Tag Archives: middle age


Suddenly me and my ilk – middle aged guys with semi-maintained middle aged bodies – are trendy, at least according to this item from The Atlantic:

Is “dadbod” a hashtag joke or a social-sexual movement? A bit of both, probably. A month ago at The Odyssey, Clemson sophomore Mackenzie Pearson explained that this “new trend” had “fraternity boys everywhere” rejoicing. “In case you haven’t noticed lately, girls are all about that dad bod,” she wrote. “The dad bod is a nice balance between a beer gut and working out. The dad bod says, ‘I go to the gym occasionally, but I also drink heavily on the weekends and enjoy eating eight slices of pizza at a time.’” In the time since, #dadbod has gone viral on social media, to the cheers of Jason Segel lookalikes everywhere.

It ain’t much, but I’ll take it. #Dadbod owners of the world unite and rejoice!

Married People Are Less Miserable

Apparently staying hitched is the recipe for less misery, if not happiness. From the Washington Post:

In a new working paper, Canadian economists Shawn Grover and John Helliwell show the effect of marriage on a lifetime of happiness. They find that married people are generally happier, and that the “happiness bonus” from marriage is strongest right in middle age — when you need it the most.

“One hypothesis that could explain why the U-shape in life satisfaction over age is deeper for the unmarried than the married is that the social support provided by a spouse helps ease the stresses of middle age,” they write.

This “social support,” as it turns out, is one of the lynchpins of marital happiness. It’s not simply enough to be married — it has to be a goodmarriage. The study finds that the happiness benefits of marriage are strongest among spouses who consider each other their best friends, and that this “best friend effect” is substantial. “The well-being benefits of marriage are on average about twice as large for those (about half of the sample) whose spouse is also their best friend,” the authors conclude.

Middle X

What happens when those of us born between 1965 and 1980, the infamous Generation X, enter middle age? Well, for one thing, we don't make nearly the noise about it our predecessors did:

People heard it loud and clear when the baby boomers crossed over to midlife – you couldn’t avoid it. Radio talk show hosts probed into the transition, newspapers described boomer women coping with crow’s feet and men reclaiming their vitality in tribal drum circles. For the generation born after – in the ‘60s and ‘70s, raised by television like no previous generation and with the divorce rate skyrocketing during their childhood years — there is no media watch broadcasting their new trajectory. Few have even noticed that this small, notoriously rebellious clan – those born roughly between 1965 and 1980, which means about 46 million Xers versus 80 million boomers — has entered middle age. It’s a transition that, until now, has been captured, mulled over and ridiculed for each generation for more than a half-century. But not this time.

The problem is, with adulthoods repeatedly shipwrecked by economic disasters, Xers might have neglected to track the crossing over. Susan Gregory Thomas, author of the resonant memoir ”In Spite of Everything,” says that many Xers “are always living in a state of triage, always in a survivalist mode. We’re not thinking long-term.”

And then there's this:

And one thing that’s clear: No one else is going to care that we’re moving into red-Ferrari territory. Sure we’ve been screwed. And there may be no Ellsberg in our bunch, but we drank plenty of American Dream Kool-Aid: the idea of real estate being a good investment, the platitude about working hard and getting a good education to secure a solid footing, and the assurance that you need to follow your dreams and not compromise. We are now the most educated American generation – and the first one not doing better than its parents.

There is a chance that being repeatedly burned by the marketplace may actually help us; our natural skepticism may be something American society needs to hear. Most of our trouble – from the Bush 1 recession to the dot-com bust and the more recent economic pit of despair – has stemmed from unchecked optimism. The Xers have paid for that trickle-down optimism repeatedly.

We Xers are sandwiched between two much larger generations in the Boomers and Echo Boomers, but 46 million is still a lot of people so there is a variation inherent to the group that makes it dangerous to offer up sweeping generalizations like those in the article. Still we are generally shaped by our shared generational experiences and the article does a good job of outlining some of the experiences that made a significant impact on us – a high rate of divorced parents, an adulthood punctuated by extreme economic highs and lows, a litany of political and business scandals covered in excrutiating detail by the exploding multimedia landscape – and how they likely influenced our development and outlook on life in general.

