Wednesday, March 22, 2006

I'm Too Young For A Mid-Life Crisis

A few years ago, I was walking through the business district of my town, just a block over from my house, when I spotted a dark-haired man with a remarkably long ponytail feeding a parking meter. There was something familiar about him, sans ponytail, but I didn't say anything until he acknowledged my presence. "Oh, hi, Joe," I responded. He was a former professional colleague of mine from the bookselling trade who spent some time as a writer for both the PG and the Trib. He hadn't changed much from when I last saw him...except for that monstrosity dangling from the back of his head. Since I knew him well enough, I decided to ask him just what in the hell that thing was all about. He never struck me as the ponytail type.

"That's my midlife crisis," he explained with a smile.

I though he had already experienced a "midlife crisis" a few years earlier when he went on a long vacation in Paris, and called a couple of days before he was scheduled to return to work, just so he could inform us that he had decided to make his trip to France a permanent one. Of course, he was back in Pittsburgh a year later, working his old job at the book shop. Still, I could not help but wonder what it would be like to travel thousands of miles for a visit and then decide to not come home. Had I done so at the time, I might have been able to get away with it. Those were, after all, my "carefree days"; I was single and in my early twenties.

Today, I am married with at least four children and in my late thirties. I can not afford, financially or otherwise, to disappear from the face of the earth and move to Iowa, or wherever. But am I ready for a midlife crisis?

I certainly hope not. For one thing, I detest the notion of a "midlife crisis". It's a rather simple term that is used to describe the slightest shift in someone's style, taste, attitude, habits, etc. once they have passed a certain age. Certainly, people do change from time to time, and the notion that any such change is a crisis is overdone. But I can't help wondering, over and over again: Am I ready for a midlife crisis?

Not that I would ever wear a ponytail, but long hair is something that I keep coming back to again and again. Many men of my age went through long hair phases in their late teens and early twenties. Popular styles of the time included the "soccer buddy", which is a kind of mullet, and the "white boy afro", which is what I had on and off, as the mood suited me.

Come to think of it, my friends derisively referred to my style as "Peter Brady hair", so maybe it wasn't so fashionable after all. It also looked more like Greg Brady's hair than Peter's, but that's beside the point. My point -- after six paragraphs -- is that just because someone does something different with their hair, it does not mean that they are in crisis mode. I wore my hair bushy and curly because I could. Sometimes we change our styles because we need to. A lot of guys alter their wardrobe and trim their locks when entering the job market, in order to make themselves look more "professional" -- or, as many of them have told me, "I have to get a job, so I have to start looking normal".

My job does not demand any sort of rigorous grooming, though one does like to look one's best. I just couldn't help thinking of my old co-worker Joe and his ridiculous ponytail this morning when, after emerging from the shower, I dried my hair and looked in the mirror. The ends of my bangs went past the tip of my nose. I usually comb the lot straight back into what you might describe as "Gaius Baltar hair", though without the face to match. But if I decided to let it all flop around my head, you wouldn't be able to see my eyes. "Goodnight, Sam." "Goodnight, Ralph."

No, it's not a midlife crisis. It's my "winter coat". How long is it going to last? I'll let you know when the temperature goes above 50 degrees for the season.


jipzeecab said...

I went into my "midlife crisis" sometime around 1986 and have never reemerged....although I technically may be too old to be having one. I had a pony tail from 1991- 1995...chicks like to pull on it.

Nicko McDave said...

I wish I could say that I can picture you with a ponytail, but I have no idea what you look like...