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Living Within The Tween-- an article for the upper middle-aged woman (however, the aging man is welcomed)
When It Begins--
The "tween" is mystical-- It has been mentioned in fables.
However, the tween is a very real paradox of time which exists in everyday reality. It's that magical suspension which falls between the in-between. The tween is that gap just before a connection. That space between an ending and a beginning--that invisible line between doorways which changes one from going in to going out.
The official definition of “a tween” is a person between the ages of 9 and 12, a person stuck somewhere between childhood and teenager. A thirteenth birthday propels one out of this category, but that’s just a formality.
It is around this age when one first experiences a true cruelty of nature—and that is living within “the tween.”
On average this is the age when one’s body begins to change, and though these changes involve both sexes, it tends to be a bit harder on girls--mentally at least-- being that it is generally taught ‘boys can and girls shouldn’t’ on many levels. Prior to puberty boys and girls are on an equal playing field, yet now boys are getting taller and stronger, and girls are being told it’s time to be dainty.
During this time one’s body is biologically mature enough to make a baby, yet one still asks for games at Christmas or still flips through comic books. Parents will tell you you’re still not old enough to do “this or that”, at the same time one is also being told they’re now old enough to “know better.” One stands in front of a mirror and wonders if they’re attractive when they never had a reason to care before. There’s the confusion of pimples and sprouting hair as the body lingers somewhere between baby fat and adulthood.
One’s body begins experiencing arousal. Whether around the opposite sex or watching a love scene in a movie, an occurrence one doesn't quite understand. One’s first reaction tends to be ashamed, because though one has been told about the birds-and-the-bees, one is rarely told about this part of it all-- or reassured that it's okay. One watches older teenagers and other couples hold hands and kiss. One may start to hug their pillow, trying to image what it must be like to be held at night.
One’s emotions are becoming clustered, one’s confusion is rampant, yet the main advice one hears from someone older is an unsympathetic, “you’ll grow out of it”—and it seems everyone around you tends to forget—they are indeed called crushes for a reason.
Nature does show a certain fairness around this time, however. Milestone birthdays will happen quickly, 16, 18…21. Soon one is in the perfection of youth--their twenties and far away from the tween.
This is a beautiful part of life-- as it should be-- as it was intended.
When It Begins To End...
During this time, a person's vitality and smooth skin makes them revered, sought after and chased-- especially a woman. (and I believe few men will disagree) Sonnets will be written about her, wars will be fought over her, directors will immortalized her on film, and many will buy a ticket just to look.
Then there’s the growing emotional maturity as a woman goes through her thirties. Although one may begin to worry about turning 40 as it lurks ahead, and one may find that first crease of a line on their face, one is still young enough to be chased and desired.
Not only is a woman’s wisdom building around this time, but also the true beauty of her gentleness. Saying ‘I love you’ isn’t just in the heat of passion any longer, it’s coming from a place of growing depth. Her instinctive maternal nature begins to develop, not just when holding her own child’s hand but when looking at her aging mother as well. During this decade the true strength of woman begins polishing its shield.
When one turns forty one can still be looked upon as attractive and vital, one can still feel attractive and vital, except now one is in the category of the attractive, vital ‘older’ woman.
As in those teen years, middle age has its effects on both sexes, but this is where the path of burden truly splits, and now it’s the man’s turn to be chased—especially as this definitive decade progresses—and it progresses quickly.
Wouldn’t it be interesting if life had a time-lapse camera, and one could see when “it” happened?
In some ways it’s like watching the woman who has been your favorite actress for years. One tends not to notice when the roles being offered to her are no longer those of the sexy leading lady, but instead she’s playing someone’s mother or drunken shrew. Or she’s now that attractive older woman seducing the neighbor boy, or hiring a gigolo while on vacation. One tends not to pay attention to these subtle changes taking place, nor do they seem to notice how they’re not as quick to watch her movies any longer.
In many small ways people can prepare themselves for growing older. What one cannot prepare for, however, is that once again they will find themselves living within the cruelty of the tween.
It’s impossible to know when life begins its reverse. In fact if one lives long enough, it can truly be a diapers to diaper’s-again life—sad but true. In slow stages one’s life begins to become the polar opposite of what it once was.
Growing up one tends to look towards the future. When growing older one tends to look back. A person’s middle-aged body (especially a woman’s) once again begins going through changes, except what was once budding hormones making one’s emotions confusing and body awkward, is now doing the same thing as they start to deplete. One still stands in front of a mirror and wonders if they’re attractive, yet adding insult to every wrinkle is the occasional late hidden pimple or hair that wasn’t there before. If one is single, one may not wish to risk the emotion of another relationship-- especially if the last one ended badly. However, one still feels a healthy arousal and craving for a nightly companion—yet rarely does a stranger look upon them with sexual desire. One now watches younger couples hold hands and kiss, and one now hugs a pillow in remembrance of how wonderful it once felt to be held at night.
