The big hole in the script of midlife love is motive—we still want to get dressed up, but, biologically speaking, we have no place to go.
Though I have seen all the population tables and related scientific data, I have a hard time imagining what the world looked like, from a demographic point of view, 120 years ago. What was it like without aging, graying people? Who dispensed the wisdom, told the tales, transmitted the history, patiently endured the ignorance? (And what was it like hearing that so many babies did not live to see their fifth birthday; or that so many mothers died during childbirth?)
The time comes to life for me in this early sixteenth century painting, called The Seven Ages of Woman, by Hans Baldung, a student and friend of the great Albrecht Durer. Life expectancy then was in the mid-30s, and here you see it. The woman furthest to the right looks as if she could still be nursing. She has no wrinkles, and even her semi-scowl is that of a mother with a house full of children.
The next age after her, the figure in the back, seems to be her own specter: she’s dead. (Or else Baldung had such a hard time finding an appropriately aged model that he created a generic old person, wrapped the head, and left the body to the imagination—otherwise I am sure he would have rendered her as graphically as he did the jail bait.)
The seven ages went by very quickly; the one now the “middle” just wasn’t there.