So you're sailing toward your golden years (thought about that one lately?) and your response to the researcher is "Mid-life crisis? What mid-life crisis? I can't remember being happier." Of course the gen-xer asking the questions interprets that as meaning you're happy with your life. When what you mean is you REALLY can't remember a damn thing when you want to.
So where do 77% of baby boomers and beyond get off with this crap? Don't they know the closest they'll get to a tanned and toned body is Wild on the Beach on E! The Entertainment Channel? And by the time it comes on, they'll be passed out from their Tylenol PM?
Tom Brokaw can write aboutThe Greatest Generation but what did they really do? Go through the Great Depression, win World War II, change the social fabric of America? What's that compared to Woodstock?
You better listen to those of us who ARE having a mid-life crisis. It's the worst thing that could happen to you at this age. And you shouldn't miss it for the world.
Dante Alligeri begins The Divine Comedy by taking a walk. If, as biblical scripture says, the life of man is three score and ten, that would make him thirty-five. And look what happens. He meets Virgil who then guides him through Hell. And he gets to put all the popes, politicians and poets he doesn't like in the levels of the Inferno. Now, if Dante was having a peach of a time, why did he go on that walk with a classical poet who had been dead for 1000 years?
That's just one reason to have the mid-life crisis you deserve. You might write a classic and get revenge on everyone you don't like. See, a Prozac-like attitude never created anything worth remembering.
At least Dante was sure of when his mid-life began. The authors of the recent research study funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation couldn't even agree upon when middle age begins. The age of their interview subjects was 25 to 74, according to Erica Goode in the February 17, 1999 edition ofThe New York Times. Right away there should be no doubt about the trash can worthiness of this little full-employment-for-researchers project. That is such a broad age range that the scores are sure to be skewed by the ignorance of the yet-to-be challenged by midlife and the gratefulness of the already-through-it. It's called outliers in the measures of centrality part of statisics. Tell me again how representative this study was?
Goode summarizes the report as finding that
"Between the ages of 35 and 65, and particularly between 40 and 60, people reported increased feelings of well-being and a greater sense of control over many parts of their lives."
The control they're talking about must be bladder control because they're buying Depends, Attends, Serenity undergarments that are so heavily promoted by Madison Avenue nowadays.
Goode goes on to report that
"A majority of the participants in the MacArthur study said they felt better about their lives than they did 10 years before. Finances and sexual activity were the areas over which people in the study felt they has least control."
So, let me get this straight. If money and sex are less secure, what's there to feel better about? Are you starting to sense a feelgood conspiracy here? I am.
And this clinches my suspicions: According to Goode, the change is that men feel more in control of is their marriages, while women feel more in control of their sex lives.
So women feel more in control at a time when men have less control over their erections. This sounds more and more like a conspiracy to boost the sales of Viagra.
And here's the smoking gun in the words of a member of the MacArthur research network. Dr. Margie E. Lachman, professor of psychology at Brandeis University said that those 'few' - 23% of the respondents - who did report a mid-life crisis were higher scorers on a scale measuring "neuroticism" AND were more highly educated.
That clinches it for me. The hypotheses they set out to support with their research were flawed, tainted, and self-servingly motivated by profit-potential for drug companies and to build another defense of the status quo. Why?
Because without the intellectually 'neurotic' there'd be no works of literature that plunge accepted thinking into a cauldron of upheavel and render it into oil and fat to expose it for what it is: ways of thinking whose day is done, whose course is run.
Not only does this heinously labeled "neuroticism" threaten the power structures - Zola and Sinclair and Rachel Carson come immediately to mind - but it also threatens self-identity - Salenger and Updike and even Hunter Thompson lead that charge for my generation.
So I say you owe yourself that mid-life crisis. Don't let anyone else have it for you. Nor should you let the MacArthur Foundation lull you into believing the status quo-confirming results that researchers are force-feeding us through media people worried about mid-life and hoping to not have their own crises.
You, too, might find yourself walking with a long dead poet in a wood and writing the epic of the age. Whatever happens in your mid-life, don't let research deprive you of a good crisis. After all, the first definition in Websters New Collegiate Dictionary is "a turning point." To paraphrase another poet, whose love life recently inspired an Academy Award winning film and who penned his finest plays in mid-life, research can only tell us what we are, not what we may be.