Men in their 40s are screwed.
A recent study carried out in much of the western world found that the decade from age 40 to 50 (approximately) is the nastiest and most depressing one the average guy has to face.
Prior to 40 the man with a modicum of drive and ambition is finds life fairly blissful. He seems to be moving up occupationally and/or professionally; he has a ‘nice’ little wife and a ‘nice’ little family, and a ‘nice’ little house in a ‘nice’ little neighborhood.
But, one morning in his bungalow in the burbs he awakens, and all is not ‘nice’. He is 40-years-old (or 38 or 42) and decides his life is shit. He feels he is nowhere. Opportunity has passed him by and his mind rushes to the lines of that old Peggy Lee standard: “Is that all there is?” He looks at his ‘nice’ wife and decides that’s all she is, ‘nice’, maybe even too nice. She’s not sexy. She’s not adventurous. She’s not hip. ‘Hippy’ maybe, but not hip. And then there’s the kids. Not one genius in the lot; not one budding athletic superstar. Just plain old boring kids. And finally, there’s the job. He’s been in mid-management for over a decade. He’ll always be in mid-management. So much for the dreams of taking the world by the balls. All he now has to look forward is nothing other than ‘same-old’ until he totters into the grave. It sucks. It bites the big one.
Leaving for work (to a job he has decided that morning he hates), he even resents his vehicle. It’s a five-year-old family van. ‘Family van!’ Gahhhh! Wifey has an even more boring beige Civic. She thinks their vehicles are “just fine”. He wants to scream.
And so it goes. I know it does. I was there once. In the decade of my 40s a long-term marriage came to an end after a long petering out and a few soulless affaires de coeur (more affaires de loins, to be honest) and after the marriage was gone I subsequently embarked on an ‘exciting’ new relationship (that turned out to be disastrous). I grew disenchanted with my job and felt I was going nowhere and would indeed be stuck in the ‘nowhere’ zone of being an assistant editor. I knew I was better than that. Why wasn’t anybody else recognizing it? So, yes, it was my worst decade. Hate to be a demographic, but it applied to me in all the aces in the deck. The only good thing I recall doing during that time of tumult was acquiring a sports car. I’d always wanted one. I pleaded my case long and hard with my first wife to let me.
Shortly after the car became mine (and I loved it, and I still do. It’s what I drive to this day and it has great symbolic importance to me) I overheard my ex telling a lady-friend about the car. “You know, middle-aged guy needing a testosterone boost. Oh well, better the sports car than another wife, I guess. Little did she know. Little did I know.
The aforementioned study, however, also attested to the fact that once the 40s hump is surmounted and surpassed, it all gets better. If our poor sap in his 40s hasn’t succumbed to booze, suicide or something else silly, then his life will brighten past 50 and continue that way as a sort of golden age for the male.
I can attest to the fact that, despite all the glitches, I would never want to be in my 40s again. Oh, I wouldn’t mind having a lot more healthy, happy years ahead of me but, you know, it’s OK now. It wasn’t then. Maybe there is a certain understanding of life that happens, and part of the understanding lies in the knowledge that things we thought were hugely important, actually were not.
A friend once told of a conversation he had with his father, well into his 80s. “You know, Dad,” he said, “When I was young you were kind of a raging bastard, pissed off about nearly everything. I hated your negative attitude to life. What has happened to you lately? You seem almost serene.”
His father looked at him long and hard, took a drink of his tea and said: “Maybe I no longer give a shit. I think it’s better that way.”