{MidLife Musings} On Middle-Age Womanhood, Wonder Woman, and the “Rage to Matter”

Musings on Mid-Life Womanhood, Wonder Woman and the "Rage to Matter" | Pamela Price for RedWhiteandGrew.com
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Frankly I’ve been feeling lately as if I’m standing in a No Man’s Land, surrounded by incredible middle-aged women as we try to reorient our personal navigation equipment.

Some days we struggle with feeling sane and coherent, too.

What amazes me most of all in this generational moment is that the realigning happens to everyone, from stay-at-home moms and full-time, intentionally child-free career gals. Whatever it was that we chose to lean in toward has changed us–and vice versa.

Here, in my late forties, I’m seeing that there’s no “pass” card for the ol’ midlife overhaul. Granted, some of us have fewer changes to make than others. Some of us are in denial, too, self-medicating our way through it. (Aside: I’m partial to using sugar, specifically chocolate, but my doctor says a family tendency for diabetes indicates I should cut that out.)

Honestly this unfolding of Gen X’s midlife story–a narrative that threatens to engulf my Facebook feed some days–has me questioning all the various hypothesis about what would “save” us from suffering, as women.

Somewhere around the age of 45 a new reality appears: the next few years are going to present new challenges. Your mileage may vary (“YMMV”) with regard to the “what” of looming frustration and/or heartbreak, but oh, it’s coming, baby.


The end.

I think this is why so many of us teared up this summer at that scene in Wonder Woman. If you’ve seen it, I bet you know what I’m talking about, don’t you? It was such a commonplace occurrence that USA Today published an article about it.

From the piece by Andrea Mandell:

Why are women crying when they watch Wonder Woman fight?

Director Patty Jenkins has grown accustomed to hearing stories about Wonder Woman audience members welling up as Gal Gadot, playing DC Comics heroine Diana Prince, grabs her shield and sword and plunges into battle in the new superhero epic (in theaters Thursday night).

“I didn’t even realize I needed this,” says Jenkins, who makes history as the first woman to helm a superhero movie. “I didn’t realize that I needed to let this out, that’s what I was tasked with. But it opened a door to all the expressions of this superhero, all the dimensions of a woman that maybe we haven’t seen or felt.”

Per Wochit Entertainment, the key battle scene–on the front lines of World War I–was almost cut.

I don’t pretend to speak for every woman–and I know there are many of my Gen X girlfriends who dislike the violent themes of the superhero genre in which Wonder Woman is ingrained, but watching Diana hunker down and lean into the incoming fire felt like a metaphor for midlife.

And it was cathartic to watch onscreen, hence my own tears.

Of course, out here in real life American suburbia, there’s usually no incoming bullets fired by German soldiers. But we middle-aged women have our own issues–growing children, marriage issues, changing workspaces, changing bodies.

There’s also, I sense, a new “rage to matter” impulse. (That’s my own term, a riff on a phrase in gifted advocacy circles, “rage to master.”) I think rage to matter is about our not wanting to disappear, about wanting to see and hear our interests and concerns valued and validated, especially when it comes to issues that affect our families and communities. It’s also about finding a way to leave a positive, constructive mark on the world before we head to what my mother used to call “the big dirt nap.”

This is a tall order, frankly, in a youth obsessed culture.

But what might it look like, if we middle-aged women stood up and together against the pressures to conform and “stand down,” to silently slink off and become forgotten caregivers and crones? And where would we even begin? That’s what I’m musing about this morning, a cup of green Earl Grey in hand with my achy ankle joints, thinning hair, and saggy underarm skin.

Hmm… think I can get a new Wonder Woman outfit in a size 12?

Explore More:

• There are a couple of posts here at RWG on the “hedonic treadmill,” which I think are relevant to today’s musing. Another post on that topic will appear later this month (July 2017).
• I didn’t delve too deeply into the idea of “rage to matter” and gifted adulthood, but there’s likely some there-there. A favorite thinker/writer/advocate for gifted adulthood issues is Paula Prober, whom I’ve mentioned here before. Her book, Your Rainforest Mind {Amazon Affiliate Link}, is a treasure, as is her blog, Your Rainforest Mind: Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive.






  1. Oh my gosh, Pamela. Thank you for mentioning me! It’s fascinating for me to read this, particularly because I still feel middle-aged but I’m 65 so I’m probably in that crone stage, but in some denial about it. As you know, I love your expression “rage to matter” and I think you have a whole lot more to say about it, if you choose. It’s also interesting because from my vantage point, you’re so young! I still haven’t seen Wonder Woman but I’m looking forward to it. Keep writing, girl! We all benefit from your experiences and your insights.

    • There’s some intersection with Erik Erikson and the “rage to matter,” I think? But I’m too busy trying to figure out what to do next to study up! LOL

      Thanks for your comment, Paula!!

  2. Great thoughts, Pamela. This too will pass and a brand new wonder woman from within will emerge, step forward, and fly out of the saggy arm syndrome into a wonder woman of secret powers. Been there, done that, and now doing the new “get out of my way” woman!

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