Winona Ryder Is Middle Aged, So I Must Be, Too

This week I binge watched the new Netflix series, Stranger Things.  Loved it.  I watched it, in large part, because I really adore Winona Ryder. We are similarly aged (I’ve got two years on the gal), so my life milestones felt, in many ways, like they mirrored her characters on screen.  Imagine my surprise when I realized her starring role in the series was as the frazzled single mom.  Man.  It’s hard to deny your own middle aged status when your spirit ingenue has bags under her eyes that look so much like your own.


Don’t get me wrong.  I am not trashing Winona for having the audacity to age.  Nope.  Not going there.  I am simply and honestly stating that its hard to deny my own aging (and my relationship to said aging) when you see the aging, up close and personal in high definition, in the muse of your youth. Sobering is the word that comes to mind.

Winona as frazzled single mom of missing child.
Winona as frazzled single mom of missing child.

As I watched Winona through the eight episodes, there was the undeniable effect of watching my life fly by me at a startling speed.  I kept thinking of my Mom and I at the movies in 1982 when we went to go see E.T. Remember the single, frazzled mom from that movie?  Dee Wallace. Winona Ryder, and by extension, myself, are now Dee Wallace.  We are the overwhelmed, middle aged moms.  YIKES, I say!

When I think of Winona, I think of Heathers (1988) and Reality Bites (1994). I think of youth and beauty and pale skin with red lips.  I think of the MTV Best Kiss award she won for Bram Stoker’s Dracula in 1992 and watching that movie sitting in a different theater next to my crush at the time, the love of my life, and how our legs kept touching in the dark of the theater and how that felt electric to me.

In my head, Winona and I will always be young and fresh and 20 and misunderstood by the world.  Winona and I will forever be joint travelers on the path of “finding ourselves,” whatever the hell that means.

But the truth is that reality is not what happens inside my head.  Time passes, wrinkles happen, gray sets in and waist lines expand.  That is reality, and yes, it kind of bites.  The person I see in the mirror is not always someone I recognize anymore.  It’s kind of shocking to me.  I want to be that gal that is like every leading man that ever made a movie or a fine bottle of wine — getting better with age.  Yada yada yada.  The thing is, I’m not quite there yet.  I think part of me needs to say goodbye to the young woman that was — my inner Winona Ryder.  Ingenues grow up and so have I.

Winona in 1991, the year I graduated from college; Winona in 2016, the year I fully embraced being middle aged.
Winona in 1991, the year I graduated from college; Winona in 2016, the year I fully embraced being middle aged.

After I wrapped the series, I did a quick Google image search to see how real life Winona looks different than her character on Stranger Things.  Whew.  Order restored.  Winona remains the gorgeous creature she always has been.  Her penchant for wearing black remains intact.  Her warm brown eyes are as expressive as ever.  She maintains that edgy style I have admired in her since the late 1980s.

But I recognize the signs of middle age that I see every time I look in the mirror.  The eyes are a bit wearier, less bright, and more sunken.  The skin on the decolletage has the slightest whisper of crepiness to it.  The texture of hair is different, courser, and less shiny.  Yes, the signs of aging are undeniable.  And if I see them in Winona, I must, too, embrace them in myself.  Dammit.

I am middle aged, yo.  Just call me ma’am (short for middle-aged aging mom).

My hope is that I lean into my aging gracefully.  Embrace what is new and different.  Highlight those changes in a way that owns them rather than attempts to hide them.  I still love many things about the way I look, even if I don’t always recognize the gal staring back at me in the mirror.  The task at hand, I think, is to learn how to frame the changes that come with aging.  A new haircut, perhaps.  Different, lighter makeup is a possibility.  And I should probably stop shopping at Forever 21, except for costume jewelry.  They have the best costume jewelry, my friends.

Oh, Winona, my Winona.  We’re getting older, my friend.  Ain’t life grand?  It’s a bitch, too, but it’s a grand bitch!


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