It’s interesting how we learn about some expressions when we are young, and we weave them into our world view, based on nothing, only for them to become so difficult to unwind from that same fabric in later years, despite their obvious idiocy.
The expression, “mid-life crisis” was taught to me when I was young to mean a man that reached middle-age and due to some, almost mental misfire, bought a muscle car, or some other extravagant item that typically only men want. I usually heard it from women, in life, in movies or books, and in a derogatory sense, about a man or men they knew or as some universal disease that ravaged all men at some point like a masculine menopause.
Now that I am middle-age, and I am buying extravagant items that only men want, I wanted to revisit this expression and unwind it for what it really is and to ask women to reevaluate this expression for themselves based on my argument (luckily, I didn’t marry someone who ever said anything like this, but I know a lot of women do).
First, we have to understand men, and boys. Understand, and accept. I know the current generation is all about accepting how people are, except when it’s not how they want them to be, so this may be hard for some.
Men, boys, like me, used to (and I hope still do) play with trucks, and jet fighters, Star Wars figures and play-sets. Dump trucks, backhoes, front loaders, guns and soldiers, swords and ninjas, LEGO’s and Lincoln Logs, Hot Wheels, race tracks, shields and hammers like Thor’s. We set things on fire. We bury things. We build dirt riverbeds and flood them to see what happens. We make mud. We build moats around castles in the backyard. We build dams in streams, we play fight with each other to test our strength “in battle.” We find rocks to jump between that are further than we can jump; and we jump anyway. We show off to get the attention of girls that pretend not to see us, while they talk about who is the cutest out of earshot. Yeah, boys know what’s up ladies.
Boys are boys, girls are girls; LGBTTTQQIAA notwithstanding. We could talk about tall Chinese men or brunette Swedes, but let’s talk about what’s relevant to most people; most people.
As a boy, we want the X-Wing fighter, the lightsaber, the shield, sword and plate mail armor, the back hoe and the moat around our house. But these things are either not real (yet), or not realistic or simply not that useful.
So what do many boys grow up to want as teenage boys that is actually real, realistic and useful, with all of that in mind? They want the muscle car. They want the monster truck. The adult version of the toys they have always loved to play with, that they can actually have. And what is the one thing these teenagers need to make those boyhood dreams come true? Money. And what one thing don’t teenagers have? Money.
And there lies the conundrum. If a teenager actually had the money to buy the muscle car or monster truck, we’d have to change mid-life crisis to mid-teen crisis and then women would lose a perfectly good male put-down.
As boys, and young men, we respect strength, power, engines, machines. Like a caveman stared into fire; a dangerous, painful, mortal, and mystical phenomenon, while also realizing and employing all of its valuable uses; as light, as heat, to cook meat, as a weapon against man and beast, to clear land, to smelt, to harden, to forge metal and machines.
Engines; cars, trucks are no different. Speed boats, jet skis, ATV’s and motorcycles. They are propelled by engines that burn gasoline. But what does that mean to most men? If you ask a girl about a car engine, most will understand nothing about it, a unicorn could be under the hood and they wouldn’t be much more surprised, or they get the basics; it uses gas to make the car go. And yes, I know there are grease monkey girls out there, but again, we’re dealing with “mosts.”
So what is an engine to a man? An engine is a marvel of the modern age. It is a machine that utilizes a fuel that is made by men, roughnecks, drilling deep into the earth with other large and powerful machines that can kill them to extract a black organic soup that is millions of years old that is then transported by still more powerful machines to a large processing plant, another massive and dangerous machine, that uses technology as mystical as fire to convert it into a clear liquid that when put under pressure and mixed with air, EXPLODES! We take this magical liquid and we inject it into the engine of our car as a mist mixed with air from the earth, sealing it into air-tight metal compartments where this earth-air mist mixture is compressed by metal cylinders (also made and forged with fire using elements extracted by machines from the bowels of the earth) that slam up against it while a miniature man-made lightning bolt strikes inside the cylinder causing the mixture to explode violently but in a controlled reaction that drives the cylinder back down thousands of times a minute, thus turning a complex series of precision shafts and gears that have been engineered and designed to work synchronously at turning that raw explosive force into an energy wave that is transferred down the driveshaft to the differential to the axles to the wheels to the tires to the road launching us forward at speeds we can easily control and manipulate.
A bit more than, “a thing that uses gas to make it go.”
This is why men and women are different. And why we understand why YOU have so many shoes. We understand and accept you. Understand and accept us.
So, when those young boys that played with cars and trucks want those same cars and trucks as they get older and become teenagers, they can’t afford them. Then they go off to college or to learn a trade and between the costs of living on their own, trying to have a good time, attract women, and paying off student debt, whatever incomes they do have are consumed. Then comes more life upon a man. Which means a wife and children. Which means (if you’re a responsible man) saving for houses, and repairs and home remodeling and schools and birthday parties and presents and ballet and karate and property taxes and family vacations and a whole host of expenses that must be paid for by the man, or the working couple. Muscle cars and monster trucks must take a backseat to minivans and SUV’s with 32 air bags and 12 different child seat restraint systems with portable entertainment and wireless access points.
Then as the children get older, and the expenses level off or decline a bit, and the man and the woman are making more money as their careers have advanced for many years, the man revisits that childhood dream of owning an X-Wing fighter, but will settle for a high-horses American muscle car or a jacked-up pickup truck, or whatever it is any particular guy has put off for a better time, a sabbatical to his origins, a sailing trip across the equator, a new workshop….whatever….
And for me, and I would argue many men, who have made sure their family came first, that their wives were able to buy the clothes, and the shoes and the jewelry and the car with the unicorn engine that was most important to them (because as men we enjoy seeing our families have what they want), and that the kids were fed, and kept healthy, and had the toys, experiences and protective restraint devices they needed to survive – can take a moment, take a breath, and think about rewarding himself for his efforts, and buy that American muscle car, or jack-up that pickup truck and toss some big wheels and tires on it, or gut that extra room in the house and man-cave it out.
And that is not a mid-life crisis, that is a man rewarding himself for putting his family first, and when it became practical, and financially feasible, and before the DMV fails him on his driving test because he can’t even see the eye chart – granting himself his childhood toys that he wanted when he was a boy but couldn’t use, could use as a young man but couldn’t afford, and could use and afford as a grown man but deferred for other priorities.
So let the men have it. They earned it. And stop calling it a crisis.
Categories: Government Failures
why does it have to be a ‘crisis’ at all? I have saved up over the years, at all ages, to buy something impractical for myself. as long as the mandatory expenses are covered it’s a *good* thing to treat ourselves. oh and girls can like all of those things you listed too! so there!
I agree. Girls CAN like all those things listed there. And yes, an impractical treat now and again justifies, I think, all the work we put in deferring gratification to satisfy our other needs or responsibilities. I could just never wrap my head around why men are the ones going through a “mid-life” crisis, but you rarely, if ever, hear about such a thing for women. Perhaps cougars? Perhaps the third marriage? IDK.