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Baby boomers cross the threshold of midlife

References to baby boomers these days tend to be preceded by such words as "maturing," "graying," and "aging." As this sizable segment of the population turns whatever corner it seems to be turning, we are perforce going to be hearing a lot in the news and entertainment media about what happens to them now: Caring for their aging parents, planning for their retirement, selling their empty nests, enduring their second divorces, laundering their support hose.

Jack Nachbar, professor of popular culture at Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio, said that the boomers "are a large and generally narcissistic group, and are fascinated with whatever phase of life they are in.

"When they discovered children, we got all these Three Men and a Baby movies. Problems of aging, which have always been around, will be around more because the boomers are experiencing them."

Believing that any experience _ good or bad _ is better handled if it isn't entered in ignorance, we who have already gone through this difficult period modestly offer the baby boomers a guide to middle-aging. Not all of these phenomena happen to everyone; some folks may experience none of them. But if you're forewarned you'll have forearms. (Or something.)

Physical

Along about age 43, you need bifocals. They're not so bad; they keep you from constantly peering over the tops of your glasses, holding menus at arms' length or pushing your glasses up on your head. (Yes, it was cute when your grandfather couldn't find his glasses because they were on his forehead; it's somehow more annoying when it's your glasses and your forehead.)

Hair begins to appear miraculously where it had never grown before. Ears, particularly, are a source of wonderment.

If you reach up suddenly to pull down a window shade, part of your upper arm keeps moving long after you're done. (Don't look now; just resolve to exercise more. It probably won't help, but you probably won't do it anyway.)

Your eyes might dry out, so that you can no longer wear your contact lenses. (I'm told other things might dry out, too. That doesn't sound like much fun either. Never mind.)

Behavioral

Footstools and recliners become much more interesting pieces of furniture. The floor, by contrast, is distinctly uncomfortable.

Medication _ even other people's _ is interesting to talk about.

Whenever you want to hear the weather report on the late news, you fall asleep just before it comes on.

You make up for that by waking up in the middle of the night.

You discover that most colors now go just fine with most other colors. And that sweater you almost threw out is really very comfortable; you can't imagine what would have possessed you to get rid of it.

A grilled-cheese sandwich sounds better than smoked free-range chicken with fig and jalapeno sauce. Lots better.

Intellectual

You find it surprising how much better some books are now than when you had to read them in high school.

You realize that although there is clearly more and more that one could know, there is less and less that is worth knowing.

You could do your work a lot better if you could take a nap after lunch.

Emotional

Younger acquaintances begin to admire you for your ability to remain calm. They say you react to crises as though you'd seen it all before. You have.

Eating your dessert first sounds like a fine idea.

Red does not strike you as a great color for a car.

When you say that the best birthday present you could have is to have your whole family there, you're not kidding.

Al Sicherman is a staff writer for Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune.

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