Middle aged madness
Posted by Ron Coleman on January 15, 2008
The New York Times has an article questioning the application of the term “midlife crisis” to excuse philandering males:
[Y]ou have to admit that “I’m having a midlife crisis” sounds a lot better than “I’m a narcissistic jerk having a meltdown.”Another patient, a 49-year-old man at the pinnacle of his legal career, started an affair with an office colleague. “I love my wife,” he said, “and I don’t know what possessed me.”
It didn’t take long to find out. The first five years of his marriage were exciting. “It was like we were dating all the time,” he recalled wistfully. But once they had a child, he felt an unwelcome sense of drudgery and responsibility creep into his life.
Being middle-aged had nothing to do with his predicament; it was just that it took him 49 years to reach a situation where he had to seriously take account of someone else’s needs, namely those of his baby son. In all likelihood, the same thing would have happened if he had become a father at 25.
Why do we have to label a common reaction of the male species to one of life’s challenges — the boredom of the routine — as a crisis? True, men are generally more novelty-seeking than women, but they certainly can decide what they do with their impulses.
It’s true, that, but it really only begs the question. The article seems to be based on a premise, not exactly spoken out, that people who refer to midlife crisis mean to excuse immoral behavior. I have never gotten the impression that this is how people use the term, however.
I think they are just talking about a real phenomenon that the psychologist who wrote this article acknowledges exists: Men reach a point where they face a different set of feelings and choices from those they have faced before, typically in middle age. They then choose either to resist the bad choices or they don’t.
This is midlife crisis. For people who never confronted such a moment in their lives — where things they thought made them happy, no longer do; or where drives they thought were quiescent or that they never even knew they had, resurface or are born — this is already a sort of crisis. And if they don’t behave, why, they will then turn this crisis of the spirit into a crisis greater still. It is possible also to take this moment to build on what one has.
That remains, always, the choice.
Now, I am only in my early 40’s (for two more months!) — so this cannot be about me. What do you think a blogger like me is, anyway — a narcissist?