Thursday, 25 April 2013

Crisis, what crisis?

What is this mid-life crisis I keep hearing about? I've never had one and I don't know anyone who has. But out there somewhere there are said to be thousands of people (mostly men) who suddenly go crazy and do the most unlikely things, causing domestic havoc in the process.

It seems that one day they wake up, take a good hard look at their life and think "Holy cow, I've turned into a boring, unadventurous, soulless couch potato and if I don't do something drastic, the next thirty years will be just more of the same. I need to reinvent myself before it's too late."

And the next thing you know, the guy's shed all his inhibitions and gone totally wild. He's got a mistress twenty years younger, he's bought a motorbike (or a sports car), he's going to all-night parties, he's dyed his hair pink, he worships Rihanna and he's writing a book about serial killers.

Or so they say. I'm embarrassed to admit that the whole syndrome passed me by while my attention was elsewhere. While I was fuming at Mrs Thatcher. Or selling academic textbooks. Or going on ban-the-bomb marches. Or having orgasms. I had no idea I was meant to be in a desperate existential crisis, seeing the ruins of my pathetic life laid out around me like a heap of rubble.

I confess I had no craving for a nubile young nymphette, or a souped-up convertible, or a purple Afro. I was quite happy as I was, doing my familiar thing.

I say I'm embarrassed to admit it because a part of me quite likes the idea of suddenly breaking loose, throwing all caution and entrenched habits to the wind, and doing something spectacularly, jaw-droppingly unexpected. Something that sends a giant shock wave through my neat and tidy existence.

Not today though. I'm not quite ready for it. There's Emily Watson on TV and I'm well into this cracker of a novel. Tell you what, I'll just pencil it in for tomorrow.

27 comments:

Grannymar said...

Don't forget to come back and tell us about your spectacularly, jaw-droppingly unexpected adventure. After all we need some excitement in our dull and dreary little lives!

Bijoux said...

I wish I'd never known any of those losers, but alas, two of my friends were married to ones. Note the past tense.

Z said...

I've known a few too, men and women. Most of them have come through it okay.

Nick said...

Grannymar: What dull and dreary little lives?

Bijoux: Sorry to hear that. It sounds as if it was all a very painful business.

Z: Oh, that seems to contradict what Bijoux is saying. And did their partners also come through it okay, or were they knocked for six?

Cheerful Monk said...

I'm afraid I'm well past that age now, but my life did change quite a bit then --- ended up getting the most exciting job of my life. Work can be fun too! Still having it.

Nick said...

Monk: The most exciting job of your life? Tell me more, I don't think I ever heard about that!

bonsaimum said...

Unfortunately I do know a few people who did the whole mid-life crisis thing. Nothing worse than a middle aged man trying to be 20 again.

Jenny Woolf said...

I think that sometimes it can be very hard to make the transition from one stage of life to the next - the worst probably being from babyhood to childhood and from childhood to adulthood. Although the final one isn't much fun either come to think of it.

Nick said...

Bonsaimum: Indeed, trying to turn the clock back is just embarrassing for the person concerned and all those around him. Of course it's also about trying to be trendy and up-to-the-minute.

Jenny: I think this isn't so much about transition as trying to jump the tracks altogether and pretend you have a totally different kind of life.

Jay at The Depp Effect said...

Ah, well, um. Well. As you know, I had my mad 'moment' which lasted a few years - and boy, was it fun!

I didn't, however have an affair, or do anything to upset my lovely family. On the contrary, they seemed to enjoy it as much as me!

I don't get the going off with a younger woman/man thing. I really don't. I doesn't prolong youth, it just makes you a bit of a figure of fun among your own age group, it seems to me.

'Course, if Johnny Depp had actually been interested ... ;)

Nick said...

Jay: Actually, I didn't know, what mad moment was that? Good job you didn't have an affair, that really causes ructions. And you're right about the older man chasing a younger woman and becoming a figure of fun. So often it all ends in tears as the younger woman buggers off and his wife won't take him back because she's greatly enjoying life without him!

Wisewebwoman said...

