If you’re somewhere in the “middle-aged” category and attend social events, you’re bound to notice the conversational subject matter begins to shift in certain directions as the years go by. When we were younger, people my age used to joke about “older people” discussing health issues and aching joints. We’d laugh at our parents discussing boring practical stuff as if we’d never succumb.
Well it’s finally happened. Or should I say, it’s become indisputable? I’m now well entrenched in the phenomenon of middle aged conversations. Go to any gathering of the fifty plus crowd, pop into a group conversation and you’ll witness the inevitable slip into certain topics.
I experienced this recently at a cocktail party hosted by friends who had moved out of state and were back in town to visit. They invited several couples we used to socialize with when our kids were in school together. We hadn’t seen many of them for years and after the hugs and warm greetings, it became apparent that once again, we had a lot in common. When our children were school aged, we shared sports or activity updates. Now we share adult children updates.
Although our kids are grown, with high school and college in the rear view mirror, we still love to talk about them. Discussions turn to their latest accomplishments; graduate school, career paths, their significant others and even announcements of marriage or grandchildren – and suddenly we are pulling out our phones and sharing the latest photos of our offspring.
Declarations such as “I can’t believe your daughter is 30!” or “you’re way too young to have grandchildren” are sprinkled in with congratulations for their various accomplishments and then the wistful “it seems like they were just in kindergarten together.”
Before we know it we are having serious discussions about things like financial planning and insurance – things we never thought we’d care about. We lament high real estate taxes, share investment advice and ponder the direction of stock market. Being middle aged coincides with thoughts of those anticipated golden years, so top of mind after putting in decades of hard work and established careers. Suddenly, the state of our finances matters a lot – and we’re here to talk about it.
Then we move on to housing and travel updates. “We’ve downsized/bought a vacation home/are the proud owners of an RV.” We’ve merged onto the on-ramp of middle age and are cruising into those “golden years” and there’s no turning back. Some of us are even contemplating becoming, dare I say it – snowbirds! And then the vacation advice begins. Will it be a cruise, a group tour or perhaps something even more adventurous? After years of maneuvering often exhausting family trips with toddlers and teens, we’ve discovered adult only travel has a lot of appeal.
Of course this is all contingent upon our health holding up – yet another popular topic for discussion. As we contemplate the challenge of staying fit and healthy in mid-life, we often feel compelled to share diet and exercise regimens. We commiserate about being sore for days after working out and wonder why it’s now nearly impossible to lose a few pounds when in our younger years, we could just skip dinner and wake up with a flat stomach.
And, let’s face it, no gathering of a fifty and up crowd would be complete without someone bringing up their aching back, knees or hips and the resulting injections, surgeries and even joint replacements. They’re not just for the elderly anymore. Maybe I’m kidding myself and we in fact are “the elderly.” Nah…
Then it’s on to sleep issues. We either can’t get to sleep or we can’t stay asleep. We wake up way too early and end up starting the day at 5am. We then fall asleep in front of the TV at 8pm. I witnessed this phenomenon years ago when dad would doze off in his favorite chair while watching the evening news. Now many of us admit to nodding off halfway through an episode of our favorite Netflix show.
A friend offered a handy solution to this – she always gets ready for bed, pajamas on, teeth brushed before commencing the evening’s viewing. That way, she advises, “it’s an easy transition to bed when I notice I’m dozing off.” PJs at 7pm anyone?
Eventually, conversations always veer to more serious topics. We hear of friends or acquaintances that have been diagnosed with illnesses or have succumbed to accidents. We talk about our aging parents and give our condolences for those who’ve passed away. In hushed voices we share our shock and sadness. Life is short, we say. We must live it to the fullest while we can, we agree.
Conversations allow us to embrace common experiences and assure us that we are here for each other. We are here to celebrate, to comfort, to offer help, to laugh and to cry together. Through these connections we take comfort knowing that we all navigate similar twists and turns throughout life’s journey. So grab a drink, pull up a chair and catch up with that old friend. Who knows where the conversation will go?