mid-life what?

I always think it’s a bit sad the way people try to control and put down those they don’t approve of. I don’t mean criticism of ideas on the level of ideas,  or of harmful behaviour in the realm of actions. I mean the sniping, passive aggressive, cowardly put down, directed at the person who is sensed to be a potential outsider. Directed at men it often takes a castrating, vilifying tone, at women a shaming and vicious one. You may as well just call them “paedo” and “slut”, because that’s about the level of implied discourse. In fact sexual slurs around outsiders are a common weapon (and you should add the “queer” terms of abuse too) reflecting a desire to wound, shame, and exclude, probably reflecting the insulters’ own issues.

We’re taught way too often that conformity is credibility. Despite there being real windows of lucid perception in youth, it is unfortunately also a truly backward and mean minded age. The cool outsiders have usually had to pay dearly for their position, which they can’t help anyway, and get few rewards for. It’s one of those really crap things in life, that the stupid, bullying moms and dads, and the stupid, bullying kids, are the ones who get the rewards and easy time all too often. The shadow side of clan and family is thug rule unfortunately (don’t gangsters all “love their moms” as the world goes “ahh”?), whether by violence or manipulation. Dress it up how you like, it’s the same old shit.

If teenagers bear a hefty brunt for daring to be individual or different, another window opens later in years quite often, in that time called mid-life. There are actually reasons for that astrologically, such as the Uranus return (more rightly an opposition) that occurs in the 40s, and other things that follow in the 50s like the Neptune and Uranus trines, and the second Saturn return that happens near to 60. And we have the stereotype of the mid-life crisis.

That very term though is so psychologically illiterate. It’s like all it cares about is the outside, the appearance, what you can use a person for. Because honestly, who has not been going through crises all their life? The term is actually a kind of punishment for daring to grow, and showing it. Look at that woman, who does she think she is, dressing like that, getting big ideas, thinking she can start dreaming now? Look at that guy, making a fool of himself like a kid, like his life is starting or something. Aren’t you someone’s parent? Shouldn’t you be less of an embarrassment? Shouldn’t you be forgetting about sex and art and adventure? Shouldn’t you be more useable?

The answer is no, and it’s called who that person is. If you couldn’t tell before, it says more about the world than it does about them usually.

I feel like I was lucky growing up. I had a cool older sister, and it was the 70s and weird was pretending to be in, convincingly enough for it to make a difference. I went to a liberal comprehensive school in Fulham. I never thought that “old people” should behave any different from me, and I never thought that children weren’t individuals.

But I know a lot of the world is not like that. People get bullied and demonized and treated cruelly at any age, by conformists of any age (and they always think that they are the real grown ups, and the people with real credibility).

If you are on the wrong side of this, take it from an old freak. Those people might not change, but you do. You grow, they go. Others will be back, but you’ll learn to ignore them. You’ll keep growing, you’ll keep being yourself, and you’ll find company. It will get awesome, even if it’s difficult sometimes.

You won’t have a mid-life crisis. You’ll just outlive the requirements of conformists.

Long live.

By Tony Alter from Newport News, USA (Hippie Tim’s Tattoo Uploaded by theveravee) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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9 Comments

  1. Yup. It seems that one alleged opposite side to conformity is styled ‘eccentricity’.

    As a youth I was pretty much always an outsider, and I was one of the reclaimers of the word ‘bastard’ in Ireland given the circumstances of my birth. I often thought ‘call me that and I’ll really show you what a bastard I can be’. And I did 😇

    From what I experienced, conformity appears mostly to be rooted in fear; fear of the unknown, fear of the different, fear of that which is not understood, fear of that which is ‘too big’, fear of that which is TOO .
    It says much, not so much about the object or individual in scrutiny, as about those doing the scrutinising & reacting.

    Conformity also restricts exploration of those things listed above, preferring to continue in fear of them; thus conformity is usually conservative in its nature.

    Things I’ve picked up on about those conservative folk is that they sometimes feel threatened by those who fearlessly explore, express, examine and are open to development in diverse & perhaps unexpected ways.

    Youth is frequently the first time that a person may have commenced individualisation via the exploring, expressing, examining & growing.
    And how frequently the fearful conservative conformers have tried to apply exclusionist terms like ‘juvenile delinquent’ to such young people and attempted to legislate in order to clip their wings, to get them to conform to that which is known to be ‘safe’ within their own little conservative cocoons.

    Why do they do this? Is it misguided caring? Or a drive to slap down that which might hold up a mirror to them, to force them to question the ways in which they took the ‘safe’ options in life?
    Is it a mirror which might show missed opportunity, an alternative life possibly more fulfilled by following a dream instead of a plan? Does it show how despite their best wishes those conservative conformers have turned out to be just like their parents as did every other boring generation before them?

    So, moving from the youth to those in adulthood …
    Mid-life crisis ….? What exactly is it? And who might experience it?

    • Thanks Alan, great comments. I think the “misguided caring” might be its camouflage, might be part of its disingenuous justification, a kind of suppressive parentalism, but there is no real care there, because you cannot base real care on fear and negation of selfhood, and the idea that you try and humiliate and hurt because you “care” is just twisted. So really I’d go with the mirror, and what it shows to conformists. Other children imitate it because they also fear, and because they see it as a model of power, and both adults and children so affected project it onto both children and adults in different ways. At least that’s what I have noticed.

