Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Another thing CC doesn't get: Midlife Crises

Maybe this is just because I'm still pretty young, but I don't get the whole "Mid-Life Crisis" thing.

First off, it just seems like such a lame middle-class-American thing to have. Nobody cool has a mid-life crisis. Imagine, say, Patrick Stewart having a midlife crisis. Hard to do, huh? How about Emma Thompson? Don't see it. Now try imagining, say, Donny Osmond having a midlife crisis. Easy, huh? Hell, the last few decades of Donald Trumps life are arguably one big midlfe crisis.

Why do people mourn the fact that they aren't cool anymore by suffering the least-cool malady ever?

Secondly, why do men have mid-life crises at not women? Women are the ones who are expected to do everything men do, and be sexy.

Anway, a psychiatry professor is with me on this one and has written an article about it in the NYTimes.


Ps. Oh, and Diane Keaton? No mid-life crisis around here.


Stephanie said...


I like any article that mentions narcissism as I think it's underdiscussed in general.

And I think the idea of a man waking up, realizing he's not 20, and getting a younger wife and a fast car is just dumb.

But I'm not opposed to the idea that there is a period of time when we realize certain things about ourselves, and that this often happens in mid-years. I think I'm probably having a mid-life crisis now. :)

Joel Monka said...

The examples given of mid-life crisis are a bit lame, yes, but I do think there is such a thing. It happens when a person has a true calling they deny to earn a living- most professions that fall under "calling" don't earn much. After a few decades doing something that doesn't excite you- or possibly even disgusts you- because it's extremely lucrative, there comes a time when you can no longer tolerate living like that, and you simply must pursue the dream. This, I think, is the true mid-life crisis, when someone quits their day job and begins to paint or sculpt or write or opens that custom bike shop or enters the ministry.

As to why it would be largely a male thing, perhaps it's because 50 years ago when the current crop of middle-agers grew up, men were expected to put away their dreams, be responsible, and raise a family. Raising that family in poverty because he wanted to be a starving artist was looked down upon. Now that things and responsibilities are a little more equal, I expect to see more women having such crises

Chalicechick said...

I should say that I don't have any problem at all with the change-of-careers sort of midlife crisis.

Like the article I linked to, I'm primarily interested in crisis-as-an-excuse-to-act-like-a-jerk.


fausto said...

Trying to explain midlife crisis to a 20-something is like trying to explain sex to a preadolescent. Some things you just can't fully understand before you're ready to do them yourself.

Steven Rowe said...

The traditional woman's mid-life crisis is the "empty nest syndrome"
- where basically the care taker of the children stops having to take care of the children, and wonders "now what?"
and that's pretty much the same thing in other "mid life crisis" the question of "now what?"

I have to admit to being flabbergasted by the implication that we think that most men will have a midlife crisis and buying a sports car and marrying a status symbol. Not just a small handful, but most. Is this even possibly true as a belief?

In my cultural heritage, we feels sympathy or derision for someone who does such a thing. ( well, maybe a few moments of envy in-between the sympathy and derision - but we all know that one cant buy happiness).

Peregrinato said...

I'm not sure I understand. (Maybe if I learn to read online articles more carefully it'll help!) But I also approached the article with a bias planted by your skepticism. So Is the author saying that people misuse a broad notion like "midlife crisis," and it might not be real?

Or because statistically most people don't recognize it as a crisis, it isn't one? That's rather like the military saying that there's no such thing in PTSD in combat veterans because they don't report that they have a disorder.

I think the "crisis" comes when you wake up one morning and realize that this is your life. That you've been given a certain hand of cards, and the youthful optimism of "I can do anything I dream of" is replaced with the aging realization of "I can do only certain things given my life as it is."

For some people that is a crisis which can lead to positive transformation. For others, their inability to respond to it becomes even more of a crisis.

Some people act like jerks. That doesn't diminish the crisis for others who are struggling to realize that their adolescent dreams have to be tempered by a sobering reality.

While "midlife crisis" as a single empirical event is a bit fictitious, it's a useful phrase for describing the constellation of changes and challenges that hit you at certain points in life. I'd hate to see the usefulness of phrase diminished because of either opportunits philanderers or cynical psychiatrists.

PG said...

The PTSD comparison is helpful -- I don't think you can use "midlife crisis" as an excuse for bad behavior any more than someone who kills a guy in a bar fight because he had a flashback shouldn't be penalized for it. In both, our reaction shouldn't be, "Oh, you have X, whatever you do is OK," but rather, "Oh, you have X, what can we do to make sure you don't do stupid shit?"

Anonymous said...

I don't think the midlife crisis occurs only among the middle class - not by any means.

I liked all the descriptions of it that I read, particularly peregrinato's statement:

I think the "crisis" comes when you wake up one morning and realize that this is your life. That you've been given a certain hand of cards, and the youthful optimism of "I can do anything I dream of" is replaced with the aging realization of "I can do only certain things given my life as it is."

I've seen it happen with my own eyes to men I know, and the way I've seen it manifest was in the form of depression (not buying a faster car or marrying a younger woman).

As for cool people not having mid-life crises ... what is it to be cool? It's to be totally in control, to not be "pathetic." But a mid-life crisis is a pitiable emotional situation, like being scared shitless (not cool).

Comrade Kevin said...

People who are well-grounded in themselves have midlife crises. Those who are not, do.

There's not a bit of difference between the woman obsessed with her youth to the point she refuses to age with grace or the man who buys the fast car and obtains the trophy wife. We ought to pity both of them because they are both being controlled by their own narcissistic attitudes.

Immaturity is what you're addressing here. You can be immature at any age.