The Secret Lives of Middle-Aged Women

If you are my mother or one of her peers, look away. I wish you not to know I've even **heard** of what I'm about to discuss. And if you're my child, ditto, as I wish you not to know about such things yet.

Are they gone? OK.

I turned 40 more than a couple but not yet several years ago. The main difference besides joint pain after heavy exercise and suffering fools less easily has been in the nature of the catalogs that come unsolicited to our mailbox.

Catalogs full of helpful gizmos for the lady who wishes not to go gently into that good night, they offer sparkly lotions to "deflect" light from your wrinkles, fade creams and bleaches for your age spots and unwanted hairs respectively, frighteningly stiff foundation garments, orthotic devices for your feet, more diabetes-related products than one could imagine, vitamins for vitality, and wardrobe items designed to disguise the spreading middles and derrieres of the mature woman (mostly consisting of tunics, peasant skirts and clothing with sequins).

Everything you need to be fabulous, and look not a day over 35.

I'm all for being fabulous, but you know what else is always in these catalogs? A product category that used to be either not there or was at most a single item tucked in an obscure inner page and described with pictures and language such that naive persons such as myself did not understand what it was.

Boy, howdy, there's no missing the point now, though (sorry, that was written innocently, I promise). Now the catalogs all have a 2-3 page spread of these "personal" devices, and they're so anatomically correct as to be completely dangerous to have in a house full of innocent children. Today I received a Solutions catalog, for example. It used to be an innocent purveyor of home gadgetry, but recently it started including a full page of items for "intimate health," including one which, I'm assured, is so splendiferous it is sure to become "one of my favorites."

One of?

Salesmen respond to markets, so I can only assume this is what the retiring female Boomers are asking for. I've come to see these catalogs as a saddening window into what the aging boomers actually expect from life: An endless effort to look younger, and a life lived alone and utterly self-absorbed. It's not a very pretty commentary on the culture they built for themselves when they were young. Certainly not fabulous and full of opportunities and choice.