber tone when we spoke about how our 50s are creeping a bit too fast for all of us.
We teased that since we were all the youngest girls in our families, luckily we had the benefit of learning from our older siblings who have turned the corner. Yet, the idea of crossing our 50s is indeed daunting and unnerving for us all. I suppose it has to do with the bad rap that aging has come to be associated with—the longstanding stereotype that women in their midlife are unhappy, unfulfilled and stagnant remains.
Yet recently, this perspective on growing old has turned a page. In a recent poll commissioned by Benenden Health in Britain, 2,000 men and women were asked the question, “What is your ideal age?”
Surprisingly, the respondents all agreed that the ideal age is 53. Quite unexpectedly, both men and women perceive that midlife doesn’t begin at 41 anymore as it has long been regarded. Instead, more than half of the group felt that even in their mid-50s, they had not yet experienced middle age. In fact, for most, midlife seems to be a long-standing notion that can be debated and that midlife is merely a state of mind. A sense of denial perhaps?
In another interesting study by Degges-White and Myers (2006), they asked women if they felt that their chronological age vastly differs from their self-perception of age called “subjective age.” Research indicates that our subjective age is a better indicator of adult perceptions of social roles, attitudes and behaviors. And thus, if one feels that she is younger than she really is, this will lead to more optimistic beliefs and a general sense of well-being.
I suppose for us Tres Marias, we are fortunate to live in times when notions of midlife reflect evolving attitudes and perspectives about social expectations brought by healthy lifestyles and longer lifespans. Maybe, moving into our middle age might not be as overwhelming or menacing for us after all. And that given enduring and lasting relationships in the midst of busy lives, motherhood, and careers, we will hurdle the trials of midlife and be content and blissful even in our middle age.