The tell-tale signs he's going through a midlife crisis . . .
As Tim Robbins releases an album, John Costello looks at men's reactions to 'the wobble'
Published 25/08/2010 | 05:00
Some men buy red sports cars, others trade their wife in for a newer model, but actor Tim Robbins decided on something a little more unusual to get over his midlife wobble.
The Oscar-winning star decided to write an album of songs.
"I was thinking about calling it The Midlife Crisis Album, but then I thought that's not going to sell any copies," he joked on the BBC radio show Desert Island Discs. "Then I thought, 'How about Songs of Love and Misery?'" The album is due for release later this year.
"I think we all go through something, it's inevitable, it's unavoidable," Robbins said. "You're staring some kind of frightening thing down. It's when you pass 40. Inherently we double our age when we think about life. At 40 you can imagine 80. You start thinking about how many years you've got left, and you start thinking, 'What the hell am I doing here?'"
Overall, Robbins' crisis proved a pretty rocky ride when he was plunged into a spiral of "insanity" after the collapse of a film project of his. Just two months later -- in December of last year -- the now 51-year-old had split from his lover and partner of 23 years, Susan Sarandon, even though they were once seen as one of Tinseltown's most enduring partnerships.
But while Hollywood's boulevards and avenues throughout America are littered with the ashes of midlife crisis, are Irish men of a certain age as susceptible to such indulgences?
"I'm still waiting to get my wobbly moment," laughs entrepreneur and Apprentice head honcho Bill Cullen. "I'm a very positive guy so I just get on with things. I think it's all about believing, 'today builds your future and yesterday is history.' As my granny used to say to me, 'Yesterday is history, tomorrow's a mystery. You only have today. So use it well, son'."
Most Irish men find a midlife crisis just too much of a hassle, according to Newstalk's Sean Moncrieff.
"I'd imagine a midlife crisis is very exhausting," he says. "You'd kind of reach a point when it's 10:30 and you want to put your slippers on and she wants to go out dancing. And you are like, 'Aw jasus, I hope we don't have to have sex tonight'."
So as the host of the Moncrieff show approaches 50, is he considering going a little wild any time soon?
"I've been going through my midlife crisis since I was 23!" he says. "But to be honest, I don't think I know anybody who did all those clichéd things. You can have a midlife crisis if you can afford to have a midlife crisis.
"If you have lots of money, you can go off and do that; but if you don't have money, you have to live in the real world a bit more.
"The old fat blokes you see in sports cars with young ones beside them are obviously in that position because they have the money to afford the car and the young one. But now with the recession, I think it's off the agenda for many men."
So what exactly are the typical traits to look for when your man is in midlife crisis freefall?
"You get lots of that, men leaving their wives and/or buying fast cars. You also see people making career decisions that may not be for the best," says Dublin-based psychotherapist Coinneach Shanks.
'It's different for everyone, but severe problems can arise when it becomes an obsession and a concentration on one thing at the exclusion of others. Basically, when it interferes with your work, your relationships or your functioning at any level, it's a problem."
While the stereotype is male, women too can fall prey to the psychological dilemma brought about by the onset of age.
"Women are just the same as men when it comes to midlife crisis," says Shanks.
"Women, of course, have the menopause and that stimulates lots of things they have to deal with. While men don't have that very abrupt physical change in their bodies, midlife crisis can work on a psychological level also for women."
If you suspect a friend is going through a midlife crisis, the advice is be gentle, as few of us will admit to it.
"It is important not to be confrontational," advises Shanks. "I think it is very difficult to approach someone head- on. People do tend to reject things they are told that are uncomfortable for them. We all do. So gently does it. You could point out the things the other person is doing that are concerning you and point out the way they used to be."
But, even though few seem willing to 'fess up to having a midlife crisis, one Irishman wears his as a badge of honour.
"It's almost like being a member of a club," says Paul Allen, who owns his own public relations firm.
"It is actually a very private thing, but you can be sure the individual will have been scheming for months -- and maybe even years.
"Those who can afford it can live out a fantasy, but it's just a bit of harmless fun. The fact that few of us admit to being involved in a midlife crisis copperfastens the fact that you've had one.
"People should wear it like a badge of honour."
While Allen bought a big motorbike, he knows plenty of others who have joined the club.
"I know people who have developed fetishes for buying classic cars and other madness," he says.
"In the view of the current crisis, people have had to cop themselves on. Money does help, of course, but I think it's just a statement to say you have your independence and freedom. Another guy I know bought a Harley Davidson but he has never taken it out of the garage.
"Someone else I know bought a wolfhound because he always wanted one."
And what's the matter with that, you may ask.
"Well, as with most midlife crisis episodes, it's not very practical," says Allen. "The guy lives in an apartment."