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Friday, August 26, 2016

Embrace your mid-life crisis ? Or suffer through it??

Mid Life Crisis. . Maybe you should just stick with a sports car. It's "The Situation" in about 20 years.

Instead of fretting about hair loss and diminished virility, should mid-life be re-evaluated as a time to try new experiences and re-invent oneself? This eternal question has eternally plagued mankind and perhaps there is no eternal answer.   It has been proven that a new sports car, new wardrobe, a toupee and a younger woman only serve to point out to the world at large that you are going through your mid-life crisis and handling it very badly.

There are only two subjects, according to the film director Peter Greenaway: sex and death. Put them together and you have the mid-life crisis. On the one hand, the waning of one's charms, vigor and fertility; on the other, the grim future of the liver-spotted paws, the living road map of veins and wrinkles and the incessant drain of sand through Father Time's hourglass.

Of course, we prefer to avert our thoughts from such elemental things, and tell ourselves that the mid-life crisis (MLC, for short) is about concerns like status and goals. But these things  are probably peripheral to mourning the loss of hair and muscles and panicking about erectile dysfunction.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the MLC as a "loss of self-confidence and feeling of anxiety or disappointment that can occur in early middle age". But when is that, exactly? Most authorities suggest it begins in the mid- to late-40s, though it's perhaps a state of mind more than a black letter day on an actuarial table. And every individual reaches their crisis according their given circumstances.

Anyone who watches sitcom or romcoms will know men are typically the butt of MLC storylines. But the writer and journalist Miranda Sawyer recounts a, by-no-means rare, example of the distaff side of MLC. Of her own experience, she says,"The strongest feeling I had was that I've done everything wrong… I woke up in this life and it wasn't really my life," says Sawyer, recounting the moment her mid-life crisis truly descended in her 40s.  She felt her life "should have been completely different".
Sawyer has documented her experiences in a new book, Out of Time, and is candid enough to admit that mid-life sex can be a ticklish issue.
"As you get older, there's a lot invested in your relationship with your partner and to ask them for more sex, different sex, less sex, better sex, becomes really, really hard."
It upsets the equilibrium in the relationship that took years to build.

Nor is the phenomenon confined to the straight community. Broadcaster Simon Fanshawe, 59, detects what he calls the gay mid-life crisis when he spots a man of a certain age in  ridiculously tight shorts. The MLC for gay men, he says, is inextricably bound up with coming out. Whether they like it or not, formerly settled married men who come out in their middle years reset their personal chronometers, says Fanshawe.
"One day they're fine and with the wife and children… six months later they've come out and suddenly there's this tattooed leather queen coming down the road. Whatever age you actually come out, in your head you're 16. It's a kind of year-zero of being gay."

You might be interested to know what a world-class philosopher has to say about the MLC, but Alain de Botton (46) wasn't available, so we had to settle for the late Arthur Schopenhauer instead, a 19th Century German seer.
Schopenhauer's basic argument is that the problem with getting everything you want is that then your pursuit is over and you have nothing left to do. He thought we were doomed to swing endlessly between the boredom of having no goals left, and the agony of having unsatisfied desires.
Happily Schopenhauer managed to get out of the bed on the right side one morning and acknowledged that although he believed all desire was ultimately pointless and fruitless, he thought the pursuit of simple activities, like going for a walk, seeing friends for a coffee, was less likely to lead to depression and futility.

Someone who gets that very well is former businessman turned stand-up comic Dave Streeter. He had it all, to coin a phrase: family, business, nice house. But then the business went, and pretty soon, so did everything else. Streeter adapted the presentation skills he had learned at work into stage patter.
"My wife got the house, the car, the kids. I got the guilt and a four-man tent," he says. "The tragedy is, I don't know four men that like camping."
Like all the MLC veterans, Streeter looks back on it as a valuable if painful stocktaking.
 His new passion is vibing, a kind of disco on two wheels. Vibers work up a sweat on static bikes to the sound of dance favourites.  Vibing could be seen as a metaphor for the MLC: pedalling furiously, but getting nowhere. But it could also be the perfect tonic for the MLC condition.
What do Schopenhauer's insights boil down to, after all, but the tried and tested maxim: it's not about the destination, it's about the journey.  Thoroughly enjoy your journey from the very beginning and you will have few if any regrets when you hit middle-age. In fact you will be eager to see what else life has in store further down the road.

All the data suggests that we're living longer and beginning to adapt accordingly. What used to be pensionable age is now considered late middle-life.  If you're not there yet, by the time you are, science will probably will have recalibrated the present retirement age, to the bloom of youth - think of all that time you'll have to work on your Pokemon Go handicap.

On his 80th birthday, the French statesman Clemenceau was taking the air on the Champs-Elysees with a friend when a beautiful young woman came towards them. As she passed by, Clemenceau turned to his companion and sighed, "Oh, to be 70 again!"
So to anyone inclined to take a dim view of Clemenceau and the flicker of carnal desire awakened in the octogenarian, all I can say is that he was clearly ahead of his time: after all, 80 truly is the new 70, 60 is the new 50, 50 is the new 40, etc.

1 comment:

Through these open doors you are always welcome