As I stare down the barrel of “the Big 4-0”, I’ve been giving some serious thought to my midlife crisis. This is the sort of thing you only get to do once, and I really don’t want to screw it up. There are so many options, and I want to be able to look back on it and say, “yes, I made the right choice”, instead of being one of those pathetic guys who is even more morose and unhappy after the fact.
So far, I’ve identified the following broad categories of Midlife Crisis:
THE CLASSICAL: Go out and buy an expensive car that you can’t afford, probably a Mercedes-Benz. Tool around town in it. Act like a tool. Pretend this makes up for all the failed and waste dreams of your youth.
THE NEO-CLASSICAL: Go out and buy an expensive sports car that you can’t afford, probably a Ferrari. Zoom around town in it. Act like a tool. Pretend this makes up for all the failed and waste dreams of your youth.
THE MODERN: Get a mistress, preferably one who is much younger than you. Lavish her with money, gifts, and promises that you will divorce your wife. Pray that nobody ever catches you.
THE POST-MODERN: Get a trophy wife, preferably one who is much younger than you. Lavish her with money, gifts, and promises that you will never divorce her. Pray that nobody ever catches you.
THE NOUVEUAU: Quit your job and do something “that would make the 15-year-old me happy”. Wait for your wife to divorce you.
THE ART-NOUVEUAU: Quit your job and take a swing at whatever unrealistic artistic endeavor you abandoned sometime in your late teens or early twenties when you decided it was “time to get serious about life”.
THE HOBBYIST: Devote all of your time and energy to some sort of meaningless and quite possibly insanely dangerous hobby, such as skydiving, bear-baiting, or gardening (REAL gardeners know what I mean).
THE EXTREMIST: AKA The Sampler. Quit your job, divorce your trophy wife, and let your mistress drive your brand new Ferrari over a cliff while you both go skydiving out the open top.
While I’m more than a little tempted to go for The Neo-Classical, I somehow doubt My Not So Humble Wife would approve. Plus I can’t drive stick, so a Ferrari is kind of out of the question. Besides, I want to do something truly exceptional, something that will set me apart from all the other men who have gone before me and had midlife crises of quiet desperation.
And so I have set out a plan. A most audacious, stunning, some might say awful, plan. It is epic in scope, awe-inspiring in its execution, and if successful, will enshrine me in the annals of history:
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And then, as I spike the head right there on live television, I’ll look straight into the camera an say with a smile, “I’m going to Disney World!” because, you know, sponsors.
So that’s my plan. Is it bold? Certainly. Is it insane? Probably. Is it illegal? In every country and jurisdiction on Earth, with the exception of two. But it will guarantee me immortality.
And isn’t that what it’s really about?
Okay, I have to get this off my chest, because I simply can’t believe this exists. Not that I believe the women who are talking about it are lying, but I simply wish that the humans who share my gender and my interests weren’t such complete asshats. It’s pretty well established by now that I’m not exactly a feminist (as a friend said recently, “I’m not a misogynist, I’m a misanthrope, there’s a difference”), but this shit is beyond the pale.
Lately I’ve seen some (lots of) stories about women being called fake geeks and being chased out of the community of gaming/comics/sci-fi/whatever for not being “real nerds”. Really? And this is happening because… why? I’d ask if the guys who are doing this are twelve, except that I remember being a twelve year old geekling, and if a girl ever showed any interest in the sort of things I cared about I’d be more likely to chase her away by falling all over myself showering her with attention and praise (you know, being creepy) than by challenging her right to be there (you know, being an asshole).
The weird part of this to me is that I’ve walked into a game store and comic shops with my wife and I’ve seen the reaction. First I walk in, and nothing changes. A few guys might look up, they notice one of their own, and then they go back to whatever it was they were doing. Then SHE walks in. (You can even see the capital letters running through their minds when it happens.) A girl. It’s always a girl, never a woman. There’s a sudden pause, like deer caught in the headlights, or possibly roaches caught in the kitchen light. All heads turn towards her to see what she’s going to do, and more importantly if she’s with someone (free range is fair game after all). Then their eyes surreptitiously follow her around the store until we leave. After seeing this happen a few times I could totally understand why neither she nor any woman would want to go into any of those kinds of stores (the weird funk of basement boys aside).
