Thursday, February 07, 2002

Zenpriest #38 - Mid-Life Crisis

Male change-of-life is very real. Calling it "male menopause" is simply an example of the way that language has been feminized and women's experience has become the standard by which all things are judged.

A frequent topic here is the life pattern of female fertility. Male sex drive follows exactly the same pattern as female fertility - it peaks in the late teens, declines very slowly for about 10-15 years, then begins to decline more rapidly.

Whether one believes in "intelligent design" (newspeak for creationism) or purely Occam's Razor, any other pattern would make no sense at all. All behavior is purposeful, and for a middle-aged man to have the same level of sex drive as he did when he was 18 at a time women his age are largely infertile would be the nadir of bad design.

Instead of calling it "menopause" or even "andro-pause", it should be called just what it is - horny-pause. Before the current obsession with avoiding aging, it was folk knowledge that men normally experienced a marked decrease in sexual desire by age 50, which also used to be the median age for female menopause. Now, pharmaceutical companies are making billion$ off "little blue pills" which do for the average male what steroids do for pro athletes - allow them to squeeze out just a little bit more and better performance.

Quote: "A MLC is when a man stops counting time from birth and starts counting time to death. It is when you reach the half way point, what ever you think that age would be."

Men have a biological clock just like women do - we have an awareness at the cellular level that we are running out of time. Sometime around age 40, a lot of men look around and ask themselves "Is this all there is? - bills, wage slavery, braces and tuition for the kids, and a nagging hateful harridan who owns the bed and lets me share it if I am a 'good boy'?"

The thing which makes it far more complex for men is the protector provider role which extends a minimum of 18-22 years beyond birth. When a man figures his "time left", he has to subtract about 20 years from his entire allotment of time in order to get the real time he has left. That leaves the magic numbers of 47 and 43 - the cutoff age beyond which they cannot have a child and get it graduated from college or just high school before they retire. Chaining backwards - add one year for the pregnancy, one to really get to know the woman, and one for courtship, when a man is 40-44 there are only a few minutes left on the clock. Some men fall prey to the same sense of urgency experienced by a 37 y/o childless woman.

All this simply cannot make any sense to a younger man who still has a sense of immortality and invulnerability. It is like trying to describe what it feels like to stand on the moon to all but the handful of people who had done it, or what riding a bicycle feels like to one who has never done it - there is no substitute for experience.

One of the best descriptions of what the mid-life crisis really is - how mundane the reality is - comes in the form of an old joke:

There was kid who wanted to join the grade school band. He and his parents talked to the band teacher who told them he had all the trumpets and clarinets he needed, and that the one real opening he had was for a tuba player. So the parents bought the kid a tuba and he joined the band. He kept at it through high school, then joined the armed forces and played tuba with the band. After he got out, he went to college and played the tuba. He got out during an economic slump and there weren't many jobs for Forensic Oceanographers, so he got a job playing tuba for the Boise, Idaho Brass Ensemble. In a few years he moved up to the Missoula, Montana Symphony Orchestra, then on to the big time - the Fargo Philharmonic.

The day before his 40th birthday he wakes up and thinks "My God!! I'M A TUBA PLAYER!!!!"

John Lennon said "Life is what happens while you are planning other things." A lot of guys simply drift into a rut while they are figuring out what they want to do with their lives, and once they do they find that not only is that rut worn pretty deep, but that there are also a lot of people very invested in keeping him in it - so they can keep milking his wallet. Attempts to break out of those self-created prisons are seldom any more elegant than breaking out of any other type of prison.

Mid-Life Crisis for a man really boils down to him asking himself - "Is this really the way I want to spend the rest of the time I have left?" - and coming up with "no" for an answer.


Further Reading:

EOTM: Sexual Psychology – Part 3 – 40 to Closing Time

Mid-Life Crisis -- Rollo Tomassi  


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