When I started working on this book, now ten years ago, I gave no thought to what “middle-aged” meant, what ages it connoted, and how people of those ages would feel about it. I have since been told many times that it is a loaded word, best avoided. In this project’s earlier titles I used “midlife” (eg “in midlife”) instead. Not that the word means anything different; but somehow it seemed more palatable. (In keeping with my literary produce, I’ve returned to the unpalatable.)
The issue is not new. The article above is 101 years old. But even if you adjust this woman’s 35 to 45 now, or 50 or even 55, many people would still bristle.
Why is this? Is it an ugly word? An ugly idea? Does it simply mean that youth is officially over? My daughter, 16, is fully aware that the teen years are awful and that her life will be much better when she is out of them, which she eagerly awaits. I’d like to say to the 30s-40s people I see grappling with problems that just aren’t important: Don’t worry, soon you’ll be middle-aged and you’ll know better. But that advice would probably taken as: When you die you won’t care.