  2. I’ve seen a few different things which some folk have styled a ‘mid-life crisis’.

    There has been the woman who had been a homemaker & mother, about whom the occasional rumour circulated regarding her husband ‘staying out at night’. And then she walked out of the marital home, got an apartment, a job, cut her hair, and started enjoying the company of younger men, several of them.

    There is the guy who bought the sports car and is seen riding around in it with a younger woman who may or may not go on to become his ‘trophy wife’.

    So what might be going on under the ‘easy to apply’ tag of ‘mid-life crisis’?

    The woman dared to walk away from an abusive relationship once her children had grown up; having put them first until they got to adulthood she was now prioritising herself, taking an interest in herself.
    If she had started doing this some time after the death of her partner then folk might have been relieved that she was returning more to ‘normal’ life.
    The conservative conformers appear to be judging on the circumstances of the act than on the act itself.
    So with those conservative conformers, I have to ask whether it is all about the external appearance of the circumstances rather than the driving facts of the matter?

    Regarding the sports car guy; did he see his future self in the face of his recently-deceased father lying in the coffin & realise that life is short, carpe diem? Or perhaps he saw that having worked for years he could now afford to fulfil some dreams.
    Or maybe he just thought ‘fuck it, I’m gonna have some fun’ 😃

    Maybe it’s me, but each time I have seen a scenario where the narrow-minded (oops, did I say that aloud?) self-limiting fearful conservative conformists apply the term ‘mid-life crisis’ to somebody, what I have seen is somebody working attempting to resolve some issue or issues which they were not content or happy about.
    Granted, repeatedly taking a whole pile of drugs & alcohol might not be my preferred way of resolving an issue, but perhaps the issue is so difficult to deal with for some folk that this may be the only way they can see of trying to cope with it.

    Sympathy, empathy & support are always of more use than the ready off-the-cuff judgements so loved of the fearful non-understanding conformists.

    • I very much agree. Also, defining another person’s change as “crisis” because it doesn’t fit your expectation may have nothing to do with the person’s experience, which as you say may be a resolution of a crisis (that the onlooker just doesn’t value or care about). The conformist judgement always seems to be about what “we” can use, or what we might loose control of, not about the individual’s well being or reality. And another element to this seems to often be *moralism*, that rank quality where people give up individuality and responsibility in return for a sense of superiority and “being right” and protected.

  3. Speaking personally ……(Ooooohhh, the audience murmurs ….)

    Only once has anybody dared to try to apply the term ‘mid-life crisis’ to me. She was a family member, and she lived to regret saying what she did.
    Going back some years ago, I found myself in a long-term relationship where I felt I was striving to do the communicating etc & wasn’t being heard, it was more a sense of being ignored, blanked, on several different levels, over a fair period of time.
    The scenario became more unsatisfactory until I got to the point of thinking “if I have to do another 10 years with you I don’t know who I will kill first, you for being such a pig or me for having put up with it for that long!” 😃

    At that stage I did some thinking and reflection, weighed up my options, thought about my age & how much more life I might have ahead of me that was worth more than this, sought the confidential opinion of some folk, thought some more, and ended the relationship. 😱🔫

    I then met the person who became & is my partner, in life, in crime, and in all the rest of it. It was not a relationship I drifted into, it was gifted a lot of thought & time, plenty of discussion & honesty, because I did not want to end up in a situation similar to before.

    So when the silly family-member cow publicly said to me “Oh you left xxx and ran off with yyy, was it a mid-life crisis?!” I gave her the gentle but equally public reminder that her own partner had previously also been in a long-term relationship with somebody else before her, and enquired whether she would regard her relationship with him as being his mid-life crisis.
    Not wishing to remind folk too much but, as I said before, I have worked on reclaiming the word ‘bastard’ 😃

  4. Is being an ‘eccentric’ older outsider given an easier ride than being a ‘juvenile delinquent’ younger outsider?

    Consider the older man who is happy to live alone, in his strangely multi-coloured house, who is sometimes seen going down the road to who-knows-where wearing a top hat with a feather in it. Or the older woman who stereotypically has many cats, wears a polka dot anorak even on a sunny day, and once a week gets dressed up very stylishly & heads off somewhere, who-knows-where. ‘They’ would love to know, but are too reticent & conservative to enquire.

    Are such people considered to be less of a threat to the conservative conformists?
    Is that because of the relative ‘invisibility’ of many older people until they suddenly assemble en-masse with a purpose?

    Are they the individualised folk who have survived having labels such as ‘delinquent’ and ‘mid-life crisis’ shoved towards them and rejected them, becoming strong enough to absolutely not give a damn about what folk, usually the conservative conformists, think of them or might say about them behind their backs? Because they have survived any real crisis in their lives, not just the ones imagined by those others?
    Perhaps because they see the conservative conformers for what they are, folk filled with fear at the concepts of difference, change, evolution, challenge, individuality?

    I’ve waffled an awful lot here for this time of night.
    But be sure of one thing! For whatever remaining time I have here I’m going to continue to be a proud bastard; an outsider who mingles with other outsiders to create critical mass to our benefit; I’m going to discreetly continue to chat with people to encourage & up-skill them to think individually, freely, creatively, independently of the conservative conformist State machine & it’s supporters so that they can hopefully lead a full happy life fearless & free of those who try to clip their wings with labels & judgements. 😃

    Having said that I am now going to apply the label ‘tired’ to myself and go to bed 😜

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