Is the midlife crisis in crisis?
During a recent radio interview promoting my debut novel (cue: promotion alert klaxon), I was asked about the Life Assistance Agency’s theme of longevity. That, and the advisability of driving to the Antarctic in a family car, after Ernest Shackleton’s great-grandson drove a stocky Hyundai across the South Pole, which is certainly one way to grow tired of children asking ‘are we there yet?’
It has been a long-burning ambition of humankind to live forever, but humans have also been responsible for Smell-o-Vision, along with Clippy, the MS Word Office assistant who offered even less useful assistance than the Life Assistance Agency, and only ever helped by minimising itself. Just because there’s been an idea doesn’t necessarily make it a good one.
I was being interviewed on BBC Radio Drive Time, and I now question declaring the inadvisability of eternal life, due to it resulting in watching the people you love age while you don’t. However, I fear they are still winching cars from hedges throughout Kent, as drivers lost their will to live. Thankfully the interview picked up. However, it did raise the question of aging, and how the raging against the dying of the light was once best expressed by purchasing an unsuitable soft-topped sports car with an acceleration faster than your reaction times, which you write-off within a month of buying. That and an extramarital affair. Or taking up golf. But people don’t get old anymore; they just keep on keeping on. If millennial fashion for high-waisted jeans is an indicator, midlife appears to start at twenty and stops at some point during a Saga Holidays Pete Tong cruise to Ibiza when you accidentally take more than your usual ‘cheeky half’ and plummet into the Aegean whilst inadvisably demonstrating your windmill, which you last successfully managed as a 18 year-old.
Why is this? Perhaps it’s because we all live online, where we’re all the same. We can be everything to anyone (within reason) without the obvious giveaways of walking sticks and involuntary afternoon naps to expose you. There used to be time when you’d only get to flirt with someone on a date, yet now we’re all hiding under the table while sending up notes and flattering selfies, and NOT touching anyone’s knee.
Getting old always used to be so obvious. My Grandpa wore an old suit and brown shop apron his entire working life, and on retirement hung up his apron and simply stopped wearing the tie. Now men are wearing T-shirts into their 50s without anyone advising them not to, while women are borrowing their teenage daughter’s dresses.
For most men, the midlife crisis is something that happens to someone else: laughing at the mate who starts competitive cycling as a socially acceptable way in which to wear lycra, while they themselves stalk their first girlfriend on Facebook, or sign up to Rightmove alerts for old pubs to transform into a B&B adorned with a DJ room and vinyl on the walls.
However, there are some clear signs: needing to diarise the next day’s hangover after a few pints in the pub is one, as is signing up for triathlons, getting excited about the News and setting up direct debits to charities, but mostly it’s happening so gradually that no one notices, until you finally discard the roller skates you bought at university because they invalidate your life insurance. It’s probably a healthy denial, but perhaps when the time finally arrives we’ll be less prepared for it, like getting to the South Pole to realise you’ve left the flag at home.
My novel, The Life Assistance Agency – selected by WHSmith Fresh Talent 2017 – is available to alleviate that Sunday feeling here – http://myBook.to/lifeassistance
and on ebook here –