Thursday, 27 March 2008

'Mr Sex' wonders where his mid-life crisis is

So is it just me, or am I the only chap in his extremely late thirties not as scared of turning 40 as he was of turning 30 ten years ago?

You see, according to everything I’ve ever read, seen and understood about men of a certain age, I should be shoehorning myself into skintight jeans, scouring Exchange and Mart for a sports car or motorbike, and trying to impress 18 year-old girls with my knowledge of The Feeling or some other piss-poor Indie whelps right about now. If I'm going to be alloted the requisite three score years and ten, I’m well into the mid-life stage right now – so why don't I give a toss about getting older?

Maybe I’m an incredibly charismatic individual (or I'm doing a superlative job of conning myself), but as a single bloke, the generation gap seems to be getting smaller. Due to the fact that the only places in town that pander to the older sort are this shithole and its equally depressing sister, and I’m not interested in being stuck at home in front of the telly every night, I have a circle of friends in a range of ages right down to 21. Obviously, if I was trying to cop off with them it would be a different matter, but I don’t feel like Hugh Hefner.

Obviously, there are a few drawbacks to this arrangement; it's a pisser when you're having a tremendously important conversation about England shirts in the 1982 World Cup and someone says "I don't know. I was only three then" - but then again, I can always say "Guns n' Roses? Yeah, I was offered a ticket to see them when they were playing that crappy little club in town, but I couldn't be arsed" and watch their little faces light up in jealous awe. As for relationships, my last two dalliances were with women who were 13 years younger than I, which meant I was old enough to be their Dad if I had lived on the grotty estate next door. Was that me being, to use the parlance of the playground, a Len Fairclough? Not really - I'd love to have a relationship with a woman my own age, but single, available women in their late 30s/early 40s seem to be pretty thin on the ground outside of London, unless you want to go to Jumpin' Jaks. Which I don't.

The thing is - and I'm guessing I'm not the only one - I think I've already had my mid-life crisis when I was 28, when my long-term live-in girlfriend shat on me from a great height, the career I was intending to stay in for the rest of my life derailed, and my grandparents died in the same month and I suddenly felt older and more useless. I even lost my hair when I was 27 (luckily, when head-shaving was at its most fashionable - thank you, Grant Mitchell). I look back at myself in the late 90s, and see all the symptoms of mid-life crisis; inappropriate clothing, being in the wrong clubs at the wrong time of night with the wrong set of people, going on a rebounded shag-rampage with women who deserved better, and explaining in painful detail to anyone who would listen that no, it wasn’t male pattern baldness; my hair was just fine, that’s all. Go on, feel the stubble on the bits where there isn't supposed to be any hair. Aw, go on. Please.

(Admittedly, as far as looks go, they went a while back. But then again, I was only reasonably attractive for a three-week period sometime in late 1991, so I'm not that arsed. And thanks to Metrosexuality, I’m still being marketed to - unlike my Dad when he was my age and he ceased to exist to the advertising industry. Alright, so maybe they’re more interested in pinpointing my fears rather than hyping my aspirations these days, but it’s still nice to be noticed. But anyway.)

I reckon a lot of men my age avoided the life that was set up for our Dads (and their Dads), whether they intended to or not. A job for life was a concept that was alien to us right from the start. A lot of us never married or have had kids. All of us grew up in the 80s, so we were practically groomed to cope hard times (global warming and the credit crunch? Ha – we had YTS schemes, Chernobyl, a miners strike and Mike Smith putting a condom on a banana on the telly). If I have any regrets, it's not being a Dad yet or not having the opportunity to plough a comfortable rut at some piss-easy job.

If you ask me, the mid-life crisis seems to have slipped. Twentysomethings are the ones bearing the brunt at the moment. The lucky ones are coming out of university looking down the barrel of five-figure debt, into a volatile job market that can’t fulfil the promises of higher education for the majority. I have a friend who works at an arts centre that had a vacancy for someone to work in the box office; 200 arts graduates applied for the privilege of answering the phone for bookings. The unlucky ones appear to have even less to look forward to.

In fact, people of my age may well be the first to look back at the generation below us and think, ooh, I don’t fancy that. The media has done such a good job of leaping upon any new youth cultures and dissecting them before they’ve fully developed that there appears to be little to be jealous, resentful or frightened of (we were also the first generation to want our second childhood roughly two weeks into adulthood, rather cleverly getting all that rubbish out of the way as early as possible).

So if I'm right, and the worries traditionally associated with the mid-life crisis appear to have slipped a decade, there must be thousands of men in their late thirties who have missed it completely, who know that they're not going to wake up on the morning of their 40th birthday with a cardigan and slippers welded to them. But having said that, 50 is not that far away. And that looks very scary indeed.

(oh, and forgive me for rambling, but that's what old people do, in't it?)


badgerdaddy said...

A friend said to me that my 30s would be wicked, and he was right. He's in his 40s, and he said the 40s are even better.

I'm not sure if he's shitting it about his 50s though. After reading this, maybe I'd best not ask.

Midlife crisis is a load of old bollocks - they are generally, in my (limited, okay...) experience suffered by people who made shite choices in their 20s. Married too young, married the wrong person, didn't breed... It's those folks that suffer the mid-life crisis and keep the BMW Z3 and its relatives in production.

Clair said...

I hadn't seen Reflex before. I feel sick.

