Not long ago the front page of the Styles section in the New York Times ran the following two headlines side by side: "Listen Up, Everybody: I'm in Menopause," and, "'omg, my mom joined facebook!!'" After I stopped chuckling, I realized that the two stories perfectly captured the current emotional spectrum of my life.
Elizabeth Hayt was reporting on women who actually "flaunt their menopausal symptoms. If they are not erupting in the literal heat of the moment, they are flinging wisecracks, adopting a single-sex argot comprising wry, offhanded quips and punctuated by knowing winks and nudges."
Michelle Slatalla, on the other hand, a woman of a certain age herself, was describing her newfound commitment to avoid becoming an old-fogey Luddite. She had joined Facebook. And her teenaged daughter busted her with an IM saying, "wayyy creepy, why did you make one! You won't get away with this....everyone in the whole world thinks its super creepy when adults have facebooks."
Weird, my husband just joined Facebook and that's pretty much exactly what our youngest daughter said to him.
I get it: my generation came of age rejecting the trappings of the one that preceded ours, and being young (but not a child) was empowering and liberating and thrilling. And now that we are undeniably not young - the oldest of the 77 million boomers are now 61 - how do we deal?
On the one hand, legitimacy often comes from public acknowledgment. If we talk publicly and loudly about menopause, maybe it loses its cultural ick factor, and we validate our rite of passage.
But we also cannot bear to feel out of it. So we struggle to find our places in the lightning speed shifts within the techno-world. And while these two impulses - shout out to the world that we're getting older, and also trying to stay with it - might seem contradictory, they both are healthy ways to approach aging.
Women bonding together to simply joke about their menopausal conditions generates solidarity and reassurance. And a sense of community is central to healthy aging.
A few years ago, the University of Chicago's Louise Hawkley and John Cacioppo published a paper, "Loneliness is a Unique Predictor of Age-Related Differences in Systolic Blood Pressure," in the journal Psychology and Aging, that tells you everything you need to know in its title.
And joining Facebook is a twofer. Community and novelty. I'm not sure figuring out how to post something on an acquaintance's wall or "poking" some friend of a friend will lower your brain age, as Nintendo promises with their Brain Game, but it has to keep us more mentally nimble and more connected to the world, and those are proven ways to help us age more contentedly.