Mid-Life Kryptonite by Andrea Santo Felcone

kryptoniteI remember when I was pregnant, my husband bemoaned that it was unfortunate that being pregnant didn’t come with a “superpower”. I’m sure I replied with a little hormonally-charged sarcasm–wasn’t creating, carrying, and sustaining new life–superpower enough? Wasn’t my newfound ability to differentiate every single smell on the face of the planet—and yet hold down my lunch–superpower enough? Wasn’t my ability to look exceedingly pregnant from the front, but barely pregnant from the back (My “reverse-mullet” pregnancy—all party in the front, all business in the back); wasn’t that a superpower? Apparently not. Apparently I had to be able to do all of that and chew through tin as well.

But, now that my pregnancies are over, I wonder if he wasn’t onto something. Because I can tell you, without a doubt, the one superpower I had in my 30s that I suddenly lost when I hit 40—was the ability to read fine print. That is a superhero ability I dearly miss. If pregnancy could have instilled a lasting superpower—“the lifelong ability to read fine print” is the one I would have wished to have. But, there was no forewarning.

And to that end, I think “40” should come with the following disclaimer:

“Welcome to your 40s, a decade where we figure you have had just about enough of reading the fine print–those tedious, microscopic “warning labels”. We figure YOU ARE DONE “FOLLOWING THE RULES”. So much so, we’ve actually taken away your ability to read the rules. Good luck. Have at it. Fly into the face of adversity with your little squinty face and–roll the dice. (You can still see the dice, right?) Well, whatever, welcome to your 40s, where you get to throw caution (and those tiny warning labels) to the wind.”

Remember how Superman put those gigantic glasses on when he was masquerading as regular-old Clark Kent? (Was he trying to pass for 40?) The fact that he didn’t need those glasses and could see through walls makes me confident he could read all the fine print his Krypton-born eyes wanted.

And that ability to read fine print, above all else, makes Superman, in my book, the best superhero. Because while the stuff the others can do is impressive, I’m just not that interested: The ability to shoot sticky webs out of your wrists? Thanks, Spidey, I’ll pass. The ability to turn green when you get angry? Um, no thanks, Hulk; I don’t look good in green. Bracelets that stop bullets? An invisible plane? Fun accessories for sure, Wonder Woman, but; I’m with Clark and the “ability to read fine print” as my superhero power. Because, when you can’t read fine print, you find yourself with a new, time-consuming hobby: “searching for reading glasses” day in and day out. (Hint: Look upstairs when you are down, and vice-versa.)

So, why doesn’t anyone tell you about this ahead of time? When you go for your annual eye exam, why doesn’t the doctor sit you down and say: “Well, this will be the last year of your ability to read anything under 12 point font. Sorry, that’s just the way life goes. I hear your town has an excellent LARGE PRINT library. So, take solace in that. Oh, and please accept this complimentary magnifying glass and gratis copy of “What to Expect When You Are No Longer Expecting Anything, Ever—Mid-Life Edition”–for your troubles.”  (P.S. Don’t look on page 459, we are keeping that a secret until your next appointment.)

But, no, no one says anything at all. In fact, as you age, the doctors just give you more “privacy policy statements” to sign—in tiny fonts they know you can no longer read.

It’s stunning how quickly the change comes. You are Superhero Mom one day, and then, boom, you can’t read the ingredient label on your kid’s granola bar. Or the menu in a candle-lit restaurant. It’s your Kryptonite. And of course, there are worse problems in the world. Of course there are, but we aren’t talking about those now. We are talking about you and how you don’t want this constant, nagging reminder that you are aging. (Well, O.K., fine, maybe I don’t want this constant nagging reminder, either.)

Do you remember having “that moment” when you looked at your parents, and for the first time, realized they were aging? That was hard, right? Or when they started to veer into the “let’s just go for comfort” lane, and you had to steer them away from the polyester pants. Because they were too young for that. Too vibrant. They weren’t ready for that. Well, I’m not ready to be that for someone else, not quite yet. But, the other day, when I was squinting–yet again–to read an ingredient label, (why on Earth do they print black letters on a red background—that is just plain passive-aggressive behavior from some 20-something year old graphic designer), I had to turn the task of reading the fine print over to my teenager. And, it made me a little sad to think that maybe he was having “that moment” where I appeared “older” to him.

All in all, I’m not complaining. I’m really trying my best to “age gracefully”. Trying hard to appreciate the superpowers I still have: You hold up any piece of child’s clothing and I can tell you–without looking at the tag–if it will fit one of my kids. (It’s a gift, I know.) So, it’s a good thing it’s only fine print. Only medicine, food, and warning labels I can no longer read…. Well, unless I find those elusive reading glasses. Oddly enough, I can still see my invisible plane—clear as day.

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  1. 5 Responses to “Mid-Life Kryptonite by Andrea Santo Felcone”

  2. I love the idea of not being able to read the rules, so why follow them?! Great life motto and inspiration especially as we age…it’s never too late to pursue passions, make things happen and be a risk taker — whether we can read the fine print or not. Thanks for sharing Andrea.

    By Robin Gorman Newman on May 9, 2017

  3. Pursuing passions is way more fun than reading ingredient labels anyway. Thanks Robin for your thoughts.

    By Andrea Santo Felcone on May 9, 2017

  4. Very Very funny.Laughed out loud several times. Thanks

    By Marcia on May 10, 2017

  5. I have reached the magnifying glass stage so i can well relate to these problems!!!!

    By Robert Lariviere on May 10, 2017

  6. So true. Now I know why Costco sells reading glasses in packages of five. Very funny.

    By Phyllis on May 11, 2017