But agreed on the midlife crisis, and everything you say about it. I can honestly say that now I'm *loud cough like a dog makes* years old, I feel much more confident, 'myself', and certainly look better than I ever have. Now I just need to find someone lucky enough to take advantage of this experience, and of me...

Anna said...

"it's a pisser when you're having a tremendously important conversation about England shirts in the 1982 World Cup and someone says "I don't know. I was only three then""

I was minus 5.

I think it's great that you're not having a breakdown just because society dictates you should. We are in the 21st century, for goodness' sake, we will have our breakdowns as and when we please, and our therapists will be damn well thankful.

Anonymous said...

There are plenty of women in their late 30s/early 40s out here looking for men and they can't all be in London. It's just been my experience that men in my age group (see above!) are looking for much younger women as they seem to think all we want is a baby. That's not to say I don't want one but a relationship would be nice, too.

It's harder to go out and meet people at this age. Life was so much easier when I was a young 'un.

Anonymous said...

Don't fancy Flares or Reflex? There's always PopWorld - it's just as vile.

Surely whatever age you're at, you don't realise it's mid-life crisis time. Don't men who buy flashy cars think they're doing it because they're still "young at heart", and are still capable of pulling it off?

CanadianGuy said...

I just turned 39, I'll be 40 in another one, but I really couldn't give a flying fig about my age. Yes, I did just buy a "sports car" (a Ford Mustang over here in Canada), but that was NOT to impress the ladies. 40 is just a number, it can't bug you unless you let it. :-)

Yes, I did have one young lady call me an "old fart", but I just thought to myself 'I hope they're not as unkind to you when you're this old, you silly girl'

di said...

If you're 3 score and 10- that'd make you 70. Just en passante.
Lovely piece.

blueskies2day said...

I wrote a blog post about something similar a while ago:

Perhaps the new mid-life crisis is a "twenties crisis" - whereby the frantic search for identity has moved forward. Previously people in their twenties knew what they were supposed to do: get a job, get married, have children. THEN the problems began - when the predetermined roles had been fulfilled and there was a lack of direction.

Nowadays, there are so many accepted paths to choose from earlier in life - university, marriage, job, travelling, relationship, children...etc - perhaps the search for identity has shifted forwards and the mid life crisis has become the "twenties crisis".

Rosie said...

Hey, don't sweat the 50's. Just be sure to exercise (all body parts) now and keep a bit trim. Remember men's looks don't don't age them, they just get more distinguished looking. That touch of grey at the temples....

Anonymous said...

Nope, you're missing the point. What really happens is that your balls stop making as much testosterone and you change. How that manifests will be different for everyone, but two things seem to be common.
First, that laser like focus you had when you were younger goes away. You just can't spend 10+ continuous hours on video games, guitar solos, programming, whatever that you used to. You find yourself thinking that you can't be bothered. But not because you have something more important or exciting to do, you just don't feel like it.
The second change is that sex is not the end all goal anymore. That ultra horniness and wanting to screw any skeevy chick goes away, and you start looking for quality. Good thing too, because at about the same time women are looking to get hitched.
So these two main changes seem to make men find less meaning in life, especially if they were really invested in 1) achievement and 2) sex. So sometimes buying fast cars and doing crazy stuff is an attempt to get that back. At least until we come to terms with it.

Anonymous said...

There's no such thing as a mid life crisis, get a grip man !

Any major dude with half a heart said...

There may be no midlife crisis, but the cliché gets rammed down our middle-aged throats when our behaviour or purchases conform to the stereotype.

butterflywings said...

Agree about the 20s crisis.
I am 27 and already feel: OMG I'm NEARLY 30!! What have I done with my life?!

Yeah. Too many choices (not that that's bad - but you do have to work out who you are). Too much pressure to succeed.

And I was only 2 in 1982, or even 1...depends what month...ha.
(I'm a girl. No, I actually don't know when the world cup is. Is it in the summer? In which case I was 1.)

GuardianReader said...

As a woman who doesn't live a million miles from Nottingham, and who is about to reach her 40th birthday, I wonder where all the good men are.

It seems impossible to meet intelligent, attractive men who are not distracted by women under 25. The women closest to you in age remember that hot summer of 76, with its drought and unwashed cars.

We know what it's like to have had no job prospects from the age of 15. We understand why tombstones and icebergs killed off sex just as we were about to enjoy it, and we can argue the finer points about the representation of the 80s in Ashes to Ashes and why, not only is it pants, but why it's so rubbish, and exactly when the phrase "it's pants" came in...

Where do you all hang out? Have I just not worked out which pub to drink in, or which gallery to linger at? Or do you all meet up in a particular club and moan about the lack of good women?

Maybe you should write a post about where men in their late 30s/early 40s look for their soulmates, because the female of the species looking for men like you don't know where to look, or how to spot you among the married version who are pretending to be single...

Nottingham's 'Mr Sex' said...

Well exactly, GuardianReader. One of the few rubbish things about the provinces is that they don't know how to deal with single people older than 30, apart from rubbish places like Flares where they assume we'll flock to in order to hear the songs we didn't even like when they first came out. Or (cringe) Salsa classes.

Having said that, though, I like being able to go to places where age doesn't matter, and talking to whoever I want to. That's probably because I don't (and never do) go out on a mission and have a natural aversion to meat markets.