But that at least evidences, albeit in a crude and creepy sort of way, that geek men at least crave the presence of women. And having spent far too much time around geeks, I can say with some authority the only thing they love more than their hobbies is talking about their hobbies. So when a woman comes along who is ready, willing, able, and in fact eager to do just that, what is their response? To chase her away by calling her a “fake geek”.
Mr. Spock, your analysis?
“Highly illogical, Captain.”
That’s what I thought. I’ve heard the (bullshit) argument that at one point in time there were a few media outlets that hired models to pretend to like video games or other things to appeal to geeks and somehow that means all females who ever exhibit any interest in anything geek are forever tainted. Wow, that might be the first time in history anyone has ever used sex appeal to sell anything to anyone ever! </sarcasm> The worst part of that argument is that video game trade shows had been using booth babes for YEARS before that, and these same guys were eating it up with a spoon.
So what happened? Did a girl come along and ask you to engage her in conversation about the relative merits of Star Wars versus Star Trek instead of expecting her to wear both a Princess Leia costume and an original series Trek uniform?
Guys, there are women out there, real women, who share our passions, who care about the same things we care about, love them with the same intensity we do, dive in with the same ferocity and joy, and best of all they want to share it with us. It’s everything we ever dreamed of, and you want to shut them out.
Grow the fuck up.
Dear Madame Curie,
I desperately need the advice of a strong woman like you. I have a major crush on this guy at school, and I really want to tell him, but none of my friends like him. I’m also kind of a nerd, and he’s a football player, so I doubt he’d even be interested. Not to mention he probably doesn’t even know I exist. But I really do think he’s great. What should I do?
Unclear in Love
Dear Radiant Love,
Here’s the thing: I can see right through all of your excuses. You’re scared, and that’s understandable. What if he doesn’t feel the same way? What if things don’t work out? What if your parents forbid you to see him? What if, what if, what if…? But you need to take risks for the things you want in this world. Is there a chance you could get hurt? Of course there is, but nothing worthwhile comes without a price. If you truly wish to achieve success in life, regardless of your pursuit, you must commit yourself completely. Only then will you attain the prize you seek.
Dear Dr. Heisenberg,
I have been dating the same girl for a couple months now, and I thought everything was going just fine. Then the other week she started talking marriage. It seemed totally out of the blue to me, but she acted like it was the most natural thing in the world! It’s not that I’m totally against the idea of getting married, but I’m not sure we’re ready for that conversation yet, you know? Which one of us is right?
Uncertainly In Love
Dear Entangled Pair,
I understand your uncertainty, but you need to stand by your principles. You need to figure out where you are in this relationship before you decide how fast you want to move forward with it. While it may feel as if your partner is exerting an irresistible force on you, you need to remain positive and understand that you are not merely a neutral observer in this. You have to take charge and decide for yourself what you want, and then communicate that effectively. The release in tension you feel will be massive.
Dear Mr. Einstein sir,
My name is Jenny and I have a problem and I hope you can help me. I was going stedy with a boy at skool and I thout everything was fine and I really liked him and I thought he really liked me and then one day he really didn’t like me anymore and now Im very sad and I don’t know what to do.
Ach, the ways of love are more mysterious than the ways of the cosmos. It is easier to understand the structure of the universe than the structure of a man’s heart. Sadly, it has been my experience that emotions, much like matter and energy, can never truly be destroyed; they can only be changed from one to another. In this same way it seems as if this young man who once professed to have a deep Liebe for you has now seen it transformed in the crucible of time to its opposite. I can only offer you the solace of knowing that as strong as his passion is now so it was then, and if you can find the source of the change you may be able to turn him back if it is not too late and you are still interested in making the effort.
I’ve gotten myself into a pickle and I can’t see a way out. There’s a girl I’ve been with for a couple years, and the truth is we only started dating because nobody else would have either one of us. At the time I was kind of chunky, and she’s… well, she’s kind of plain on a good day. She’s a good friend, and we enjoy a lot of the same things, but there’s no real spark. This summer I started working out a lot and I finally got into shape. I also started getting some real attention from other girls, including a girl I’ve had my eye on for a long time. Would it be wrong of me to break it off with the girl I’m dating to pursue the girl I really want? Does that make me shallow that I’m that concerned about the way she looks?
