The Upside of a Midlife Crisis
I shouldn’t be writing this column now, because I’m in foul spirits. My plane just took off after sitting on a runway for two hours. The straight guy sitting next to me did what straight guys always do when they sit next to a woman on the plane: He immediately claimed our shared armrest, and he’s bumping his thigh against mine in such a familiar way that I’m considering demanding he buy me dinner to compensate for this intimacy.
I travel a lot on business, and it has been my experience that only straight men behave this way on planes. Gay men and any type of woman always will contain themselves within their allotted space. Always! So, in retaliation, I pulled out my laptop, and began writing this column—even though I know I shouldn’t, because of the aforementioned bad mood—in hopes that I will elbow my neighbor a few times while typing.
Why am I in a bad mood?
Part of it is that I travel too much. I was in Boston for the past five days, eating and drinking my way through the room service menu, and waking up disoriented in the middle of the night, first wondering where I was, then, as the realization set in, wondering what the hell I’m doing with my life.
Now, granted, I’m in my mid-40s, a time when most people ask that question of themselves a lot, but when you’re alone in a hotel room in the middle of the night with nothing to distract you from existential self-doubt, well, it generally leads to a crying jag.
I can’t write about the thing I’m most sad about, which has put me in an almost constant state of grief and despair for the past year—losing my beloved dog as the result of the breakup of a long-term relationship; and the overwhelming guilt and heartache of walking away from someone I care deeply about—because it will make me start crying again. Plus, the flight attendant, about to serve me a drink, already is looking at me with overly sympathetic eyes, and I really don’t want to have to explain all of this to her.
But, wait. Things are starting to look up. The idiot sitting next to me just grabbed his things, and moved across the aisle. I suspect he was reading this column over my shoulder, and learned of my animus toward him and his ilk. Score one for passive-aggression!
This small victory underscores an important lesson I learned this year: Self-pitying crying jags only will get you so far. After a while, it’s time to stop feeling sorry for yourself, and get on with it.
So, while I’ll miss my dog forever—he was the best little man in the world—I went out and got two puppies. I’ve tried not to love them, because they’re not my beloved Max, but you know how manipulative puppies can be. Let’s just say they’re growing on me. Then, I found a new girl, and I tried not to love her, but you know how manipulative girls can be. She’s growing on me, too.
The past year has been terribly difficult—I lost my partner, my pets, and some friends, along with a stable, secure life. But I’m starting to see the upside of a midlife crisis. During your self-destructive tailspin, you upset so many people that you become numb to it. So, now, I don’t think twice about offending the idiot sitting next to me on the plane. And as a result, I get the armrest all to myself.