My Male Mid-life Crisis – the way I see it!

Name: Keith W   Location: London UK   Interview Date: March 20, 2012

Keith W, London UKThis month’s Hot Seat Interview is with Keith W, a middle-aged man from London, UK. Keith talks to 50ish.org about his experiences adjusting to his own midlife transition.

He explains how he got through the mid-life crises that many a man seems to be confronted with at some point during his middle years.

So without further ado, lets begin the March interview and see what the man has to say about his transition into middle-age.

Q Hello Keith, and welcome to the 50ish.org Hot Seat Interview. Please start by telling our readers how old you are now and what you do for a living?

A Hello. I am now (just) 58, and I work as an economist. I am based in London, but I travel and work mainly in Asia.

Q Most experts agree that the male midlife crisis occurs somewhere between 40 and 50 years of age. Can you remember how old you were when you first noticed a change in the way you viewed yourself and the world around you?

AI remember feeling quite ‘young’ throughout my 40s – I have always looked relatively young for my chronological age – but was quite intimidated by my upcoming 50th birthday.

For me, that was probably the starting time of greatest ‘crisis’, but significant feelings of some uncertainty, insecurity and confusion lasted for far longer.

Q Was this something that just crept up on your unawares, or was it more spontaneous than that?

AI had quite an ugly divorce just about the time I turned 40. Once it was (largely) over, it gave me a new lease of life and I felt quite liberated by it for a while.

I had several relationships and a more active sex life than for quite a few years. However, as time went on and throughout my 40s, I was aware of some quite subtle changes (like not feeling very attractive to seemingly ever-younger women and also struggling to maintain my weight).

I wasn’t as motivated by sex as previously, and what had initially seemed like a ‘second childhood’ began to go a bit stale. I noticed the people I was working with seemed to be getting younger, and often looked to me for guidance.

I was also aware that my parents were ageing rapidly and that they would (relatively) soon be dying – this tended to focus my thoughts on mortality and also I had to organize my life more to manage their care.

Q Are you still going through a crisis of sorts, or is it all behind you now?

AI’d say that the crisis period has been behind me for some time. Nowadays I feel quite stable and settled, and the major issues that pre-occupied me in my early 50’s are behind me.

My parents have both died, my children are both grown-up and settled, and I would say I am more reconciled to (and accepting of) my situation in life – particularly in respect of the inevitability of aging.

Q It’s said that the male midlife crisis can last up to 10 years or more in some cases. How long did/is your predicament go/going on for, and what, if anything, did you do to get over it?

AI felt unsettled and unsure for quite a few years – probably 5-6 in all.

While I was looking after my parents I was too busy to think about my own situation too much, but after they had died I was forced to confront my own circumstances more directly. As my kids had largely grown-up, they also had lives of their own to lead, and it suddenly seemed like I had a lot of time on my hands and little clear purpose anymore.

Q When you were experiencing your midlife crisis Keith, was there ever a time where you felt reluctant, embarrassed even, to tell people your ‘real’ age?

A No – not really. People usually think I am younger than I am.

Q Experts say that this period of natural transition can best be described as an emotional crisis of identity. Would you agree with that theory?

AYes. For me it was a time of looking back over what I had so far achieved (in terms of work, money/financial security, family responsibilities) and also beginning to think about what would come along in future.

There was quite a profound realization that those years of relative youth would not be coming back, and there was only a finite amount of time for whatever I might still want to do. Mainly I think I was forced to consider what I wanted to do with my life in future – and for me that was quite unsettling.

Q Was there ever a time during periods of quiet reflection where you felt any shame, remorse, or guilt about the way your life had turned out?

AI felt remorseful for some of my behaviour during my marriage. I had always been a good provider financially for the family, but I’d been unfaithful, had drunk too much, and often undermined my ex-wife because of my own insecurities.

I had also neglected my parents somewhat – mainly by going overseas and often not being in contact for long periods. Once I became a parent of older children myself I realized how hurtful this must have been.

I think I also felt that I had not been successful enough in my career – despite having worked continuously and travelled extensively.

Q So you viewed your past self with feelings of regrettable loss and bitter disappointment right?

ASome feeling of loss certainly (e.g. for a traditional family life with my kids), but also I realized had been a good father and (eventually) son as well.

There were some disappointments (e.g. with my working career), but ‘bitter’ is too strong a term in my case.

Q Looking back now, would you say that these regrets were real or fancied, and if the latter, how do you currently view your past life?

A Looking back to that time, I would now say that my assessment of myself was a bit too harsh; I have since become more accepting of myself both as I then was and as I am now.

Q So you no longer feel restricted or trapped as you did during the crisis period?

A No – I don’t feel restricted or trapped nowadays, although I do recognise the limitations (physical, financial etc) of my situation.

Q What about the booze? Did alcohol help to take the edge off your mid-life crisis, and if so, do you now view it as something that helped or hindered your transition into middle age?