Dear Muscular Mind,
I would theorize you have found yourself in a love triangle… without the love. It is a shame you do not feel eros for the lady you have, and the theia mania has been granted to you for one you have not, but the gods make fools of us all. Still, if philia is not enough to sustain you, and I have never seen it to be such in any man (and certainly not in a young man), it would be an unkindness bordering on cruelty to continue your current relationship regardless of whether your eye strays or if there are others who suddenly find you appealing. But before you sever the ties you have, consider carefully the value of what you are giving up. As you have changed, so may she; and what you once were you may be again. The alchemy of fitness may have worked wonders on a maiden’s eye, but it will do little to sway her heart, and you may find yourself twice alone and twice bereft before you know it.
Today I’m going to talk about a subject I have spent the better part of the last decade proving I know absolutely nothing about: marriage.
When I first started dating the woman who was to become my Not So Humble Wife, she told me I was going to marry her one day. I tried to laugh it off, but I have to admit I felt something when she said it. A certain hush, like all the people who had known me my whole life had taken a collective breath and were holding it in fear… Two years later (and after driving through a hurricane to get the engagement ring – I am not making this up), I finally proposed. It was one of the few times in my life I have managed to both surprise and delight her at the same time (she doesn’t usually like surprises).
So why wait so long? Because we wanted to make sure we were making the right choice. We danced around it, talked about it, noodled on it, even joked about it for a long time, both before and after we moved in together. We both knew we were the “forever and ever” types (none of this “til death do us part” crap – watch our wedding video, it’s in our vows), so we had to make sure this was the right thing. I mean hey, we already had everything we wanted “living in sin”, so did we really need to tie the knot?
We talked about all the things everybody says you should talk about and so many couples don’t because they’re so sure that love is enough. We learned one thing very fast when we moved in together: love is not enough. No amount of love in the world is enough. If nothing else you also need patience. But we also talked about the rest of it. We talked about finances (we agree broadly on how to handle them), we talked about religion (different but compatible), we even talked about kids (she likes them with a wine sauce; I prefer a side of fries).
At the end of I all though we realized that those things, while important to having a successful marriage, are not the reasons why you get married.
Why get married? Because ideally you found someone who makes you just a little bit happier. Most of life is lived in the spectrum of mediocre. When you find the right person, you live most of life at mediocre +1. The good times are just a bit better; the bad times are not so bad. They don’t “complete you”, they don’t “make life perfect”, and they don’t “give you a reason to live”. If you need that, you need therapy. That’s no kind of weight to put on someone else’s shoulders. A good spouse is a partner, someone who will support you when you need it but will also challenge you when you need calling out. They give you a desire and an incentive to be a better person, in whatever way that means to you.
At least, that’s what I’ve found so far.
As the weather changes, a young man’s fancy turns to love, and My Not So Humble Wife’s fancy turns to… well, I’ll let you decide. But be assured the opinions herein are entirely her own. Especially the ones where she makes me out to be anything less than perfect. Which I am.
This week the annual tradition of putting off mowing the lawn for the first time of the year came to a close as our grass topped out at eight inches and started to go to seed like a field of wheat. Even though I live with My Not So Humble Husband and our two male Not So Humble Roommates, I was the first to break, and had to haul the mower from the stale smelling shed which had become home to hundreds of crickets, all of whom took umbrage to my lawn care intrusion.
As I started the mower and set into my mowing pattern, I realized again why mowing was one of my least favorite chores. Lawn mowing is sweaty, dirty, hard work. I’d put it at a dead heat with cleaning the toilet, but probably not as bad as having to de-clog the sinks and tubs.
But it’s the weird looks I get from my neighbors as they drive, jog, or walk by that I had forgotten about during the cold, hay-fever free months. For all the years I’ve lived in this home, when I mow the lawn I get a variety of looks which are usually some mixture of confusion, surprise, and suspicion.
In the fantastic movie Django (which I saw this weekend) there is a scene where a white German bounty hunter and the freed slave Django ride into a small southern town. When the German asks Django why the locals are staring slack-jawed and wide-eyed he replies, “They ain’t never seen no nigger on a horse before.”
Then it hit me. Maybe a woman mowing the lawn is a just a little bit like a “nigger on a horse”. It makes people a little uncomfortable because it’s unusual and generally a “man-chore”. I never noticed it before because, even though I grew up mowing the lawn on a half-acre lot, we lived in the back of a cul-de-sac away from regular neighborhood traffic.
I’m not pointing this out because I think we need gender equality in lawn mowing; I just think it’s interesting. Next time you’re driving through your neighborhood on a sunny Sunday, see how many of the people that are out mowing their lawns are women.