In the middle-age tween one isn’t old enough for a senior discount, yet one doesn’t have to show their I.D. for alcohol any longer. Or, if one should get carded, it’s only because the young cashier is simply being kind, trying to make an older lady’s day—and sadly he does.
If one has to look for work—God help one.
The upper middle-aged woman will no longer hear a flippant, “you’ll grow out of it.” Now the main advice given is, “you’ll just have to grin and bear it.”
Advice for living in this tween is not something you will find in any book, hear taught in any classroom or peached in any sermon. Was its existence a secret, or like that aging actress was its proof right in front of you in the faces of your parents, grandparents--in every voice which has ever reminisced? I don’t know.
I also don’t know how to look on the bright side of this tween, but I am trying—even as I hang here suspended somewhere between sentimentality and cynicism.
I try to think of the certain rites of passage age has allotted me. I have learned quite a few lessons over the years, and there are mistakes I will never make again.
The older I get the less I feel I have to explain myself, and with every passing year I make fewer and fewer excuses to anyone. My next milestone birthday of 65 is over a decade away. Though at 16 one may get a car, at 65 I may or may not get social security, but I will, however, get a lifetime of free soft drinks at numerous fast food restaurants—and if I so desire to celebrate this milestone by renting a young lover I will dare anyone to judge me.
During this time-- I try to think of old adages and words of wisdom— for example—“From the cradle to the tomb is a very short trip.” In the grand scheme of things I'm sure this is quite true—though at the moment time does seem to be dragging its feet.
“Age is a state of mind.” Most likely true-- but not while one is living within the tween.
“You’re never too old to fall in love.” I might have debated this one, had I not seen it played out first hand—as my 78 year old mother became a giggling newlywed again.
One of the most interesting tidbits of wisdom swirling around in my head these days, came from a very unlikely source—a 1980’s television sitcom called The Golden Girls . For those of you who may not be familiar, it was a show about 3 upper middle-aged women, and one’s elderly mother, all living as roommates and going through the trials of aging.
An amazing cast of actresses brought to life scripts which not only had some hilarious punch lines, but also moments of sweetness and earnest about the pains of growing older as the loved ones around them grew older as well.
One scene in particular has stuck in my head for over twenty years, and is quite apt at this moment because it reveals a perfect example of the reversal of life.
In the scene, the character of the eldest, 80 year old “Sophia,” is telling one of the girls, “Rose,” who is in her late 50’s/early 60’s, that one of the great things about being elderly is one suddenly gets cute again—like a five year old child.
This is proving to be one of the most amazing truths.
Like the excited expressions on a child’s face--
the lines and character on an elder’s is just as brilliant-- so much so it is a photographer’s joy to capture it in a still moment.
The enthusiasm in a child telling a simple joke (even a knock-knock one) makes it funny—when an elderly person tells a risqué one, it’s even funnier.
There is something absolutely adorable about a 78 year old newlywed bride—(who met her new 89 year old husband at a senior citizen’s dance on New Year’s Eve. Does it get any cuter than that?)
A child with two missing front teeth is precious—a grandparent putting theirs in a glass-- hysterically memorable.
A child’s pockets are a bottomless pit of items they have collected throughout the day—just like an elderly woman’s purse—an endless supply of portable rain bonnets, tissues and hard peppermint or butterscotch candies. Flyaway pillow-hair on a child is endearing, so is the grey hair so helmeted by an aerosol can of hairspray it wouldn’t move in a tornado—and only has to be washed or rolled once a week. (the latter has always fascinated me)
Like the extra patience an adult instinctively shows a child over accidental spills, spoiled temperament and lack of understanding—it seems to be the same reversed instinct a younger one shows to the elderly.
A child’s honesty can be ‘incorrect’, yet one can’t hold it against them because they don’t know any better, and an elderly’s ‘incorrectness’ is often overlooked because it’s quite obvious they don’t give a damn what you think—they have earned the right to say or do as they please.
Although one may not know what to do while living within these confusing years between bittersweet as well as the harshness of fact— I suppose one will just have to grin and bear it. —Though personally I would give anything to hear, just once more, those off-the-cuff- words of .. “don’t worry… you’ll grow of it.”
I can only hope during this time I am absorbing wisdom intended to make me peaceful. I can only hope I will continue to bump into that occasional kind stranger who makes my day. I can only hope I will continue to enjoy a good joke or punch line, whether old fashioned or risqué, and I can only hope I will always smile when the universe smacks me in the face with its moments of beauty.
Like most, It's easy for me to put beautiful faces on a page to illustrate a point-- and also like most, I wasn't born beautiful.. nor was I born un-beautiful-- I was simply born in-between.
Yet, hopefully the potential is there for me to be considered cute again...
I also hope I don’t have to re-read my own words in order to be reminded—and to any other upper middle-aged person who may be reading this (and finding themselves living within the tween) I hope you don’t either.
© 2012 Gina Baxter