Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Moustache Crisis?

I grew up with a very specific idea of what a "midlife crisis" was all about. First, only men had them. I don't know why, but women didn't have midlife crises. They were doomed to suffer quietly at home, burdened by the weight of children and their man-children husbands. They were never allowed the luxury of a good, obnoxious midlife crisis.

No, it was always men, and it was always a particular kind of crisis. It involved a sports car (usually a Corvette, God knows why). It involved a gold chain and open shirt. And invariably it involved a woman "half his age." So there you had him ... an aging, somewhat pathetic Lothario, driving around in his loud car with his medallion perched on his belly under the steering wheel, his bored and sexually frustrated wife/girlfriend in the passenger seat applying lipstick in the mirror and trying to keep her hair in place.

I don't know how this ended up becoming my image of a midlife crisis, but it did. Was it because I grew up in the '70s? Was it because I actually knew that guy? I don't know. Yes to all of the above.

I'm 39 now, which is crazy to think about, because I don't actually feel a day over about 23 or 24. Well, actually, when I was 23 and 24, I had a 1-year-old baby and two jobs and made about $11,000 a year, so maybe that's not the best age to idealize. Life was freaking hard, a lot harder than it is now. Maybe it's more like I don't feel a day over about 12.

The point is, my own midlife crisis has been in my mind more and more as I near 40, and I'm really curious what shape it will take. I wonder about it sometimes as I'm driving between the various places I drop my kids off. Will I decide to start growing hallucinogenic mushrooms in my laundry room? Will I try to learn Chinese or get into classical music? Mostly, though, I wonder: will I buy a sports car, get a chain and take up with a woman half my age? These images we form in childhood are hard to kill.

No, I don't think so. For one thing, I don't give a shit about cars. I really don't. In fact, I hate them. If I never had to drive again, I'd be happy. If I could live in a city with public transportation, I'd gladly never put my foot on an accelerator again. And as far as taking up with a woman half my age ... oh God no. She'd be 19 years old, and please spare me. Not only do I really and truly love my current wife, but I already went through being 19 and I have no desire to do it again. Lastly, I don't even like jewelry. I don't have a watch, much less have any desire for a gold chain.

If that midlife crisis is out, then what?

I've been working like mad lately—almost literally around the clock. Sadly, when I work like this, my showering habits become somewhat erratic. Let's say that maybe sometimes more than one day will go by before I drag my ass into a shower. And even on the days I do shower, my shaving habits are even more erratic. I've been known to grow almost a full beard from sheer laziness.

Tonight, though, after I showered, I went to shave and looked in the mirror, and I found myself thinking about the kind of man I pictured myself when I was little. I always pictured myself in a suit (which is really funny, considering my previously mentioned showering habits and the fact that I work from home), fabulously wealthy, and for some reason, distracted all the time. Staring at the mirror, I realized fully that I was NOTHING like that guy. I mean, yeah, I'm distracted much of the time, but that's about it. Otherwise, there's nothing about my life that resembles the life I once thought I would live. No suit. No fabulous wealth. I'm not even a Republican, which for some strange reason was also part of the picture.

So I shaved for the first time in a week, scraping away the residue of my own benevolent self-neglect, and I thought, "Maybe I'll grow some crazy ass facial hair." And I didn't shave my moustache. That's right. I left the 'stache. Now this might not seem like the biggest deal in the world to most people, but to me—a guy who's never had a moustache, but who still tells jokes about moustache rides—it was perhaps as close as I've gotten so far to thinking, "My God, I'm getting old. Where did half my life go already?"

My hope is that I'll have the guts to grow a full handlebar moustache. Because one other thing I've discovered about aging is that you care less and less what other people think ... and maybe that's what a good midlife crisis is really all about after all.

9 comments:

Natasha Fondren said...

Not caring what other people think is one of the best perks of the late thirties, IMO. I've taken to calling the last year and a half of my life as my "midlife retirement," LOL. I didn't actually stop working, though. But I hung out with a bunch of retired snowbirds. And I think I might even do it again next year. They're the greatest people in the world, and living in such a tight community is sort of fascinating. I blink, and it's discussed around the whole resort. I get little posts on my Facebook wall, saying, "Your Jeep's been gone all day!" It really cracks the heck out of me. The first year it freaked me out, but this year I'm just loving it.

Mark Terry said...

Growing a 'stache just as Magnum, PI's first season became available on Hulu.com. Hmmm, coincidence? I think not!

It has been noted by several people - okay, me and my wife - that I quit my job and became a full-time writer right around the time I turned 40. That was enough of a midlife crisis, I think.

Melanie Hooyenga said...

I would very much like to see a picture of this mustache. :) Also, I'm glad if that's your midlife crisis because I don't think I'd want to see pictures of the other things.

I hope work is going well!

Travis Erwin said...

It involved a sports car (usually a Corvette, God knows why). It involved a gold chain and open shirt. And invariably it involved a woman "half his age."

Were you trying to sell me on the idea of having one?

I've had a facial hair midlife crisis all my life as I've sported a BIG bushy goatee for two decades now.

Keith said...

Dad, Dave and I can pull it off... but how about just a Soul Patch for the fair haired son?

dan_s28 said...

First time reader, timely post I might add. I too am 39, and think I am having my midlife crisis. Here is the summary, came home from Iraq in 2009, after having multiple affairs on my wife I divorced her. Bought a 30' sailboat, moved aboard, then rented a cabin to keep my extra junk in at the marina... now trying to find a way to retire. So it was either PTSD or mid-life crisis. I say enjoy it - but don't get divorced, keep the wife and the 'stash - cheaper to keep her.

Seeing 40 coming sucks.
-Dan
s/v Easy Livin'

Donna McDonald said...

This was my first time reading your blog as well. Nicely done and very interesting. I have added you to my list.

I write romantic comedies featuring characters 40 and older. I've been tremendously surprised by the enthusiastic responses of people of all ages to them. I feature my characters in a process of change which could in many cases be called a "mid-life" crisis. I certainly talk about age related issues in every story. These subjects resonate and I hear that from readers.

My work features just as many women in crisis as men. I am writing a blog post (not yet released) on a similar topic because I am working on series featuring three former college friends who are divorced at forty and helping each start over. This is not a stretch for me as I did this myself at the same age. However, the series was inspired by the many female readers who keep writing and asking for stories about a 40 year old heroine navigating her mid-life crisis.

*^_^* said...

Nice post!!
I'd like to see a picture of this mustache. ;D

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