A couple of weeks ago, I took my eldest son and my daughter, who is my youngest child, to lunch at a restaurant I had not been to before. It’s known for its nightly shows and bands. When I asked our waiter what show he recommended, he looked at me and without a stutter said, “Oh, definitely Throwback Thursday. My mom loves that show.”
Now, he was right. I am definitely old enough to be his mom. And I love ’80s/’90s music, because that’s the music I grew up on, but I didn’t want him to notice that fact. I didn’t want him to look at me and think “throwback.”
I think I’m at that awkward stage of what I’ve dubbed the Second Half of Adulting. It’s similar to the phase I went through in my First Half of Adulting, when I was but a preteen. That first awkward stage involved being stuck between being a kid and being a young adult. The big dilemma at that stage was, “Do I want to play with my toys or do I want to kiss boys?” The second awkward stage is accepting that the stuff I like is starting to be a little outdated — but it’s not old enough to be considered retro-cool.
The second awkward stage is an awakening to the fact that I’m not necessarily part of the mover/shaker crowd anymore. The marketers and the trend-watchers are more interested in what my kids are buying and doing than in what their mom likes. And there’s a conflict, because I’m not sure I want to move out of the First Half of Adulting. I still have two kids at home and retirement seems quite far away, but I’m not fitting in with the First Halfers anymore.
Tattoos, nose piercings, pink-streaked hair, woolly beards, and beanies aren’t part of our middle-age comfort zone. But I’m not ready to shop for adult diapers yet either.
The shift has been subtle. It’s like seeing the Barbie you played with as a kid sitting in the window of an antiques store or realizing that you don’t know who 85 percent of the people on the covers of the gossip magazines are. The frequency of being called “ma’am” has gone up a notch. Last year, I had a part-time job where I shared a cubicle area with a couple of millennial women. We were talking about weekend plans and I shared that my husband and I were going to see Hall & Oates. My co-worker looked at me and said, “Oh, cool. Is that an island?”
The Second Half of Adulting is still new to me, so it’s hard to own it. I know that my husband and I could not pull off anything hipster with any kind of grace. Tattoos, nose piercings, pink-streaked hair, woolly beards, and beanies aren’t part of our middle-age comfort zone. But I’m not ready to shop for adult diapers yet either. It’s funny how life cycles around.
When I passed through puberty, I never dreamed I’d have to go through another awkward stage, but here I am. I guess these are the stages a woman must go through in order to figure out what she wants next. You get so uncomfortable with being uncomfortable, that you finally accept your new role, dig into your new place in society, and find confidence.
I imagine it’s a bit like being a record player that fell out of fashion years ago but is suddenly becoming cool again. You spend a few years at the back of the closet wondering why you’re out of favor, and by the time you quit apologizing for being a record player — and wishing you could morph into Spotify — people remember that you’ve always been pretty amazing and that you still have an important role to in the world. And that’s not so bad.
Read more from Kelly Harris at kellyfoota.com.