New Year’s Resolution of a Newly Minted Middle-Ager

When did it become so hard to tie my shoes? If there is any question as to whether or not middle age has arrived, one sure sign is the increasing difficulty of bending down to tie ones shoes. To paraphrase Bing Crosby’s banter in “Moonlight Bay,” there’s a little more in the middle, and that is enough to make bending down to reach my shoes harder than it used to be.

Even the sound of tying my shoes has changed. A preface has been added to the story. Where there was once the whisper of the laces as they do their knot-forming dance, that dance is preceded by a loud, uncomfortable grunt.

Muscles that were once lean and flexible seem shortened and tight. Sitting on a low chair is the best place for me to tie my shoes. At home, I prefer the two steps that lead to a short landing before the stairs take a ninety degree turn and head up. On those two steps, I am close enough to my shoelaces where muscles and middle play little havoc over me.

I was thinking about my shoelaces difficulties lately because I’d noticed my shoes coming untied far more often than they used to. It was strange. My shoelaces rarely came untied in the four decades I’ve been tying them myself. So why would they start to come untied all of a sudden? It was a mystery, and it bothered me. I’d lay awake some nights, reviewing the day in my head, and wondering what the heck could be going on with my laces that would unravel them so easily? What had changed? What was I doing differently?

Eventually, I hit upon the answer. The laces were coming untied because I’d stopped double-knotting them they way I have for as far back as I can remember. Why had I stopped double-knotting them? I knew the answer, and was embarrassed to admit it: not quite laziness, but it was just too darn hard to bend over myself and stretch myself for any more time than it takes to tie the shoes in a simple knot. The few seconds added by a double knot was too much.

When my mom first made me this thing to practice tying my shoelaces into knots when I was a just a young kid, I never imagined that it would be anything other than routine. I can tie my shoes in the dark! And yet, though I hate to admit it, I look for opportunities to avoid tying my shoes.

In our house, we generally take our shoes off when we come inside. I’ve resisted this when I know I’m going to have to put my shoes on again. One and done is the way I fly these days when it comes to tying my shoes. I suspect Kelly thinks I am either forgetful or lazy, and she is infinitely patient with me wandering around the house in my shoes.

Forget the way you see yourself in the mirror in the morning, or in photographs posted on social media. Forget the jabs from friends and family chorusing what Bing Crosby sang all those years ago. If you want a wakeup call to the state of your overall well-being, look no further than your shoelaces, and how easy—or hard—they are for you reach when you go to tie them.

If I said that in 2017, I am going to try to get to the point where I am no longer uncomfortable tying my own shoes, would that seem like a reasonable, practical New Year’s resolution?


  1. Maybe commit to being “the strongest, healthiest, happiest and freest version of yourself you’ll ever be and for as long as you can”?

    That’s quoting Erwan Le Corre. Google him or “natural movement” for lots of wonderful stuff. But if you’re someone who has spent way too many years spending way too many hours per day sitting, I’d start with the work of Katy Bowman:

  2. Uh, when do we officially become “middle aged”? I haven’t come to terms with being an adult yet. Can I postpone the “middle aged” bit until that happens?


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