In the ongoing and age-old battle for equality between the sexes, women have recently achieved a new victory. It seems that Science has determined that men aren’t the only sex that experiences a midlife crisis. Studies show that women are just as likely as their Hubs’ to take a little reality detour between the ages of 40-60.
This is good news, ladies.
Historically, he got to shave his head, start hitting the gym every night, buy a Porsche, and take up weekend hang-gliding with a leggy, blonde, 22-year-old instructor named Trixie. We suffered quietly (or not) through hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, and hips spreading faster than hot marshmallows over a campfire.
Before science leveled the playing field, when a man woke up one morning and decided to upend his entire life with new priorities and pursuits, friends and family would simply sigh and tell each other, “He’s just going through that midlife thing. Be patient.” Essentially an adult version of “Boys will be boys.”
If we got up one day and chopped our hair off, scheduled an overdue boob lift/tummy tuck combo, and sold all of our clothes to pay for a hunky Sherpa to hike us through the Himalayas, there’d be a swift and strenuous intervention by loved ones trying to bring us back to sanity. But now science has provided us an excuse.
It’s not our fault.
But how do we know if we’re going through an actual midlife crisis, or if we’re just bored and need to change the color scheme in the master bedroom?
1. You often fantasize about a simpler life. Suddenly, you start noticing you have too much crap, too many obligations, too much debt. Just too much. You start looking at perennially sunny and laid-back tropical islands as potential homes, not vacation destinations, while quietly offing everything in your garage, attic, or storage unit to friends and family. Marriage counselors suggest that this can actually be healthy as long as you’re only giving away your stuff.
2. You’re bored with things that you used to enjoy. Everything feels like “been there, done that.” Movies, books, travel, your weekly bowling league, your home, your partner, your sex life. Nothing seems exciting anymore. We’re assuming here that you’re not much fun right now either, which, if nothing else, explains your boring sex life.
3. You’re looking up ex-partners on Facebook. Reminiscing about old loves and wistfully remembering the intensity of young love. Never mind that those were the crazy years, when you dumped that loser for sleeping with your sister. And your mom.
4. You read obituaries, looking for old classmates. And you become slightly irritated when the notice doesn’t tell you how or why they died. How can you tell yourself it won’t happen to you if you don’t know what “it” is? Who cares if the family “wants to keep it private.” Seriously, that’s just selfish.
5. You’re angry at your spouse for keeping you tied down. Yes, we all know that you could have been a Grammy-winning country superstar if Hubs hadn’t gotten you drunk and knocked you up at 19, killing your dreams. Since it would be difficult for Hubs to achieve this feat by himself while you were out feeding the homeless, we’re assuming you participated at least marginally in the premature demise of your epic stardom.
6. You suddenly desire a new, more passionate relationship, often with someone much younger. Yeah, this one always ends well. It’s the sexual equivalent of cleaning your house by tossing a grenade into your living room. Exciting for a moment, but results in massive cleanup and casualties when it’s over.
7. You experience symptoms of bipolar ambition. Some days, you’re a tweaked-out squirrel, manically trying to get ‘er done before you die, locking yourself in your office, with emphatic instructions to the family that unless there’s blood or fire, “do not come through this door.” Other days, you stay curled up on the couch, with bunny slippers and bed hair, watching Little House (yes, all 10 seasons), because what’s the use? You’re a big fat loser, and you’re never going to accomplish anything anyway.
8. You’ve developed a new obsession with exercise and nutrition. You suddenly realize that your sedentary, chemically processed lifestyle over the past 50 years is probably going to catch up with you. By Thursday. So now you’re determined to run five miles every morning, and cut out gluten, carbs, fats, dairy, salt, and all alcohol, including cough syrup and mouthwash. Congratulations. You’ve just added a year to your life, but you’re now bitchy and have no friends.
9. You’re on a quest to look young again. As seen in the faces of many Hollywood stars, the relentless pursuit of youth appears to be a choice between looking fifty and looking freaky. Over-lifted, over-Botoxed, over-tightened, and over-tucked, with foreheads that don’t move and boobs that don’t bounce, we now look vain and stupid, not young. At 50, youth is no longer at option. Class and style, however, are timeless.
So what do we do when we hit that midlife oh-my-God-I’ll-never-be-young-again wall?
Stall on any life-changing decisions. “Hubs left the toilet seat up for the 10,000th time and last time, and now I’m leaving his loser ass” will not roll back the years.
Hang out with girlfriends, especially the good ones that nourish your soul. If it’s happening to you, it’s probably happening to some of them. Good girlfriends can keep us sane (and keep our marriages and careers intact) during an insane time.
Find a cause. My mother always told us, “If you’re having a problem you can’t seem to fix, go out and help someone else with theirs.” Works every time.
Be patient. Your Himalayan Sherpa would say, “This, too, shall pass.” And it’s so much nicer when you come out the other side and discover that your life, surprisingly, is actually pretty good.