10 Things I Never Pictured Myself Doing At 48

I always thought that middle age would be dignified. I pictured myself gliding through life, gently wrinkled and wise, the embarrassments of my teens and 20s far behind me.

Um, no.

1) Washing period blood out of my clothes

Like marching for abortion rights, I just thought we would be done with this by now. I thought that, like my breasts, periods would settle down with age. Instead, I feel like I’m back in a Judy Blume novel — I never know when they’re coming and they’re so heavy I sometimes wake up in a crime scene or look down and see blood on the front of my skirt. (The mechanics of that one still confuse me: shouldn’t it have been the back?)

2) Thinking about birth control

And because I’m still bleeding (well, most of the time — my period went on a three-month vacation earlier this year and it was heavenly), I still have to worry about getting pregnant. Intellectually I get that pregnancy is possible from puberty to menopause, I do. But, to paraphrase Katha Pollitt, that’s a long damn time to worry about stray sperm getting in your uterus. So it just seems like we should get a break before menopause, a grace period of five to ten years when we still have our sex drives but we don’t have to fumble with condoms.

3) Being on a second date with a guy and asking him to turn up the air conditioning in his car because I’m having a hot flash

This guy was different from the youngsters I’d been hooking up with since my husband and I split nearly a year before. He was gainfully employed, drove a really nice car (don’t ask me what kind because those things don’t stick), picked me up, and paid for dinner. And was the ripe old age of 33.

He happily complied with the air conditioning request and didn’t seemed fazed at all — he continued looking at me like I was candy and was barely two bites into his entrée before telling me he hoped I’d invite him in this time. But still, I hated choosing my outfit carefully and then spending the whole dinner peeling off the top layer only to put it back on again five minutes later.

4) Getting divorced

Then again, I didn’t see myself getting married, either.

5) Wandering the “Feminine Care” aisle at CVS to pick up a pregnancy test and then stopping because the shelf of menopause relief products has caught my eye

Shouldn’t my body choose a goddamn lane?

6) Needing glasses to read the instructions on said pregnancy test

OK, OK, this is my fault (the pregnancy test, not the reading glasses). The last time I bought one was when I was 44 and had been off the pill for more than a year. Which was stupid, I know. When I stopped getting my period, I thought it was early menopause. For weeks it didn’t occur to me that I might be pregnant until one day I thought, Well, I should really rule out that possibility. Whoops.

So why, having gotten pregnant at 44, would I take a chance at 48? Because a lot can change in four years! The Internet told me I have only a 1% chance of getting pregnant now! And the test proves that I haven’t fucked up again.* And that my period is just three weeks late. Bring on the next vacation!

*Before you yell at me about diseases, I was in a monogamous relationship and we’d both been tested after the incubation period, yada-yada.

7) Being kissed by an old friend when I don’t expect it

As a wise middle-aged woman, I should be able to read signals, right? And this was a guy I’d liked for a while, so it should have been fun, right? But instead I felt like Angela Chase in Jordan Catalano’s car when he makes a dive for her and it’s just not the way she pictured it happening.

8) Having my parents ask what time I got in last night when I’m staying with them and they know I was on a sort-of date with someone they’ve known for years

Jesus sometimes I wish I could afford a hotel when I go back to New York.

9) Being carded at a bar when I’m with a 20-something

Like most women, I found it flattering to get carded between the ages of 30 and 45. I loved the look of surprise on someone’s face and hearing them say, “But you look so young!” It didn’t matter that we all knew that they knew I’d been legal for years — the game was fun.

But that period of flirtatious flattery has an arc, and now that I’m pushing 50, the arc is bending toward humiliation. Especially when the person I’m with is a 25-year-old. Then the whole dating younger guys thing begins to feel a little bit less like “You go, girl!” and a little more sordid.

Which seems totally unfair. Because all those gray-haired dudes who date women half their age, those silver foxes (and not so foxy ones) — do they get carded? Right, of course they don’t, because they’re not screening their Tinder dates for serial killer tendencies in dark bars on La Brea in Hollywood.

10) Having one of these 20-somethings try to comfort me about perimenopause by talking about his mother’s experience

DON’T TALK TO ME ABOUT YOUR MOTHER

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