anne_mikolay_2012_120Exactly when do you know with certainty that you are middle-aged? Is it when you have more gray hair than you can count and far more than Miss Clairol can manage? Is it when your bones moan, sometimes audibly, when you get out of bed in the morning?  Is it when you don’t recognize the artists on the People’s Choice Awards (who the heck are Adele and Demi Lovato anyway)? Or is it when you prefer sensible shoes and mom jeans (and we have previously established that I do) to heels and designer jeans? Or perhaps you are middle-aged when the grocery store clerks address you as “ma’am.”

In the words of Sheldon Cooper, The Big Bang Theory’s (CBS TV) man of infinite wisdom,  “Bazinga!”

While I’m no spring chicken, I have never thought of myself worthy of the title “ma’am” – until now. It seems “ma’am” is no longer reserved for graying, aging ladies buying eggs, milk, and the Ladies Home Journal at the grocery store; it’s for me. Imagine my surprise when the check-out clerk handed me my change and said, “have a nice day, ma’am.” I guess I’d better wake up and smell the coffee. Who am I kidding? I am a graying, aging lady buying eggs, milk, and the Ladies Home Journal at the grocery store!

I can’t help wondering. If I were glamorous, would I be more comfortable with my middle-aged status? If I had long, beautiful locks like Jennifer Aniston or Beyonce, would I qualify as “ma’am?” If I were blond instead of mousy brown (okay, brownish gray), would check-out clerks be as quick to wish “ma’am” a nice day? If I had a celebrity’s style, would I be more attractively middle-aged? Interesting food for thought. Ironically, Ladies Home Journal provided the answer.

Ladies Home Journal has a website that allows women to experiment with hair color and celebrity hairstyles. To create a glamorous, new me, albeit still middle-aged, all I had to do was upload a photo of myself, choose the hairstyle/color I desired, rearrange said hairstyle upon my head with my trusty mouse, and tada! The new me!

Needless to say, using the Ladies Home Journal style website was a revealing, hysterical undertaking. I “tried on” Jennifer Aniston’s long, straight locks. Nope. Not for me. Next I popped Halle Berry’s signature short style upon my head; it seems you need an adorable face like hers to pull that one off so scratch that. In Cher’s curly wig (from her “Turn Back Time” video), I looked more like the wrong end of a mop than I resembled Cher. Come to think of it, in that wig, Cher looks more like the wrong end of a mop than Cher. Putting Justin Bieber’s hair upon my head proved without a doubt that nobody, male or female, young or old, should have that haircut. The piece de resistance, however, was my Snooki-do. Hello, Mrs. Flintstone! Last by not least, I wore Sarah Palin’s up-do. Hmm…not too bad…but still not me. Apparently, the only thing that is truly me…is me!

After thoroughly cracking myself up on the Ladies Home Journal website and annoying the heck out of those around me, I concluded that I don’t want a celebrity’s style (maybe their money, but not their style). I am comfortable in my own skin. Being addressed as “ma’am” isn’t so bad. After-all, “ma’am” is a term of respect, and we can all use a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

When do you know with certainty that you are middle-aged? When you are comfortable in your own skin, I guess, and when you can laugh at yourself and don’t mind when others lightheartedly do the same…and when you realize your middle-aged self is exactly who you want to be.

(If you would like to experiment with celebrity styles and maybe laugh a little at yourself, log onto

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Anne Mikolay

Anne Mikolay

Anne M. Mikolay joined The Atlantic Highlands Herald as a columnist in 2008. Prior to penning “The Armchair Critic,” Anne wrote feature articles for The Monmouth Journal. Her work has appeared in national...