A: Going through a mid life crisis.
It’s a bit harsh but it’s true enough. Plenty of men choose extra-curricular activities which prove their manliness and vigour, when they reach that stage of their lives commonly referred to as the ‘middle-age’. Apparently, some are convinced that a show of masculinity helps to resolve the crisis of ‘getting on a bit’.
On Sunday I was cheering marathon runners in London, standing on Embankment just before the 25 mile (40km) mark. Some participants stopped running by that point and were walking. I noticed that most of them were men in their thirties and forties; they looked young, fit but defeated. Women and older men kept on running, perhaps slowly, but determined. I wondered if men in their prime started too fast and ran out of steam. Or maybe they signed up for the marathon to prove something to their peers or themselves but weren’t able to commit to consistent training, distracted by other trials of their strength and toughness: punishing work travel, nights out with the lads, amateur boxing fights etc. I wondered if they had it in them to admit to being in pain, feeling weak and regretting signing up to the ordeal in the first place.
There comes a point when each and every one of us realises our own mortality. I remember being 29 at that time, overwhelmed by a wave of nausea suddenly taking over me. Happily, it passed quickly. It’s like one of those milestones in life like getting periods or losing virginity when it feels like a big deal one day and ancient history just a little while later. Of course, mid life crisis is a bit more complicated, led by mind-boggling questions “Is this it?” and “What’s the point?”.
Men (for I’ve decided to frame this article around men) notice how a boozy night is suddenly taking its toll the morning after; how a morning run feels that tiny bit heavier and the press-ups are suddenly less springy than they used to be a decade earlier. It bothers them, which is understandable. Then a curious thing happens: they decide to fight it head on. Typically, a man going through a mid life crisis would enter a Tough Mudder race, buy a shiny new toy or chase a daringly short skirt. Whatever takes their fancy, their partner is often left behind, because a man (strong, tough, hard-core) chooses to fight his demons solo.
A few weeks back I was having a drink with an old friend of mine. We have not seen each other in a while. John (let’s assume that’s his name) told me what he’d been up to and suddenly opened up. He went through a mid life crisis, wondered about the meaning of life, went camping in the wild and tried a couple of other things hoping to battle it out. I listened to him and found myself captivated by his honestly, his openness and vulnerability. I noticed too how he had relaxed, as if a burden fell off his shoulders just by sharing his innermost fears with another human being. I had to laugh when John had mentioned he might get a puppy but really that softer side of him was a revelation to me. If only all men could tap into their vulnerabilities, share their worries and fears and explore their less masculine qualities. I wager we’d see fewer Ferraris with frustrated middle-aged drivers roaring by.