Life

Thursday 16 August 2018

The new hallmarks of a midlife crisis for the Irish man

Forget the sports car - we're now marking the middle-age milestone by running a marathon. Tanya Sweeney counts down the warning signs

Stock photo
Stock photo

Tanya Sweeney

Time once was that a man on the verge of a midlife crisis was easy to spot. There was the flashy sports car, the interesting new haircut, the ill-fitting leather jacket, not to mention the office junior flirtation (or worse, the full-blown affair).

But being in one's 40s or 50s now is an entirely different beast than it once was. Put it this way, Brad Pitt is now 54 - the exact same age Charlie Haughey was when he first became Taoiseach in 1979. Colm Meaney was 40, a year younger than Michael Fassbender is today, when he starred as everyone's favourite dad in The Snapper in 1993.

Marathon man: Gordon Ramsay lost 50lbs to compete in an Ironman competition
Marathon man: Gordon Ramsay lost 50lbs to compete in an Ironman competition

Likewise, women are staying much younger for longer. Actress Jean Alexander was 36 when she took on the iconic role of Hilda Ogden in Coronation Street, making her a year younger at the time than Kim Kardashian.

The midlife crisis has become less a comic reaction to an existential crisis, and more a practical, concerted effort to subtly roll back the years.

In fact, new research by healthcare group Bupa suggests that the modern midlife crisis is more often marked by a health kick than a Lamborghini.

Running a marathon is now a more common reaction to a middle-age milestone, with 24pc of respondents signing up to run a huge endurance event. Meanwhile, half the women surveyed either signed up to a gym or hired a personal trainer after a landmark birthday.

Gwyneth Paltrow embraced laser therapy. Photo: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images
Gwyneth Paltrow embraced laser therapy. Photo: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

The study of 3,000 adults showed that these lifestyle changes lasted around three to five years on average, with only five per cent of respondents maintaining their new regime for eight years or more.

Yet the experts believe that the midlife crisis is as intense a psychological experience as it ever was.

Sharron Grainger, lead psychologist at the Connolly Counselling Centre in Stillorgan, Dublin (counsellor.ie), says that what might seem like a midlife crisis is a malaise that isn't uniquely felt by men.

"As women compete alongside men for greater status in the workplace, whilst in some cases also juggling managing the family home, the reality of reaching middle age can be daunting for some, and the emotion experienced is not gender specific," she says.

David and Victoria Beckham renewed their wedding vows
David and Victoria Beckham renewed their wedding vows

But what are the new warning signs? Do any of the age-old clichés still ring a bell? Let's take a look at how the midlife crisis of today fares with that of yesteryear.

 

THEN: Botox

NOW: Laser therapy

When it's not done well, Botox can have way too many tell-tale signs, especially once your eyebrows start inching towards your receding hairline. Laser therapy, meanwhile, encourages the body to produce new collagen and elastin, resulting in a natural youthful glow, and a reduction in laughter lines. More hardcore types let their laughter lines fly freely. Well, if it works for Jennifer Aniston and Gwyneth Paltrow…

 

THEN: Clubbing

NOW: Yoga holidays

Clubbing rarely makes anyone feel younger. At best, it makes people of a certain age feel deafer, and possibly drunker. Smarter types are keenly aware that it's the accumulation of rejuvenating experiences that will keep them looking and feeling young. No glow sticks or drinks promotions required.

 

THEN: A fling with a younger model

NOW: Renewing your vows

Between alimony, custody battles and pricey divorce lawyers, the midlife fling just isn't worth it anymore. Besides, it's a careworn cliché, and the only thing worse than getting older is being pathetically predictable. Instead, the likes of the Beckhams and Beyoncé and Jay-Z express their commitment to one another by renewing their vows.

 

THEN: A Ferrari

NOW: Cycling to work

These days, the new status symbol isn't a car, but an expensive, lightweight bicycle. Or for full midlife crisis points, add a Go-Pro and Mamil (middle-aged men in Lycra) accoutrements.

 

THEN: A dramatic career change

NOW: Becoming a blogger

Years ago, being passed over for promotion time and time again meant that a Falling Down-type meltdown was imminent. Now an increasing number of men and women are ditching the nine-to-five grind and trying their hand at this 'influencer' lark. Whether it's 'mummy' blogging, shilling scented candles from China or spending the redundancy money on high-tech gadgets, nothing makes someone feel more relevant than being fully on the cyber-grid.

 

THEN: Dyeing your hair

NOW: Daily moisturising

Whatever the ads say, those dye kits for blokes (as well as those bizarre plum shades for women) are a disaster waiting to happen. The silver fox look (or, likewise, honey blonde) is certainly more in fashion these days.

 

THEN: Wilderness survival weekends

NOW: Going to the World Cup/Olympics

A weekend spent trying to build a fire or catch fish in some godforsaken part of the Irish countryside just doesn't have the same glamour quotient as a blow-the-budget trip to a major sporting event in some far-off exotic destination.

 

THEN: Hot flashes

NOW: A ménage-a-trois

In her book There Are No Grown Ups, author Pamela Druckerman writes about how, instead of worrying about how she looked, she decided to put some spark into her sex life with a carefully planned ménage-a-trois with her husband. So much for the idea that a woman's sex life dwindles after a certain age.

 

THEN: A hipster wardrobe

NOW: Buying a prestige watch

Sure, they've looked at the satin bomber and the leather jacket, but by now everyone knows that an investment piece like a new watch not only looks flash, but will definitely stand the test of time.

 

THEN: Retreating to the pub

NOW: Retreating to the man cave (or a €16,000 bespoke shed, á la David Cameron)

Why pay over the odds for Carlsberg and inane chat with a load of other barflies when you can chug craft beers with complete impunity in front of Netflix?

Irish Independent

Life Newsletter

Our digest of the week's juiciest lifestyle titbits.

Editors Choice

Also in Life