11 December 2003

Crisis? What midlife crisis?

Are you at the stage of life where you're developing an itch? Where you realise your hourglass is half empty and you no lobger have youth on your side? This is the time to tread very carefully.

That’s the darndest thing about birthdays. They keep coming around, every year without fail. So when the big-four-oh arrives, will you have a midlife crisis like all the other guys, or will you actually achieve something or just look silly?

You survived national service, Duran Duran and Isobel Jones selling cookware. Chances are you’re married with kids. You’re also halfway through your life, according to popular thought.

It’s at around this time that many blokes develop an itch. You see your hourglass is half empty and forget that some of the lapsed time was spent getting potty-trained, battling with geometry and wearing your older brother’s cast-off school uniform.

Some office wag jokes that “It’s all downhill from here” and you start dreaming of trading in your 1.3 Corolla for a Harley-Davidson Fatboy. Some blokes do: they get a perm, a bike and a babe half their age, leaving the family and the house in suburbia behind. Some pull it off and are happy for the rest of their lives. Others look really stupid.

So here are some guidelines on handling the itch:

Keep it straight and narrow. The hint of something illicit from a woman you didn’t think noticed you is a serious ego boost. But keep it at that, Don Juan. Before you take your ego stroking a step further by Making A Move, keep focusing on one word: alimony.

Be kind. This follows on from the point above. When your wife is dealing with the kids’ exams and tonsillitis and her own MBA, don’t expect sex just because you’re her partner. Try being nice. Flowers and hugs? Yay, team. Try pulling your weight. Get it right and you’ll get laid. Guaranteed.

Beware the nubile colleagues. Middle-aged men (That’s you – sorry. Deal with it) are more likely to have an affair with a co-worker than anyone else. Get pictures of the family on your desk, your screensaver, silkscreened onto your kitsch coffee mug. If you have an office function with partners, bring your partner along and make sure she meets everyone. That way anyone thinking of starting something with you knows who they’d be hurting.

Be involved. A lot of the blokes sharing the freeway with you each day spend time with their families, much of which entails watching TV together. It’s not what you’d call quality time. Make a point of actually communicating. A game of cricket, bathing an infant, gardening together or helping with homework.

Retain your dignity. Tired of your old haircut? Before you go out and get a perm like a poodle, ask whether you’ll look like someone going through a midlife crisis. Find a decent stylist and tell him or her, “Look, I’ve had this style for years. What can you suggest that won’t make me look like a prat?”

Get loose. Stretch every day. Get some aerobic exercise for at least 30 minutes, three times a week. Not only does it reduce your chances of having a heart attack, it cuts the risk of you putting your back out picking up a sheet of paper in the office.

Get solitude. Whether it’s prayer, yoga, mountain biking or karate, find something that frees your mind of all the detritus of modern life and work. If you can do it as a family, great. But you might also benefit from a little time alone and in silence.

Sort out your family. If your father’s still alive, you might have some “issues” with him, or maybe you just realise it’s been years since you had a proper conversation. Do it now or hate yourself for missing the chance.

Find a passion.Always wanted to learn to play the cello? Sign up for classes. Playing an instrument, like exercise, produces endorphins, those chemicals which can produce feelings of wellbeing without getting you arrested. – (William Smook)


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