AI had drunk far too much prior to my 50’s, and in fact it had become a problem for me. With help, I stopped drinking when I was 40 and have never regretted that. For me, I know that drinking would have made my whole situation – including any attempts to understand or deal with a midlife crisis – far, far worse.

I have many friends of my own age from school and university days who still drink, some quite a lot (though they probably don’t think so); my observation would be that – in general – it only helps them temporarily avoid issues and feelings, and it certainly makes any physical problems worse over time.

Q Putting aside past regrets then, let’s now look at that other untouchable uncertainty, the future. Did you ever experience feelings of impending doubt that agitated you, and if so, which areas caused you the most grief at the time?

AAfter both my parents had died (when I was then 53) I had a prolonged period of ‘existential’ crisis, about what I wanted to do with the future.

It suddenly felt that I had little purpose – with no children or parents to look after, and only my own situation to consider. I think I had never really known what I had wanted to do and had followed a fairly traditional path from school to university to work and suddenly I was free to do whatever I might ‘really’ want; my problem was that I had no idea what that was.

I have always had feelings of impending catastrophe and tend to imagine the worst will happen anyway. It is not difficult for me to imagine I will be ill, alone, poor and homeless, even if none of these have really happened to me yet.

Q Now, not every man will go through a ‘silly period’ during this stage in his natural development, but many do. So did you, or did you at least think about, indulging in any of the clich activities or expensive possessions that are pursued by many a middle-aged men purely to impress others?

A No, not really. I have always tried to keep my life in possession-terms fairly simple. Sports cars, speedboats, motorbikes etc do not interest me at all.

Q Was looking younger, or at least acting more youthful, something that became a bit of an obsession with you at your life’s halfway stage, and if yes, what kind of things did you do in your attempts to achieve this ‘new image’?

A I had a brief relationship with a much younger woman when I just turned 50. When it ended I think I felt very unsettled by it – I think it made me realise my real age for the first time. One response was to cut and dye my hair partly blonde. At the time it seemed like quite a good look, but now when I see the pictures, I am not so sure. It gave my kids a laugh at the time, though.

Q What about your clothing. Were there any major changes in your style?

A No, not really. I have always tried to dress pretty ‘cool’ and ‘casual’ – I spend most of my time in jeans (in the winter) and shorts (in the summer) anyway.

Q How about cosmetic surgery? Was this something that you had done, or seriously considered doing, and if so, what part of your body needed cutting, tucking, or trimming up, in your opinion?

A Never, never, never. Absolutely not! I find it difficult to imagine doing these things myself. I have one friend who has had cosmetic surgery on several occasions and, although it didn’t seem too bad at the time, as the years go on he looks stranger and stranger.

Q Did you dye your hair or start searching for and plucking out grey one on a regular basis?

A Nowadays I am happy with my hair colour (it is mousy brown with increasing grey throughout). I am just glad that most of it is still on my head. I do cut the nasal and ear hairs and trim my eyebrows – and the barbers do this for me as well.

Q What about anti-aging creams and lotions. Did they become the new ‘must-have’ items on the shopping list along with your regular toiletries?

A Not really. I have used a basic moisturizer for the last 10 years, and I would say this has kept my face looking reasonably young.

QOn a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being the most optimistic), how would you score the following areas of your life today:

1. Health & fitness levels
2. Friendships/relationships status
3. Financial security
4. Lifestyle
5. General happiness
6. Future goals

A 1. Health & fitness levels (8)
2. Friendships/relationships status (8)
3. Financial security (6)
4. Lifestyle (7)
5. General happiness (7)
6. Future goals (5)

I am in pretty good physical shape, have a lot of friends (and am quite happy without a ‘relationship’, thank you very much) and am somewhat reconciled to my work situation.

I do worry about finances – the world seems increasingly uncertain and I have no occupational pension (I wonder how my savings will perform in years to come), but overall I am happy with my present lifestyle.

I’d like to maintain this situation for as long as I can. I have a few goals regarding travel, and would like to see my children happy but that is about it. I am not looking to run General Motors.

Q If you could pass on some valuable advice to other men approaching middle age, or currently in the midst of a mid-life crisis of their own, what would it be?

A I’d say try to allow time for this to pass and that there is nothing unusual about it anyway. Try to not give yourself too hard a time when reviewing the past, and be both realistic and positive about the future.

For me, absolutely critical was getting a comprehensive physical overhaul, and the motivation to get in as good a physical shape as I could.

Regular exercise as part of a daily routine keeps the demons away, helps me eat well (a good diet is also fundamental to feeling good for me), and allows me to enjoy life much more all-round.

Q Keith, it’s been great interviewing you. We appreciate you honest answers to the questions posed here. I’m sure those that read this will be grateful for your frankness on what is often a touchy subject, so thanks very much.

A Thanks Andy, I’ve enjoyed doing it.
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About Andy Aitch

This Hot Seat Interview was conducted by Andy Aitch, globetrotter, writer, musician, netentrepreneur and founder of this project.

Andy’s Motto: A man is not old until his dreams become his regrets

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