Midlife Crisis

Midlife crisis, on the cheap

When I was nine or ten, I made a solemn vow.

“One day, long after I’ve grown into a man,” I pledged, “I will divorce my wife and run off with my secretary, who will be half my age.”

Reality, of course, does not always work out the way we plan. And there isn’t always a happy ending. And we learn to enjoy the contours of our lives, taking solace in those precious moments when we are alone and can sob bitter tears of regret over the dreadful hands that fate has cruelly dealt us. That’s called aging gracefully, the acceptance that we do not earn nearly enough money to afford a really awesome mid-life crisis.

Not like the ones our fathers and grandfathers took for granted.

If my generation was led at a very young age to believe the big lie, we have only our print media to blame. After all, the one thing I learned as a schoolboy from my friend’s father’s Playboy magazines, was that I would have it all. The cherry red mustang, the shapely college cheerleader, the pack of Newports with 17% less tar, and the bottle of Old Spice. It was all supposed to be there for the asking.

Since the financial crisis of 2008-2009, there has been a lot less home equity available to men of my age and older. Consequently, for the first time since the Great Depression, the average middle-class, balding, shriveled up, overweight heterosexual American male could not afford to sustain a respectable mid-life crisis. The men of my generation are only now confronting this shocking truth, right at the point in our lives when our penises are starting to slowly but inevitably telescope up into our abdomens, where they will eventually disappear altogether within the fleshy, adipose folds surrounding our crotches.

All is not lost, though. You can enjoy a decent midlife crisis without breaking the bank! You just have to think creatively. Instead of buying real Ray Ban sunglasses that can run as high as $900 a pair, just buy the $20 Ray Bans the next time you fill your car with gas. That’s how I’m doing it. Instead of a Mustang convertible, I roll down the window of my Honda Civic and stick my head out while I’m driving. Instead of a mistress, I have a kitty. And instead of a venereal disease, I have a feline venereal disease. Midlife crisis, with all the fixings.

You know how I know I’m middle-aged? Because today, someone posted this on Facebook.

And I realized that there would be a lot of people out there who wouldn’t get that joke. And that would be for most of them because they were born after me. A long time after me. Like, I was doing adult type shit before they even existed, and now I’m closer to dead than I am to childhood aspirations for satisfying mid-life crises. But they’re not.

But I took out my depression on two who were very dear to my heart. Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru. And I wrote horrible things about them on Facebook.

I wrote that Uncle Owen was a “martinet”, and that I was glad “they did him”. Uncle Owen was always like “Luke do this; Luke do that; Luke, there’s going to be hell to pay; Luke, it’s time for your colonic.” Poor Luke. And the worst part about it? Uncle Owen wouldn’t let Luke waste time with his friends picking up power converters at the Toshi Station, until all of Luke’s chores were done.

If I were Luke, I’d be like “fuck that” then use the force to put a cap in the motherfucker’s ass. Uncle Owen gets in my way? He’s got to fall. Because, let’s face it, that’s what Luke was like. “Toshi Station” and “power converters” were such a transparent euphemism for “losing one’s virginity at a whorehouse full of Jawas”.  Uncle Owen wasn’t a fool. He knew what went on at that cab stand. That’s why the chores were never-ending.

I could have continued. But a silence seemed to have descended over Facebook. It was as if nobody knew what I was talking about. And the only possible explanation for that, beyond the unlikely suggestion that I am incoherent, is that those people are too young to even understand.

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A Midlife Crisis Holiday

The world is in flux. A revolutionary wave of anti-government protest has spread from Tunisia to Egypt, threatening to overturn the autocratic regime of Hosni Mubarak, a long-time ally of the United States. With all this going on, there are probably a million questions swirling through your mind.

Like, you must be wondering, “How was Simon’s vacation? Did he enjoy himself? Did he bring enough changes of underwear? Or any underwear? Did he maintain an appropriate level of dental hygiene or did he ‘let caution fly to the wind?'”

The answers to these questions go back to early January, as I despaired at the prospect of my impending birthday. Like a physician conducting a colorectal exam, I gaped into the geriatric abyss, and there beheld the unsavory vision of my incipient dotage.

I had to face the music. In a few days, I would turn 40. This was no laughing matter.

Jacquie observed my flagging spirits and proposed we take a trip as a momentary distraction from the disgusting march of time. Our kitchen table was covered instantly with South Pacific travel brochures. They enticed us to balmy tropical paradises. But none was suitable to my advanced state of decay, nor my special dietary requirements. The travel literature before us made few references to coral reef access ramps, no early-bird specials of which to speak. But Jacquie would not be daunted.

Jacquie suggested––after an irritating 20-minute song-and-dance review of The Sound of Music––that I was having a midlife crisis and a midlife crisis called for a road trip.

