We've Been Gaslighting Middle-Aged Women for Generations – And It’s Got To Stop

by Christine Organ
SuperStock\Jon Feingersh Photography/Getty

There is so much about your 40s that are weird and unexpected. Even those things that you knew would come eventually – like the wrinkles and the night sweats – are utterly shocking when they happen to you. I don’t know why, but for some reason, I expected all those “middle aged woman” stereotypes would happen to other women, but not to me. Or that they wouldn’t happen quite so soon. I mean I’m “only” in my 40s. Except holy shit, I’m in my 40s.

This is a weird and wonderful time, that’s for sure.

Making it all the more weird – and be “weird,” I mean hard AF – is the realization that we’re being gaslit. All day, every day. We’ve been gaslighting middle age women for so long now that we don’t even realize it.

How many of us have heard of the proverbial “midlife crisis”? Umm, every last one of us. It’s said with a demeaning and dismissive air. Like folks are literally brushing off every uncomfortable feeling or emotion or behavior that doesn’t fit the narrative of what women “should” be. It’s said with the implication that our rage is overly dramatic and unwarranted, like all of our troubles can be explained away with a “must be the hormones” wave of the hand.

Well, I call bullshit. With a capital B.

People also love to wax poetic about the IDGAF liberation that comes in your 40s. And it’s true. Sort of. We do care less about the things that don’t matter, but we also care more about the things that do. And that’s emotionally exhausting. We’re better able to filter out the bullshit, but as a result, we realize just how much bullshit there is in the world.

Some days you feel all forty-and-fabulous about your life, wearing that IDGAF attitude like a cape. Other days next you feel more like forty-and-fuck-off. Believe me: This is normal and common. The trouble is, no one is talking about it. We either hear about the how absolutely ah-mazing your 40s are, or how they are a literal “crisis.” Both miss the mark and get it wrong.

We’ve been fed a bunch of lies. We’ve been gaslit for years – no, for generations. Because the world doesn’t know what to do with all of the fierce complexities of middle age women. And all this gaslighting leaves our heads spinning even more. If we don’t feel that IDGAF liberation, we feel like something’s wrong with us. And if we feel frustrated and ragey, we dismiss it as the midlife crisis everyone’s been telling us about.

But you’re not wrong – however, you’re feeling; the rest of the world is. Feeling all this super complicated and confusing AF feelings is NOT a crisis; it is being human.

Do we feel angsty and unsettled? Absolutely. And for good reason. Our life is flying past us and every day we face the brutal awareness that life is too short and so damn precious. We want to grab yourselves by the shoulders and say, GO. DO THAT THING YOU’RE AFRAID TO DO. But we’re so tired and emotionally spent. Not to mention we have these not-yet-adult, big kids who need rides to baseball practice and reminders to study for their history test.

Are we pissed off and angry? Hell yeah we are. And rightfully so. The world is a fucking shitshow. If you aren’t a little angry, you aren’t paying attention. Does this mean that we aren’t also profoundly grateful for the good things in our life? No. We can be both grateful and happy, and also angry and frustrated. Humans are amazing like that.

Are we confused and scared? OF COURSE. We’re trying to do it all and be everything for everyone – for our aging parents, our growing kids, our evolving careers, our marriages and friendships – while also finding a sliver of space to tend to our needs. All with no sleep because our bodies have decided to behave like teens again.

We’re lay awake for hours at night, worrying about our kid who’s failing algebra and feeling guilty for not spending enough time with our mom who has been sounding a little lonely lately and fretting about the email that our boss sent at 9 p.m. and regretting just about every decision when we were 19 and then just when we start to drift off to sleep, the acid reflux starts and OMG it has got to be 110 degrees in this bedroom and, for the love of god, can we just relax for two damn seconds? Is that too much to ask? Then the next morning we see a commercial for diapers and start sobbing.

This isn’t weird. This isn’t a crisis. This is the reality of life in your 40s. It is ah-mazing. Sometimes. It is also confusing and scary and kinda weird. And despite what others tell you about how you should be feeling, about how you should be loving your 40s, about how your plans to go back to school are just a passing phase brought on by that pesky midlife “crisis,” whatever you’re feeling is valid.

So let’s change the narrative. Let’s acknowledge the complexities of life in your 40s and 50s – and life in general for that matter. And please let’s stop gaslighting middle age women – including ourselves.