My Beautiful Wickedness

Overcorrecting the fun balance
June 26, 2007, 7:39 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Midlife crisis people, listen up. I know how it goes. You wake up one day, look around at your falling down fence, your
leaking toilet, your hairy cat, your pile of bills, your lousy job, your bitchy spouse, your contrary kid, your friends who don’t really seem to listen to you and you think “what the hell is this? This is not at all what I wanted.” And you think to yourself that being an adult is a complete pain in the ass and young women have no use for you unless they need their tires changed. You remember when everything was so much easier. You played ultimate and drank beer around a campfire and your life was much more like a beer commercial. Suddenly, your dissatisfaction blooms upward and outward in all directions. You want to reach for the fun balance on your life equalizer and jack it until it blows, before what is left of youth and beauty departeth.

I have your back. I know what you’re going through. So take what I have to say to you in the most gentle and loving possible way.

You really don’t want to do that.

You can’t outrun your history by trying to pretend that the last twenty years didn’t happen. Maybe it’s true that you’re not having the best time ever and that things are not fun, but let’s not forget that long “when am I ever going to get laid?” streak between 1989-1991. And the succession of head cases you went out with thereafter. You’ve excised those from your memory. Maybe you could afford to kick back a little more or get in better shape or put together a garage band, but don’t overcorrect. Young women will not be looking at you if you buy that little red sports car; they will be looking at the car.


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I guess I should preface this by saying that I love and adore my wife, and dissatisfaction with her is not at the center, or even the perifery of my current midlife crisis.

That being said, I’m in a much more precarious situation than you describe. I have only been with one woman my entire life (OK, we didn’t quite make it to the wedding day, but who’s counting?), and my youth, until I met my wife, was AWFUL. There’s nothing to pine for. I never had glory days.

And that’s what’s dangerous. The realization that there is a phase missing from the history of this particular life will be a constant temptation to rectify. As the old saying goes: there’s nothing more pitiful than a 45-year-old man who lives like he’s 25, because when he was 25 he lived like he was 45. That’s me.

Irony: I’m told I’m much more pleasing to the eye, physically, now than I ever was in my youth. I was a gangly, nerdy, terrible looking mess. My wife taught me how to dress and take care of myself. I had more women flirting with me in my late 30’s than I ever had in my 20’s, thanks to my wife, and steady exercise. Wierd, huh?

That, and the fact that I still have all my hair, in mostly the original color.

But, my own vanity aside, I’m pretty sure I’m past any point of sexual temptation (that was in my 30’s I guess). My testosterone level was always lower than most men, and nature is starting to have its way with the rest. There are quite a few things that are higher on my desire list than sex with someone who isn’t my wife.

Plus, I’ve figured out that it’s not the actual sex that tempts most men, it’s the thought of being desired. And, since I’m already an egomaniac, that wish is tripled for me. This is the danger. My sinful desire, I suppose, is to be a tease. How weird is that?

Strange, I can’t believe I’m telling you this.

But I’m all about living an uncommon life. When I have rare conversations with a friend about these things, I think to myself, “I have had one woman, he has had more than one. I could easily make my history like his at any time. He cannot ever make his like mine. I will hold onto that.”

Now, there are many other aspects to midlife crises that are not sexual in nature, and I’ll be posting about them at my place in the coming days. Mostly panic that you’ve made the wrong choices, that you are making the exact same mistakes your parents made. Not about marriage, but other things.

Anyway, I’ve gone on for too long. Thank you for writing this, though, and giving me a chance to blow off a little steam.

Comment by Slartibartfast

Slart, thanks for what you’ve written. I think that there are many powerful desires merging in the typical midlife crisis: the need to be desired when things in one’s love life have become a bit domesticated, the hope of surprise (not knowing how everything is going to turn out when one gets up in the morning and the need to feel just a little out of control), the sense that if one had fewer external obligations to partner/children/bills that one could be freer to take some risks without jeopardizing those people to whom one is obligated, the fear that one has wasted time on the wrong things coupled with the powerful realization that the clock is ticking, and often the realization (sometimes for the first time) that even some reasonable expectations one might have had about the way life was going to go simply aren’t likely to be met. And it’s different for men and women. We don’t have very good models for aging in our culture and being young forever (or finding ever-more expensive ways of pretending to be) is valued more highly than maturity and wisdom.

For people who don’t think too carefully or just kind of drift into their crisis unawares, I believe that they reach out to whatever first begins to scratch that dissatisfied itch and overdo it. Some folks plunge into their work and have to prove that they’ve still got the edge, maybe even better than the younger generation. Some will go hobby-happy because their job isn’t giving them juice any more and they happened to pick up a guitar and it made them feel better. Some will run away and join the circus — well, run away, anyhow — because they are desperate for things to be different in their lives and they can’t figure out a graceful way to get from here to there.

The short version of what I was trying to get across is that there is no rewind or pause, just play, fast-forward, and stop.

Comment by bridgett


Mostly panic that you’ve made the wrong choices, that you are making the exact same mistakes your parents made.

In honor of this piece of the midlife crisis, and the Philip Larkin poem in the next post, I give you another of his poems.

This Be the Verse

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another’s throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.

I myself think that it’s more fun to break the cycle and have a good life, midlife crises and all, but I do recognize a lot of people in that poem.

Comment by nm

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