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Middle of the Road

So. This past weekend, Your Humble Blogger completed the run of Pygmalion and had a birthday. Closing night was the eve of what I’ve come to think of as my first thirty-ninth birthday. This confluence (and, um, some alcoholic intake) led me to brood over endings and passings. I’m not going to be doing another show with that gang, and I’m not going to be in my mid-thirties anymore, either.

The gang are pretty terrific. This is my third show with the same director and stage manager, and four castmates have joined me in all three of them, another one in two of the three. All good people. And the actors who I met for this show were good people, too; they were the sort of people I would want to be in three shows with. And it’s possible, if unlikely, that I will be in a show with one of them again someday, or even two. But not more than that. I am not driving sixty miles to rehearsals again; that was crazy.

Before doing those three shows, I had stopped doing theater for about ten years. I left college with the idea of becoming a professional actor; I soon discovered that I didn’t actually want to be a professional actor. I still enjoyed theater, though, and for a few years, I did shows at the community theater level. I found that level frustrating. Many people who do community theater are more interested in socializing with their friends in the group than in working on a show, which infuriated YHB, who still attempted to maintain a professional attitude (vaddevah I thought dat meant). The production values were often terrible, not only because of a shoestring budget but because nobody cared about the lights, or the sound, or the stage management. I didn’t have a whole lot of fun.

When I walked in to auditions for The Man Who Came to Dinner, I had determined that I wouldn’t make myself angry about professionalism. If I had a good time, and we put on a decent show, that would be fine. In fact, we put on a terrific show, and although the cast wasn’t in the least professional, we had a good time and worked hard. So I did another show, with most of the same people, and it was great. Since I was a lead this time, it was more work for me, but enjoyable work, and we had a terrific time and put on a good show in the end. Then I moved from Western Connecticut to Greater Hartford, and welcomed the Youngest Member, and took another couple of years off theater. And then our director told me she was doing Pygmalion, and my Best Reader said that technically, it wasn’t actually impossible. And once again, I worked hard and had a good time, and the show was good. But I also spent three hours a day in the car, and I missed dinner with my family four days a week for two months, not to mention the kids’ bedtime, and my Best Reader lost two months of work on her book because she was single-parenting while I was driving. So that won’t happen again.

I keep coming back to the definition of middle-age that I came across recently: it’s the time of life when people stop thinking about the future in terms of what they will be able to do, and start thinking about the future in terms of what they won’t be able to do. There’s youth, of course, when every year or two there’s some new thing you are admitted to: middle-school, movies on your own, driving, dating, voting, draft age, credit cards, car rental, drinking, sex, a real job, your own apartment, marriage, home ownership, promotion, parenthood. At thirty-five, you are qualified to be President of the United States, and that’s the last one until you start getting discounts. Your Humble Blogger is thirty-nine at last; there's the house, the children, a job, my Best Reader’s career. I’ve got a wonderful life; I am clam-happy. And middle-aged.

Do I want to go and visit family across the country? I can do that, thank the Divine, as long as I budget for it, and arrange it so that the Perfect Non-Reader doesn’t miss too much school. And of course I can’t just crash on somebody’s sofa anymore, because of my back (and my knee), so I need to either stay with somebody who has a guest room or take a hotel room, and there has to be enough room for the Perfect Non-Reader, and somewhere for the Youngest Member, too, and if we all share a room, nobody’s going to get much sleep, and you know? The hell with it.

That’s what I mean by middle-aged. It’s not chronological, it’s a combination of life’s circumstances and frame of mind. And I’m in it.

The important thing is to remember that I am in the middle-aged frame of mind because I've got so many wonderful things. I don’t want to be eighteen anymore, or twenty-three or even thirty. I want to have what I’ve got: a family, a home town, a settled life, immovables, habits, comforts. That’s not a bad thing.

And while the knee hurts a lot, and the back is always vulnerable, and the extra forehead limits my choice of hairstyle, the stamina is just about where it should be at this point, I’m still at the point where the physical plant problems are an inconvenience, rather than a barrier or a burden, something to keep in mind rather than something that can’t be ignored. So that’s all right, d’y’see?

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,


Happy (belated) Birthday!

Middle of the road? Middle of the road?!?! Pick a lane, ya bum!

Oh, and middle-aged? I hear you.


...it’s the time of life when people stop thinking about the future in terms of what they will be able to do, and start thinking about the future in terms of what they won’t be able to do...

Huh. I hit that particular roadblock at around 30 -- and then got past it again when I realized that sure, getting married and starting a career means I can't sleep around and I'm not going to be an astronaut/film director/professional baseball player, but in fact, I wasn't going to do those things anyway, and that the choices I was making were certainly cutting off some options, but they were opening others up.

That feeling has continued: I've always wanted to be able to talk about books with my children, but that's never been an option. But my daughter should be reading on her own within the next 6 to 8 months. For a long time I've wanted to be able to make strategic decisions about how my team at work should move forward. My guess is that in a couple of years I'll be in a leadership role of some kind. And so forth. The fact is that there are options that only open up after you've been doing some particular thing for a long time.

Yeah, the aches are not so great -- for me it's the shoulder -- and I'm not loving the additional belly that I didn't used to have. The forehead, honestly, has been happening since I was about 19, so I'm pretty used to that progression.

Anyway, happy birthday!

Happy birthday!

Did my comment above come across as saying that I'm more emotionally healthy than you are? If so, my apologies-- not at all my intention (I bow to no one in the size and variety of my emotional dysfunctions).

No, no (I mean to Jacob's question; thank you all for the birthday thoughts).

I think your response brought up that the middle-age thing has a lot to do with a mental state which may not last very long. When it comes to thinkabout what I soon might not be able to do, the physical barriers are likely to be lasting but the lifestyle ones are not (after all, when the kids get married, I'm going to learn the saxophone), and thank the Divine, my physical barriers are at this point more annoyances. Except I forgot to take the analgesic this morning, curse it. My memory isn't what it was, either, if it ever was.

Digression: actually, my memory really isn't what it was, when it comes to learning lines for shows. I had a hell of a time learning my three short scenes for Pyggie. I don't think that my aging brain is through yet, but (again as regards to mindset) I do have a sort of nagging thought in the back of my head that if I don't play Archie Rice in the next five years, I won't be able to play him at all. And, of course, that's true for a lot of young parts—I'm already to old to play Charlie's Aunt. On the other hand, as you point out, there are great roles that will wait for me…as long as my memory holds out. And my teeth. And my legs. End Digression.

Where was I?


A late happy birthday to you.

I've had some very similar thoughts to these lately, although triggered by some different things. What's kind of weird to me is that I seem to have missed some of those milestones along the way and other came kind of late. Ah well, no one said things have to play out the same way for everyone.

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