“Midlife crisis,” I said. “Pshah.”

The phrase smacked to me of man-boys stricken by mortal terror making fools of themselves with women half their age in a futile attempt to deny their burgeoning sexual irrelevance. The idea didn’t sit well with me.

But then I realized that this condition didn’t apply to me thanks to my peculiar genetic inheritance. Given my lumpy, misshapen Irish potato head and my humongous sesame-seed bagel-nose, the fact of the matter is I was never sexually relevant. Crisis averted!

“Still,” I said with a sheepish grin, “there’s one stereotype I’d like to live up to, especially if we’re taking a road trip.”

“What’s that?” Jacquie said.

“Can I blow our life-savings on a really awesome car?”

Jacquie agreed, and so the next day, I got up very early, went straight to the car dealership and recklessly purchased a 2002 Honda Civic Hatchback.

With tinted windows.

And we were on our way.

We were driven by wanderlust down the Forgotten World Highway, a 155 km stretch of mostly paved road wending through rugged pasture land and lush valleys.

We stopped for lunch in the famous-in-New Zealand town of Whangamomona, which declared itself a republic years ago (read about it here). At the Hotel, I ordered a green salad, which arrived covered in ketchup; the town’s efforts to project itself as a colorful tourist attraction had surely paid off.

“This is the best midlife crisis ever,” I said.

I liked Whangamomona. I was sad to see that the hotel was for sale, among other signs that this tiny republic was struggling through hard times. Maybe it was too remote. Maybe other tourists don’t take truck with ketchup salad. Whatever the reason, Whangamomona was getting to be a downer. We had to leave before our wanderlust turned to Weltschmerz.

We drove to the end of the highway, through the hideous town of Stratford.

Then we drove as fast as we could up to Dawson Falls on the slopes of Mt. Taranaki where Jacquie and I had booked several nights at the Dawson Falls Romantic Hotel.

 

We went on several hikes around  Mt. Taranaki. We intended to enjoy my midlife crisis in the peace and seclusion of our romantic hotel. But we were not alone.

Three British septuagenarians checked in soon after us. We could tell they were British from their baleens. There was one male and two females. The females were curious beasts that did not fear swimming and splashing with humans after finishing their plankton suppers (Which Jacquie and I thought were quite overpriced.)

The British tourists’ attempts to communicate with us, however, were hampered by their cumbersome teeth, forcing them to rely heavily on a combination of clicks, whistles and bodily gestures, as is common among the British. We enjoyed, nevertheless, a polite, if superficial conversation about our respective itineraries.

We later bid our new British friends good night. But as we repaired to our room, we could hear them talking about us in speculative tones.

“What a lovely couple,” one of the ladies said. “And I don’t care how old and decrepit they seem to be. If two consenting adults have functioning units, why shouldn’t they experience pleasurable friction on occasion?”

Needless to say, we soured on the romantic hotel and we left under cover of darkness. We had to keep moving. We had to feel the invigoration of our powerful Honda Civic thrumming under our loins. We drove. We drove hard. Toward Wellington. We didn’t speak at all and we stopped only once to visit the Taranaki Pioneer Village because Lonely Planet said it was “creepy.”

What’s creepy about that? It’s just the human life cycle, done up in mannequins. Life, death, bank loan applications, bad moustaches and wooden meat: Taranaki Pioneer Village was, I realized, an exact replica of my own life. And seeing this taught me something. It made me think how lucky I was not to have to work at the Taranaki Pioneer Village; how fortunate I was to have been born in a time when I could get into my high-performance Honda Civic and drive away from such an awful place at great speed. And as we left, I turned to look back on Pioneer Village one last time.

“Thank you,” I said. “Thank you for teaching me such a great lesson, you stiff, awkward, silent, life-like people.”

“No worries,” said one of the ticket-takers at the entrance. “And you come back any time.”

“Maybe I will,” I said. I pursed my lips, squinted my eyes and nodded deliberately, knowingly. “Maybe I will.”

The ticket taker smiled. A beam of light seemed to shine from her face. I turned to leave. Then I turned back a half-second later and said, “Psyche. I’m never coming back here. What are you fucking kidding me?”

Then we drove off. Me and Jacquie. We headed down south to Wellington and by the time we checked into the hotel there, the malaise of my midlife crisis had begun to lift.

We spent a lot of time in Wellington, eating in cafes and restaurants on Cuba Street, checking out the Te Papa Museum and seeing a rare Kiwi bird up close in the highly valuable Zealandia sanctuary and exhibit.

(Plenty more pictures, but I’m bored by now. Maybe another post. Stay tuned)

We saw a lot and though I was beginning to get used to being 40, I had the strangest sensation walking around Wellington that something still wasn’t right about my life.