If you’re not up for infidelity, reawakening your inner rock god or buying expensive new toys can you still have a midlife crisis? And how would you know?
So are they real then or what? Midlife Crissies or Crises, Crisisis what’s the plural or Crisis anyway? Am I having one? How do you know? I’m not about to go cheating on my Mrs, I love her too much and, besides, no one else would have me. I’m middle aged. Expanding waist and greying hair. Did I mention I love my wife? Well I do. Adore her. She makes a great cup of tea.
My brother-in-law’s just bought an old soft-top car. A classic. It’s beautiful, actually. An Austin something or other. And it’s got 4 seats. Means my sister and niece will be riding around in it too. And it’s not really fast. It’s just classic. He’s not having a crisis, he’s only 35 for God’s sake anyway. Oh and cars are his stock in trade so it doesn’t really count does it? It’s not like he runs a Post Office and he’s just traded in a second hand Volvo as a down payment on an E type Jag is it? I’m not big on cars. The wife has one. She lends it to me if I need to go somewhere. It’s functional. I’ve got a monthly railcard. We live five minutes from the train station. It seems to work quite well.
I bought a guitar a few years ago. I was going to learn to play it. Honest. I always wanted one but never found/made the time. It was only a couple of hundred bucks. No big deal. I never had visions of being on stage at the Bowery Ballroom. Not at my advanced age. God no. I just thought it would be nice to sit and strum. It is. It’s just that, well, I mean, I love music, honest, I do. It’s on in our gaff all the time. I go to sleep with the music on. I wake up with music on. I don’t watch much telly. Well, the fact of the matter is, I’m just not much good at playing a guitar. Or maybe practising. See, I wanted to be able to play straight away. I can do that ‘Nevermind’ riff from Nirvana. I can do that ‘There She Goes’ bit from The Las. But slower. Quite a bit slower but you can tell what it is. Sort of a 45 played at 33. Or maybe 16. And I can play America, ‘A Horse With No Name’. Two chords. But I can’t play ‘The Killing Moo’n by The Bunnymen and, apparently, that only has one chord. How can you not play a one-chord song? Well, it’s like this… I just can’t.
I love my guitar. It has pride of place in the corner of my bedroom. I’ve convinced myself (sort of) that it’s there in case any of the girls ever want to learn to play. Working on the theory that if there’s one in the house someone will surely avail themselves of it and strum ‘til their fingers bleed. There’s only one flaw in this theory. One that I can find anyway. I had a guitar in the corner of my bedroom when I was growing up. Could have picked it up at anytime but, aside from seeing how tight the strings would go until they snapped, I never did.
Right so that’s the affair, the sports car, and the guitar out of the way, what’s left? Career change? You need to have a career to do that don’t you? I have a job. It’s alright. I’ve had worse. God forbid I’d let a job define me.
I used to run. I enjoyed running. To a degree. I had a mate who was a cross-country ace as a kid. Ran for the city. Very modest about it but dead good. When we were teenagers he used to nick stuff from shops, sometimes right under the noses of the store detectives. We were in Austin Reeds in Manchester once. He nicked a Lacoste sweater. He had on this Ellesse tracksuit top that was, shall we say, a tad slim in the fit. He looked pregnant. A 15-year-old male with a wedge and a bun in the oven. The staff were on him straight away. He didn’t care. He looked at me and laughed. I shook my head. As soon as we got to the doors he was gone. Like a hare. They followed us for quite a while. Leather soled shoes did them in. We snaked through cars on Deansgate him laughing, laughing tears, me sort of hanging in there, every breath an icy dagger to my lungs. I loved him like a brother but I hated him right then.
I stopped drinking in my early 20s for a year, and took up running. It killed me initially but I felt great after a few months. I looked forward to running. Enjoyed it then I started drinking again. After I moved to the States I started running again. My best pal passed away. It broke my heart. We used to talk about marathon runners. I have nothing but respect for those crazy bastards. I decided I’d run a marathon. I’d run in my mate’s memory. I had high-minded ideas of raising money for some charity or other. I took it serious. Three miles most nights, progressively longer runs on a Sunday morning. I signed up for the Philly marathon. I was doing great.
The long runs were hard though. It’s not easy. I don’t think so anyway. I got up to 11 miles. By the tenth mile I was having trouble controlling my bowels and wanted to vomit so bad. My knees were aflame, my head pounding like the proverbial jackhammer. Tongue an arid swollen mess. I concluded that I had topped out. A marathon was beyond me. Perversely, I didn’t view it as failure. I continued my three-mile runs and felt great. I was in a good place mentally and physically. How could you view that as failure? Marathon runners. I salute you.
Then I had an accident. Two herniated discs in my back. Excruciating pain. My left leg went more or less dead. No more running. Not much walking either. I self medicated with Chivas Regal. A kindly lady I knew gave me a bottle every Christmas. I don’t like whisky. We had lots in the house. I’d know her for 12 years. When I could stand it no more I went to see a doc. MRI’s followed. A mad Croatian Orthopaedic Surgeon wanted to cut me open without even studying my X-Rays.
I went to physio. I was convinced my Irish American physio blamed me for the Potato Famine given the way she manipulated my body. I got another physio. Lovely woman. Amerasian. Didn’t blame me for anything. Never once mentioned the Opium Wars. I did physio with a load of Upper Eastside housewives of advanced years. They had terminal boredom and nothing more as far as I could see. I got better. I am better but I can’t really run any more.
Back to the present day. Midlife Crisis yes or no? I’ve bought a bike. I’ve bought a bloody expensive bike – given my wages and commitments. School fees for three kids, roof over our head etc…. A Bianchi. It’s a beauty. Buying a bike has been an experience. Bike shop workers are, in the main, like record shop staff used to be when you were a kid and record shops still existed. Only they’re worse. I will borrow my wife’s car one night and mow the lot of them down if I ever get the chance. I bought a steel framed bike. No fancy materials for me. I’m old school. I’m not entering the Tour De France or anything like that. I’ve got caged pedals too. Sod those clip-less efforts. No I will ride the roads of New Jersey and when I get a few miles under my belt I’ll take her upstate, around New Paltz and ride the roads up there. I’ll take sandwiches and stop off to admire the rock climbers at the EMS climbing school. Wow, rock climbing. There’s an idea. Wouldn’t mind a go at that. I wonder how much lessons cost? How hard can it be?