When I read the following excerpt I was instantly thankful that my lovely wife and I bucked the trend of our generation and started having kids in our mid-20s:

Many of us – busy building careers, wounded by family divorce, or just wanting to lay down the perfect foundation for marriage and family life — waited to have children. Studies reveal that a disproportionate number of us are sandwiched between dependent children and aging parents – fending off economic stressers while juggling a heavy load of family responsibilities.

Connelly, the Ford futurist, says that some of the postponing of the traditional midlife period may come down to a pushing back of all the major life milestones: “Some of that [midlife questioning] would be fueled by empty nesters – the kids are grown,” she says, explaining a feeling of “now what?” “Demographics have shifted such that with each passing generation, people are postponing marriage.” With dependent kids at home, everything has been pushed back. “There’s nothing midlife about my situation right now.  I think that’s why you don’t hear this conversation.”

After reading that who wouldn't want the traditional "red Porsche at 46" mid-life crisis prompted by empty nesthood and a sagging jowl?  I say bring it on.  Of course in my case it's a "burgundy Honda Pilot at 46" mid-life crisis which, if you ask a Boomer, would make me a classic Xer underachiever.

Becoming a reasonably mature, moderately organized, marginally integrated member of polite society

Around seven years ago Gene Weingarten wrote a great column for the Washington Post titled The Peekaboo Paradox in which he profiled a DC-based performer named Eric Knaus, aka the Great Zucchini, whose niche was birthday parties for 2-6 year olds. Ends up that the big Zuke was a little on the immature side:

Eric's misadventures with traffic tickets are symptomatic of larger problems involving his inability to conduct life as a reasonably mature, moderately organized, marginally integrated member of polite society.

Take his apartment . . . please.

I did get to see it, finally. On the morning of the day I was to arrive, Eric awoke to discover he had no electricity. So he quickly had to get cash and run to the utility company. He knew exactly what to do because it had happened many times before. That's his tickler system: When the lights go out, it's time to pay the bill.

As I entered the apartment, to the left, was a spare bedroom. It was empty, except for a single, broken chair. Down the hall was the living room, with that couch and that air hockey table, which was covered with junk, clothes, cigarette butts and coins. ("You want to play? I can clean it off.") Coins and junk also littered the floor, along with two or three industrial-size Hefty bags filled with Eric's soiled clothing he'd brought back from a summer camp that he'd helped staff, three months earlier. The closets were completely empty. There were no clean clothes.

The kitchen was almost tidy, due to lack of use. There was a fancy knife set and a top-of-the-line microwave, neither of which, Eric said, has ever been deployed. There was also a gleaming, never-used chrome blender and a high-end Cuisinart coffee maker that was put into play exactly once, when a woman who slept over wanted a cuppa in the morning. Most of these appliances were purchased in a frenzy of optimism when Eric moved in almost a year ago. ("You know how when you get a new place, it's all exciting, and you say, Mmm, I'm gonna get me a blender and make smoothies!")

The cupboards were bare. The only edible thing I saw was a 76-ounce box of raisin bran, the size of a small suitcase.

I read that passage and immediately thought, "There but for the Grace of God and getting hitched to the right woman go I." When my wife met me I was the Great Zucchini sans any talent and now, almost twenty years later, I've been molded into a reasonably mature, moderately organized and marginally integrated member of polite society. – and thanks to my wife's continuing efforts and the rapid departure of almost all testosterone from my body I am now a marshmallow of a man who irons his own shirts, washes his own clothes and has the social life of a Trappist Monk. 

Weingarten benefits from marriage too - I've known other men who approach Eric's level of dysfunction, including myself. I'm saved by the fact that I've been able to hang on to a competent wife.


Young men take note: if you want to avoid a living out of Hefty bags get thee a competent wife. Also note that if you read the whole column you'll wish that at times you could be the Great Zucchini. That would be more than okay,  it would be terrific, because if you do allow yourself those moments of zucchini-ness you'll be a wonderful dad.