January 17, 2008

Mid-Life Crisis, or Narcissistic Jerk?

I like this piece from the NYT a couple of days ago. It essentially explodes the myth of the mid-life crisis - instead offering up the explanation that there is no such thing: maybe someone of a certain age is just a jerk.

I'll be honest. I think we just careen from crisis to crisis, especially after a certain age, and we have less and less control over where those crises are coming from. It's how we respond to them that defines us - and if a convertible does it for you, who am to judge? Personally, I ended the biggest phase of crises in my life (thus far) by becoming a writer; I couldn't afford a convertible. Still can't. I think it's very wrong to equate being bored and middle-aged with a crisis. Have a real crisis some time, and get back to me on the difference.

The article talks about the tug of youth being a huge catalyst. Harder to pull your achey body out of bed each morning, you yearn for the ease of days gone by while simultaneously realizing it's only going to get worse. If you love your spouse, your job, your dog and your reflection in the mirror, you can deal with it. It's when none of the parts of your life are playing in the same band that things get messy.

We can blame the media (I often do; I think it's become tacky and shallow in too many ways), we can blame the government, we can blame the terrorists. The bottom line is what it always has been, however: you are who you are from the inside out. Nothing you apply topically is gonna do a damn bit of good.

If your mother always told you that you were ugly, you don't have plastic surgery - you tell your mother to bugger off. If you dread getting up every day, a new car isn't going to make it any better. Fear keeps us in line. Guess what? There really isn't that much to be afraid of. If you consider all the nasty nightmares that have come your way, regardless of how carefully you always tread, you might as well speak up, make changes and redefine yourself as you've always dreamed of. The worst that can happen, happens anyway.

I don't know anyone in these glorious middle years (cough) that wouldn't prefer to have the creak-free body of their youth. But I also don't know a single person I preferred for the experience-free mind of that same youth. My parents were conservative by nature, and lived a careful, tucked in life. They were responsible; they did all the right things. And as both lay dying too many years before their time, each pulled me in close and told me to live. The only error they made was to postpone the things they believed they'd earned with their hard work, the things that would be their just rewards.

A 50-year-old guy in a Corvette with a 20-year-old girl by his side isn't kidding anyone, including himself. It's as lame as a cougar on a bar stool drooling over a guy who barely shaves. Like the article says, a narcissistic jerk has probably always been that way; middle age isn't a trigger, just a handy excuse. My mother always said that misery loves company.

She just never mentioned that misery loves the company of someone young enough to be its daughter, or son.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, the author of that article is out to lunch. Not a single mention of the role hormones play in behaviour? His relying on one example from a second hand account does not make for a convincing summary.I place it right up there with those 10 second radio spots claiming a study has found that eating cocaine instead of snorting it cures people of hives. As you age, certain hormones change their level of input and frequency. Add to this the intense amount of social learning we've picked up in society about "aging" and you have a combined event that feeds each other. Some people are affected by it, others aren't.Now, do people use middle age crisis as an excuse for bad behaviour? Of course! They learned to get away with it a long time ago. If he's claiming mide age crisis, I suggest the wife shack up with a hunky looking cabana boy and give her hubby something to sweat about.

January 17, 2008 10:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

we all go through it, some handle it better than others. Life is full of surprises...

January 18, 2008 7:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Could the above poster possibly have something that they would like to share -- or at least get the weight of the world off their narrow shoulders?

I prefer to think of it (MLC)as a re-invention of oneself rather than a crisis -- seems like a slightly better euphamism. Unless there are stimulants and surgery involved, how many 50 year olds would truly think of themselves as an Adonis or Venus, for that matter, after an evening of embarrassing pleasure with someone half there age? And no, I'm not talking from experience. However, I would wager that at the end of the day if some guy had an opportunity to "hook up" with a little darling, they would likely head for the hills; it's the game, the chase that is likely more pleasureable. However, I honestly think if the pump were on the other pedicured foot, more women would take the plunge -- and deal with the guilt and consequences later. Anyway, who's kidding who??

January 19, 2008 3:12 PM  

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