I can't count the times I've observed this Nick, including in my own family and among clients and friends. It's like the guy looks in the mirror one morning and spots the grey and the wrinkles and the station wagon outside and reinvents himself overnight and starts wearing silk shirts and *ugh* gold chains and studs in odd places and yes the sports car or heaven forbid the Harley and the tats.
Women too I hear get affected by this too but not in my circle.
XO
WWW

Secret Agent Woman said...

Oh it's definitely a real phenomenon and those guys are all over the dating sites. Older guys who have no concept that it isn't really fair that they are looking exclusively for younger women. I've had men significantly older than me contact me and then get all offended when I point out that they are too old for me! Fuckers.

Leah said...

Oh, I guess I have a very different take on this. First off, it's women as much as men who go through this. My friend refuses to call it a "midlife crisis," and instead calls it a "fulcrum point" (which may be Jungian or something?)

I think everyone must go through some version of this, even if they aren't doing the cheesy stereotypical sports car-younger-chick/dude thing (and honestly i don't see that so often). I bet quite often people don't even recognize it as a fulcrum point/midlife crisis. Are you really telling me that of all the people commenting here, almost no one has gone through the reassessing or taking stock that comes with the approach of middle age? or even done some things they thought they might not get the chance to do again? or looked back at their younger self in something like envy? tried to get at those young feelings again? Maybe even acted foolishly in the process?

I simply don't believe it.

The crisis of transition is healthy and normal.

Leah said...

No offense to anyone, but really, I think there is a lot of oversimplifying going on here...

Leah said...

P.s. Of course it is about transition.

Nick said...

www: A lot of this urge to reinvent oneself must be inspired by all the movie and media males with their jet-setting lifestyles and flashy accessories (like the bikes and the bling). I suspect not much of it is a genuine personal prompting.

Nick said...

Agent: Good point that older men looking for younger women is just unfair. It's amazing how many older men simply can't accept that the chance of a twenty-something fancying them (unless they're millionaires) is virtually zero.

Nick said...

Leah: Some term like fulcrum point is probably better in that it recognises the crucial factor is psychic crisis rather than age.

And yes, you're right, apart from Jay's "mad moment", nobody else here seems to have had such a psychic crisis - it's only happened to their friends and relatives! I find that a little hard to believe too. Maybe they're just too embarrassed to tell?

Sure, people do things they've always wanted to do, or envy their younger selves, or just quietly take stock. But that doesn't necessarily lead to a full-blown personal crisis. That requires some extra factor, I think.

I agree that it's most likely a crisis of transition, but I think as I said earlier it could be an attempt to jump the tracks altogether, to become a totally different person.

Nick said...

And before anyone asks about me, I had my own quite startling early-life crisis in my twenties, the repercussions of which are still with me. But that's very private and I'm not revealing any details....

Rummuser said...

Nick, it is all a matter of perceptive. When I was 47, I had reached the top echelons in a multinational behemoth and was supposed to have been on the fast track for greater things. I had already put in 23 years with them, that is almost half my life then. Totally unexpected by them and all my colleagues and subordinates, I quit to move to an Indian company. Almost all friends and family said that it was my mid life crisis. Six months later the exodus started in the same company with the same guys who thought that I was nuts, also joining the exodus. I did not call it their mid life crisis, just delayed reaction to something that was obvious to me, but not to them. I reiterate, it is all a matter of perception and post event explanation.

You are okay, nothing wrong with you for not having done anything as crazy as that.

Rummuser said...

Incidentally, in some quarters it is also called the male menopause!

Nick said...

Ramana: I don't think unexpectedly leaving a secure job counts as a mid-life crisis. Some lavish exaggeration there. And as you say, they all started doing the same a few months later.

I don't like the term male menopause. It suggests some physiological change akin to women's and there's little evidence that's the case. Also it repeats the idea that it only happens in middle-age, when I think that sort of psychic crisis can happen at any age.

John Gray said...

At 51
I know myself more than I ever have...... Am I going though a crisis?
Naw..... But I would like to...it would make me more interesting

Nick said...

John: I thought your life was just one long crisis - missing toilet rolls, faddy cats, squashed chickens, raging sciatica.... The last thing you need is a mid-life crisis on top of all that.

John Gray said...

It would take my mind off my arse

Nick said...

John: I didn't known your mind was ON your arse.