And for all you lawn mowers out there, be you of either gender, here’s some tips on how to mow the lawn like a girl:
- Get someone else to do it, or at least make them clean the toilet.
- If that fails, dress in jeans, not shorts, to avoid rocks and sticks. Also, apply water resistant bug spray.
- Get a self-propelled mower if you don’t already have one. It’s worth it.
- Mow the most visible part of your yard first, that way if you get tired and decide to pack it in your neighbors won’t complain for a few more days.
- Don’t bag your grass cuttings. If you need a good excuse to justify the laziness, it’s actually more environmentally friendly because it reduces run-off and soil erosion. Take that snotty lawn neighbor!
- If you’ve let your lawn get really long (no judgment) mow in a circular pattern with the blower facing away from the uncut side. If the blower is on the right side of the mower, that will be counter-clockwise. This keeps your mower from getting clogged with cuttings and will save you a lot of time.
- If you ignored my sage advice and your mower gets clogged, don’t tip it to the side with the tank full. This will just flood your air filter with gas and the mower won’t run. Tip the mower to the back at a low angle and remove the excess cuttings from between the blade and the cover.
Finally, if people keep looking at you weird, have some fun with them. You can do something gross like spitting or scratching your butt, look at them with an expression of shock and shake your head in disgust to leave them wondering, or rev the mower engine and challenge them to a race. Be creative!Other posts from My Not So Humble Wife:
While I’m not the fashion horse my father was (I don’t think even Prince is the fashion horse my father was), and I’m privileged now to work in an environment where I don’t need to be, I have been working in and around a lot of companies over the years, and in that time I’ve developed a fairly good sense of what professional attire should be. Sad to say, what I have been noticing over the past twenty years is a distinct decline not in what is considered professional attire (sorry, can’t blame it on Casual Friday), but rather in the knowledge and understanding among so-called professionals of what is professional attire.
With that in mind, I’d like to offer the following modest suggestions to men both young and old about what they might want to consider for their professional wardrobe.
First, own at least two suits. By this I mean actual suits, not a pair of slacks and a blazer or sport coat. The kind of suit that you buy as a complete set, coat and jacket (vests are optional and not particularly necessary). Not that there’s anything wrong with a pair of slacks and a sports coat, and in fact I do believe you should own at least a few pairs of slacks and a couple of sports coats that you can mix and match between them as well, but there’s just something about a suit that makes a comprehensive statement you just don’t get any other way.
Also, I’m not speaking about a hand-me-down suit or a suit you purchased at Discount Suit Warehouse. I mean a high quality suit, the kind that comes from a high end retailer or specialty shop. Save up your nickels and dimes and get them on sale if you can, because these kinds of suits are not cheap (trust me, I know this). Many retailers will have sales once or twice a year, and they will offer good discounts on the outgoing styles. Why do you care that they’re last season’s (or even last year’s) fashions? Ideally you will have these suits for years anyway.
While you’re there, make sure to get the suit tailored to you so it fits properly (if you have a favorite tailor elsewhere you can go there, but I have yet to find one who does the job better for less). Don’t let them bully you into wearing the suit the way they say it “should” be worn. I wear the waist of my pants much lower than any tailor seems to think is “right”, and for years my pants didn’t fit right. Then I finally insisted they simply let me wear the pants the same way while them hemmed them as I did when I got them home, and suddenly my pants fit well. Did they look as good as they could? No, but they looked better than they did, because they were tailored for me.
Pick up a lint brush, preferably two. Keep one in your desk drawer at work and one close to the door at home. Use them. Even if you don’t have long hair or a pet, someone else does; your wife, your husband, your girlfriend, your boyfriend, your roommate, the person in the elevator next to you with the five corgis. Hair, lint, and all kinds of other stuff transfers very easily, and you won’t notice you need a lint brush until you don’t have one; if nothing else, you can be the hero of the day for someone else. If you don’t have one handy when you need it you can fake it by rolling some tape (sticky side out) around your hand and running it gently over your suit. It’s not great, but it’s better than nothing, and people will appreciate that you took a little time for your appearance.
Second, I’ve heard more than one person say that if you want to get attention at work you should dress better than your position (or better than the other people at your level). This fascinates me, since I’ve always found that the best way to get attention at work is to be good at your job. Dressing “for the job you want to have” as they say is a good way to annoy the people around you, as it does make you stand out, but not in a good way. If you are good at your job and you’re not getting attention for it, you need to find another job.
