News Brendan O’Connor

Tuesday 30 September 2014

Brendan O'Connor: You're no victim, so forget about that orgy

Mid-life crisis

Published 10/02/2014 | 02:30

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Sofia Helin in The Bridge

The mid-life crisis is a serious, profound issue, according to mid-life consultant Bernie Muir, of mid-life consultancy Overton Smith. The typical mid-life crisis merchant is apparently quite successful. "Then, out of the blue," says Helen Moore, also a mid-life consultant with Overton Smith, "their perception of the value of it all seems to change. The men suddenly feel a bit-part player in a meaningless future, they feel alienated from everything."

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I tell you this, not to show off that I have done some research, or to try to claim that us men in the middle are suffering from a legitimate medical condition. Though the latter could be handy when you get caught snogging the young one from accounts or when you arrive home with a canary yellow sports car – "I can't help it. It's a medical condition. I need your help, not your condemnation. I am a sick, sick man. Have some pity on me."

I tell you this to point out to you that the world has clearly gone mad, when we have medicalised the mid-life crisis, and people are managing to knock a career out of consulting to it. Apparently the typical mid-life crisis takes two years and treatment for it will take six months.

For anyone who feels they need a consultant to gently encourage them not to have an affair or not to buy a sports car or not to generally make a fool of himself, I say to you, Do you not have a wife? Save your money, tell her how you feel and you'll get the gentle encouragement you require.

The bit-part player in a meaningless future bit is interesting though. Something I have noticed recently about middle aged men, and indeed a few women, is a terrible tendency towards victimhood. It is not uncommon these days to see people with what seem like successful lives and powerful positions in society moaning about how they are victims, blaming their problems on a world that just doesn't understand them. You would sometimes find yourself unkindly wondering how the poor lambs would feel if they had any real problems.

We can all have that tendency towards victimhood in the middle years, an adolescent tendency to think the world just doesn't understand you and if it wasn't for X, everything would be different and you would live the life of your dreams.

I have decided that victimhood is probably our natural state at this point in life. You tend to wake up, open the curtains, and think, in the immortal lines of Jimmy Rabbitte, "well, another fuck of a day". And like anything else that you do all the time, it can become a habit.

In our house, blame is so ingrained in the culture that even the six-year-old, if she falls or something, is now automatically programmed to say "Look what you made me do now". Damage to life and limb can be assessed afterwards. The first urgent matter is to apportion some blame, and not on yourself, and once blame has been palmed off on someone else, the pain of everything else becomes bearable.

I can tend to blame people for everything. Imagine the life I could have without my children, travelling the world, staying in cool hotels, eating in all these new hipster restaurants, going on yoga holidays and meeting other like-minded people so we could all discuss the meaning of life before having a vigorous orgy.

But instead I stay at home, go to work, come home and watch precisely one episode of The Bridge each evening before drinking my night-time tea and going to bed. And, of course, if it's not the kids making my life a misery, it's the bosses.

I say I can tend to blame them all. But I don't allow it. Because my victimhood would only be a burden for me. I can't help noticing that all the victims I see and meet all the time are tormented by it, whereas their alleged oppressors are blissfully ignorant of shouldering the blame for it. Mid-life victimhood just corrodes the victim, not the victimiser. My kids don't give a damn that they are holding me back, from, say, being an international jewel thief and playboy.

And the more I think of it, the more I wouldn't actually like to be an international playboy. I certainly wouldn't like a vigorous orgy with yoga types. I probably do actually like watching The Bridge, seeing as that is what I choose to do.

And it's all very simple. Just wake up every morning and decide you are not a victim of your circumstances today. Today you own your world and you can do whatever you want to do with it. And stop moaning. Because nobody cares. And there's people starving in Africa.

And then go to work and come home and watch The Bridge.

But do it all knowing that you are in charge and you have a choice.

Irish Independent

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