A couple of weeks ago I was having a light dinner at a restaurant here in town. I have been patronizing the this particular spot of several years. It is one of my favorite places to eat and get an occasional drink. The food is great and the atmosphere is trendy, yet relaxed. I am pretty much a regular and most of the workers know me if not by name, at least by proxy. I pretty much always sit at the bar and mix it up with a couple of the bartenders. Occasionally, we all act like the fool teasing one another. It is all good natured fun.
This particular night, there was a substitute bar tender whom I did not know. He was polite and competent but we kept the interaction between us professional and minimal. Sitting beside me were two attractive young ladies who looked to be mid to late 20s. Like me, they ordered light bar food and some drinks.
Both women were deep into conversation. I was able to hear the entire conversation as I watched one of the several big screen televisions available. The women sitting directly next to me was informing her friend (I assume they were friends) that according to her mother, her father was apparently going through a midlife crisis. She went into vivid detail with intense examples.
You might say I was being nosy or eavesdropping. My response to such an assumption is NO I WAS NOT!" Given the fact that we all were sitting so close to one another, it was virtually impossible not to hear what was being said. Her comments led me to the conclusion that both she and her mother were on target with their assumptions.
Rather than go into intimate detail or provide tawdry, salacious tidbits about the conversation in question, (which would be tacky and arguably unethical), the cold hard fact is that the situation her father found himself in is probably highly identical to those of many other middle aged men. To be blunt, mid life crisis are often par for the course for a large percentage of men from all walks of life regardless of race, age, class, sexual orientation, religion, educational level.
Hey guys, if you are:
* Obsessed with remaining youthful
* Entering relationships with younger partners
* Spending considerable time attempting to become buddies with men considerably younger than
* Suddenly becoming very self critical about yourself
*Spending time focusing on unattainable goals
* Demanding that your children excel at everything they do
*Preoccupied with feelings of eventual mortality
*Feeling inadequate or insecure around more successful friends or colleagues
*Have developed a nostalgia about your younger years
*Abandoned once frugal spending habits for conspicuous consumption
*Drinking to the point of abusing alcohol
These are just some strong indications that you likely to be experiencing a midlife crisis. You have reached a stage in your life where you are perplexed about many things, including your own self worth. According to many psychologists and psychotherapists, such a journey is very commonplace for many men. The most effective mode for men who are encountering a situation is the following:
*Acknowledge the Crisis - Confronting the changes happening can help you find a
way to move past the crisis
*Take a step back and think - Before making any radical changes such as leaving your spouse,
buying expensive cars etc... communicate with family an friends. Sometime having an outside
perspective can be beneficial.
*Seek Professional help - Options could range from various sorts of therapy, medicine and
*Move Outside Your Comfort Zone - For men who tend to become stubborn and set in their way by
middle age, this is vitally important. Trying new activities, increasing your knowledge base, traveling
to new places can all be ideas to consider for moving out of a stagnant routine.
* Consider Volunteer Work - Becoming involved with others from different walks of life through
volunteering such as working in soup kitchens, homeless shelters, AIDS patients, battered
women, lower income children etc... could provide you with context during a midlife crisis.
* Talk With Your Family and Friends - Having frank and candid discussions with close family
members and close friends can possible help sooth the pain and confusion that often
accompanies a mid life crisis
There are people out there, including, psychologists, medical doctors and others who question the validity of mid life crisis. Believing the term to be a manufactured myth. Nonetheless, there are many other professionals and average citizens, including myself, who have witnessed others navigate through such dilemmas, acknowledge the reality of such an experience and see nothing "mythical" about it. For all you men (and women) who feel you are enduring a mid life crisis, you must make a genuine effort to utilize whatever resources you possess - economically, psychologically, socially etc... to confront the problem with the determination of a bulldog. It will be worth your time to do so
Elwood Watson, Ph.D. is a professor of history, African American Studies and Gender Studies at East Tennessee State University.