The High Cost of Living

Little did I know that being stuck in the middle of life would be so goddamn pricey

Plenty of personal finance matrices suggest that with age comes a somewhat lower overhead. You know the drill: The kids move away, the mortgage gets paid off, and as you comfortably settle into whatever your version of semi-retirement is, job-related expenses become obsolete as does the intense need to save.

But that isn’t the whole story. Take, for example, my hangover last week. While attending an outdoor festival with my family, I noticed the icy, tall plastic glasses of slushy fruity cocktails filled with indeterminate booze making the rounds. It was 87 degrees and humid. I was thirsty. And so I had one. OK, maybe I had two.

What I also had was an agonizing headache. I’m used to downing a drink (or two) and I’m used to drinking in the heat. But my body no longer can swing the tumblers of hooch-fueled Long Island Iced Teas it enjoyed in my college days. Four-dollar Happy Hour Cosmos just don’t jibe with a middle-aged circulatory system. So now when I imbibe, it must be a decent glass of wine or white-label liquor. Drinking, my body told me in no uncertain terms, is a more expensive proposition these days.

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So, too, is much of midlife. While I used to travel around the globe, crashing on friends’ floors and foreign hostel beds stuffed with hay, a recent road trip to visit family made it clear: narrow couches and lumpy sofa beds do not exactly make for a good night's sleep. Buh-bye free accommodations. Hello cushy hotels with room service.

Same goes for cosmetics. In principle, drugstore makeup is absolutely acceptable, but tell that to my enlarged pores. A recent switch from Makeup Forever to a CVS brand left me pimply and bumpy. Rite Aid eyeliner smudged and clumped. Which may help explain why I'm now a devotee of Bobbi Brown Long Wear Gel Eyeliner. No matter that it costs more than I made in an entire shift working at that local movie theater in high school, and requires a 30-minute commute to purchase at Henri Bendel. It's more than worth it!

And shoes? Payless has plenty of cute pumps these days, and I recently admired a friend’s sandals purchased at Target. When I was younger, I would've dashed down to one of those low-price retailers and scooped up a few pair at $30 per. But unless I commit to highly engineered, expensive footwear, I spend my days with an aching back and arches. So I now rely on Cole Haan heels and Naot sandals and, in the winter, Frye boots.

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As for fashion, this summer’s styles are a delight to the eyes. You know, all those short, flimsy dresses in thin silk and clingy jersey? Adorbs. That is — if you’re 26, never carried a baby or cultivated cottage cheese on your ass. Which means that a normal woman who is no longer 26 must resort to conservative, less stylish fare, which are not found in abundance at thrifty merchants like H&M or Forever 21. I feel like I found a bargain if there's a size that fits at Zara — otherwise, off to Bloomingdale's or Saks I go.

Of course, as every fashionable woman of a certain age knows, a more expensive, put-together look requires more costly accessories. Unlike that adorable 26-year-old, a middle-aged woman cannot get away with a cheap handbag or statement necklace. It just doesn’t work. Consequently, I recently sprang for a $500 Marc Jacobs purse and a large pair of opal and 24-karat gold earrings. And so I’m now spending more on both clothes and accessories.

All because I’m getting old.

Little did I know that being stuck in the middle of life would be so goddamn pricey. But I recently noticed yet another interesting phenomenon — the really older people in my neighborhood (I know some of them and they're by no means poor) are certainly not spending a lot of money on clothes or jewelry. No, they're sporting muumuus and double-knit slacks, replacing purses with department store shopping bags and all wearing the most comfortable-looking, butt ugly shoes.

Which is a minimalistic style I aspire to in the not so distant future: frugality-meets-not-giving-a-crap.

I can't wait to get old.

Tags: aging