What I do recommend is dressing better, worse, or just the same as the people around you, if that’s who you are. What people will respond to is confidence: are you comfortable in your own skin? Are you showing up as the person you believe you are, or are you putting on a show? That’s not to say you should dress inappropriately for the work environment, and if you are completely uncomfortable wearing anything acceptable in that workplace, then again maybe you need to think about getting a different job.
Third, make sure you own at least two nice pairs of shoes. Note that there is a difference between “nice” shoes and “dress” shoes. Any kind of shoes can be nice, and even “dress” shoes can be cheap. Don’t buy cheap dress shoes. As I mentioned earlier, every major retailer has sales, and there’s nothing wrong with them. Make sure to get quality shoes that fit comfortably, because hopefully you’ll be wearing them a lot (because you have a good job to wear them at).
Here’s the thing: if you buy cheap shoes, you will spend a lot of time and money replacing them, and you will have to break them in over and over again (which is not fun), and in the long run you will spend as much money on multiple pairs of cheap shoes as you do on one pair of quality shoes. But there’s more: people notice a man’s shoes, especially if he’s wearing a nice suit (like the one I told you to buy earlier). If you wear cheap shoes with a nice suit, people will laugh at you. Women will laugh at you. Maybe not to your face, but I have heard it. And gentlemen, they are not nice about it. Better a slightly worn pair of quality shoes than a brand new pair of cheap shoes.
Once you have your nice shoes, please be sure to take care of them. Don’t stomp through the mud in them, avoid puddles, don’t walk across the grass in them, and please be sure to polish them. Take care of your shoes, because they are quality, and people notice these things.
That’s not everything you need to know, but it should at least get you started.
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By special request (and to maintain tranquility in my home), I bring you this rebuttal post from My Not So Humble Wife.
After extensive observation I have finally answered a question that has plagued women world-wide for centuries. Why in God’s name do men never clean?!
Let me establish my man observing credentials. For over five years I have lived with my Not So Humble Husband and two dirty male roommates who, for the sake of anonymity, I will refer to as Monkey Boy and Grouchy Gus.
I have tried every method imaginable to get them to clean. Chore schedules, bribery, begging, threats, and the silent treatment had minimal success. Eventually I resorted to “fine then, if you won’t clean then neither will I, and you jerks can just wallow in your own disgusting filth” tactic. If I didn’t do any cleaning, eventually they would HAVE to break down and pick up a damn broom. Right? Right?!
I waited for two weeks twitching when the garbage can overfilled, furious as the carpet developed a layer of filth, and at last surrendered when my Not So Humble Husband proudly completed a three foot high tower of empty Coke cans in the basement. But my defeat was not totally in vain.
I had inadvertently discovered that the vast majority of men have a significantly higher “filth tolerance” than women do. Filth tolerance can be best defined as the messiest point at which you look around your home and decide it’s too gross for human habitation and must be cleaned.
On a filth tolerance scale from 1 to 10, a 1 is equal to “slight dishevelment”, 5 is “day after a wild party”, and 10 is “crack house”. As you can see illustrated in the graph below, I feel that I MUST clean around 3.5 when the floor is dirty, stuff strewn about, something smells, and everything is dusty. Whereas the disgusting men I live with range from 6.5 to 9.5 and will barely register old food containers growing mold, dust thick enough to plant shrubbery, and unknown substances dripping down the wall into a pool on the floor.
But, you may be wondering, WHY is the male filth tolerance SO much higher? I’m glad you asked. It’s my hypothesis that men have developed “filth filtering vision”. It’s well established than men are more single-minded than woman. When they enter a room their filth filter vision kicks in and unable to distinguish any detail that is not relevant to their current objective.
For example, a woman might go into the kitchen for a snack and see a very dirty kitchen (Fig. 1). Meanwhile men with low filth filtering will just see a kitchen (Fig. 2) and men with high filth filters may only be able to perceive those items significant to achieving their goal of finding food (Fig. 3).
Fig 1. Women Vision
Fig 2. Man Vision (Low Filth Filter)
Fig 3. Man Vision (High Filth Filter)
I can only hope that by sharing my discovery, humanity can unite to find a cure to the epidemic of male filth filtering (MFF) which takes a heavy toll on women worldwide and contributes to over seventy five percent of the annual incidents of heavy sighs, evil glares, nagging in shrill tones, and restricted bedroom privileges.
Pray for a cure.