About 20 years ago, I was introduced to a guy we'll call Larry the dentist. Larry was a very capable dentist and through a mutual friend, he kindly agreed to see me on a Sunday morning when I was having a killer toothache and my regular dentist wasn't available.
At the time we met, Larry had been married for 25 years to the same woman. But, as he worked on my mouth, he, as they say in today's parlance, "shared" the story of his mid-life crisis, his infidelity. When I met him, he was still deep in the throes of damage control and begging for forgiveness and since I was close to his wife's age, I'm guessing he thought I could shed some particular understanding on how best to repair his marriage. More likely, the fact that my mouth was stuffed with cotton and all I could do was grunt probably made me the ideal listener.
Anyway, Larry the dentist told me how about 18 months earlier, he had fallen in love with his new dental hygienist, a woman less than half his age. His wife found out and gave him the boot. It didn't take long for the affair to end and Larry was still grappling with the question of what could have possessed him to throw away something as valuable as his marriage. "It was like aliens abducted me and replaced my brain with Kool-Aid," was his principal working theory. I suspect Mrs. Larry the dentist wasn't buying it either.
During this period, Larry also bought a full drum set and a red Corvette, but in the total magnitude of Larry's "blame it on the Kool-Aid" behavior, neither of those items mattered as much as his infidelity. Infidelity hurts. Drum sets, fantasy baseball camps, buying racehorses or deciding you'll only eat gluten-free from now on don't begin to come close to cheating on your spouse, pain-wise.
I was reminded of Larry the dentist -- who last I heard had sold the Corvette and was keeping his bedroom slippers parked in his own bedroom -- when Michelle Obama chalked up her fashionable new bangs that debuted on her 49th birthday to her mid-life crisis.
We love the look and can't wait to see how many hairdressers are brushing up on their bang-cutting skills for their Post50 clients, but there's likely a deeper grain of truth in what the First Lady said.
Middle age is a time for reflection. It's a time when we become aware that the sand in our hourglasses is no longer infinite. While I don't know anyone who has rushed out on their 50th birthday to pre-pay their funeral, I know lots of people who start looking at their bucket lists with a sharper eye because they want to prioritize how they'll spend their remaining decades.
And yes, on another level, many of us take a last gasp breath at youth. The flattery of a younger woman's interest, the ability to speed around corners in a flashy car that says "look at me," bungie jumping off a cliff, sky-diving, hair plugs, and forming a garage band -- well, it happens.
Cutting bangs for most of us is one of those safe attempts at trying something new and adding a little spice to our old selves. Doing it in the high profile of the White House takes some courage. Good for Michelle for not being afraid. And better for Michelle for showing us how every mid-life crisis needn't end in inflicting pain on those we love.
Research shows the midlife crisis is largely fiction. People in their 20s and 30s are more likely to experience the kind of "crisis" associated with middle age. Only an estimated 10% of middle-aged people have the classic midlife crisis.
Researchers have found no evidence of the so-called empty nest syndrome. Many parents relish and enjoy the transition, taking pride in the fact that all their child-rearing efforts have paid off, and their offspring are on the road to accomplishing their goals.
Men don't abandon their middle-aged partners for younger trophy wives as the stereotype suggests. Most marriages break up in the first eight years. The recent rise in divorce among the middle-aged is because second unions are breaking up (usually within the first eight years of marriage).
Hot flashes aside, nearly 62% of women in one survey said they felt "only relief" when their periods stopped, while fewer than 2% said they felt "only regret."
Despite the latest hype about testosterone supplements, low sex drive, depression and sagging energy levels were more likely to be caused by stress, poor eating habits and laziness in midlife than lower hormone levels. Meanwhile, many researchers think that warnings about female sexual dysfunction in middle age are highly exaggerated. What may account for women's flagging sexual life is that they are less likely to have a regular partner than men.
It turns out age really is about attitude: Research has found that believing that you can improve your health in middle age actually improves it. A sense of control in midlife can dramatically reduce disability and preserve one's health and independence later in life.
The truth is just the opposite: Many people view midlife as their happiest period. Several surveys have found that while happiness dips in the 40s, people start to feel more content with life after the age of 50.
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