Although I can’t remember the exact date, I have a clear memory of the day in 1990 when my father, 46 at the time, had an old car dropped into our garage by a tow truck. The car was a 1965 Ford Mustang Convertible, badly in need of restoration. I didn’t realize it at the time as a 15-year old kid but that was the beginning of my dad’s mid-life crisis.
When I turned 40 last year, I didn’t give much thought to it. I don’t care to celebrate my birthdays much, mostly because I feel like birthdays are for children but partially because I just don’t care about my birthday. Last year was also the year that most of my friends turned 40 so it felt like it was one party after another to the point of hoping to God there was no one left to have a birthday. Add that to the fact of the large family party we have for my kids every year and I had exceeded my quota of birthday celebrations. The year came and went without me raising an eyebrow for the most part although I did find myself in a more nostalgic mood. I had taken to re-reading old comic books, watching old movies and finally going through boxes of my old toys and collectibles to see what I had. It wasn’t like I was spending a lot of time doing this (I don’t have much free time with the demands of fatherhood) but at one point I realized I was looking forward to some weekend quiet time to reorganize my basement. Last weekend it finally hit me as I sat in my basement, watching Return of the Jedi and repairing some G.I. Joe action figures that I had found in two pieces in one of the boxes: I am having a mid-life crisis!
In the old days, a mid-life crisis usually meant an affair with a younger woman (I wish), taking an extravagant ‘guys only’ trip or buying a sports car (see: my father). Now, it seems that a mid-life crisis of my generation gets over-nostalgic and wants to play with his old toys instead of spending time with his family (doesn’t seem that far-fetched, right?) Seeing how there there is such a large population between the ages of 35-50 right now, maybe that is also partially to blame for the continuing existence of brands like Star Wars, Transformers, G.I. Joe and so forth. It’s a generation of working, middle-class people who have probably dreamt big but live small-ish. As our families grow and we start meeting with lawyers and bankers to contribute to RRSPs and have our estates and wills planned, we long for the time where the biggest responsibility was getting to the comic shop before it closed. Where older generations more often had pension plans and investment properties to ease themselves into retirement and life as a senior, a lot of us have to scrounge the sofa cushions for spare change to tip the pizza guy (sorry, pizza guys).
The good news for the wives and children of my generation, is that instead of speeding off in our new Corvette or boat, we are staying in the basement to play with our old shit. We don’t mind being in the house, we just don’t want to actually spend time with all of you when we’re going through this period. The other positive is, since we already had the stuff and it was sitting in boxes, we aren’t spending extra money or taking up extra space so even if (and probably when) we get over this phase, we don’t need to sell the item thus sending us into a new depression.
I think I speak for all men between 35-50 when I ask the families to just give us a little space while we get through this. We’re just watching movies or playing guitar, not locking ourselves in the bathroom like we did when we were teenagers. Come to think of it, that was something else I used to look forward to….