Hooray! Last week I entered my midlife crisis! No Saturn Return, no Pre-Midlife Crisis, no Late Onset Puberty; I’m talking the exciting big mirror in the aging face “Oh $hit What Am I Doing With My Life” Crisis. I’m at the point where adults finally become mature and live out those inspiring second chance stories that give people hope and aging rock bands one last chance to tour. And since so many people before me have been through it, I know I only have to survive some existential hell for a couple of years until I come to the conclusion that what I really need is to get rid of my old life and start a flashy new one! Problem is that with the middle class going extinct, middle class protégés like myself are finding that we are no longer able to afford the kind of satisfactory crisis that we are accustomed to. While some fear that with the demise of the middle class, motivated stoners and Teva wearing revolutionaries will finally rally to overthrow our current capitalist system, I fear that it will cause my midlife makeover to suck.
Without the same time and resources the middle class once enjoyed, the peacocky crisis we’ve come to know and mock will soon be a thing of the past. Of course there will still be two others available. There is the Rich Man’s Crisis carried out by those in the upper stratospheres of rich. This crisis as opposed to others, does not question career paths taken since the wealthy have always had the money to do whatever they’ve always wanted to do. These enviable midlifers are only subjected to the fear of losing their youth and the promise of impending death. So with a few new spouses (each one younger than the other), Botox shots and some hot sweaty yoga their midlife crisis is complete…ly Zzzzzzzzz.
Then there is the Poor Man’s Crisis, also known as The Struggling Artist’s Crisis. These are the ones who in their 20′s and 30′s did everything people in the other classes of crises try to emulate at 40 or 50. These creative types always dated much younger people but for like-minded conversation not for youth-sucking purposes. They chose day jobs that required little commitment so that they could concentrate on an artistic career that nearing 40 they discover never happened. Tired of living with roommates for 20 years and wishing for a few creature comforts they once scorned (Brookstone foot massagers), these once rebellious folks suddenly question their lifelong misgivings of society’s norms and immediately want to shed all semblance of their nonconformity. Ready to prove that they can succeed in a conventional way, they suddenly work hard to find someone their own age to marry, find a “real” job and settle down by buying a home or a fuel-efficient car in place of the incredibly cool beater or Volvo station wagon they swore they would keep until they died. Even less exciting than the rich, the poor man’s midlife crisis makes me go through another midlife crisis just reading about it.
It is because of the rich and the poor man’s midlife crises that we need to safeguard the middle class. Theirs is the iconic American midlife crisis. They followed the rules for so long they’re ready to break them! With 80’s style self-reflection and real jet-ski consumerist pizzazz, here in the middle you are promised toupees, red hot convertible sports cars, motorboats, cheesy young dates, divorces and the chance to sell that suburban home to buy yourself a downtown loft and finally live like all those cool artist types you stood in line with at the coffee shop and hated on your way to your 9-6-or-more job. You can go out to nightclubs, get college-style wasted on Manhattans and Old-Fashioneds because that’s what you last heard was hip from a temp a few years ago, leave your job in corporate America and make a new small business venture in something cooler like a distillery that makes bacon flavored whiskey with kitschy bacon flavored fruit roll-ups or by making specialty facial hair clips for wine tasters in Napa Valley, then get photographed in Sunset Magazine and show it off to your new family you just made with that temp you met a few years ago in your long-gone corporate job! That my friends, is a real crisis! Something I was ready to join in until I realized I couldn’t.
Like a chubby girl who lost weight but still sees herself as chubby, I like so many others raised middle class, learned that I had been mistakingly considering myself middle class when financially I am nowhere near it. So when my crisis turned up as a 16-year-old me to evaluate what I had made of her life and was unimpressed, I couldn’t escape or hurriedly make things better in a colorful, over-the-top, expensive way. I was sorry to let Young Me know that Now Me can’t just pack up and move my family to Paris or New York and live the life she wanted because I can’t afford to. Instead, the two of us have had to settle for lying in bed to piece together what makes sense from my past, discover what traits hold me back, support the ones that move me forward, take a close look at what’s important, what I want to spend my time working on and how to go about doing it. I discovered that I am part of a new class that is gaining traction in America, and our Lost Class Midlife Crisis is completely…ho hum practical.
*16-year-old me is completely over me and has moved on to her next victim.