by Mike Todd
“I think I’m having a premature midlife crisis,” my friend Josh wrote to me last week, his nerves fraying from the pressures of work and parenthood. Josh isn’t the kind of person to complain, so I understood that he must have been in serious need of a sympathetic ear.
“Don’t worry, man,” I told him. “It’s not premature.”
It’s a strange phenomenon that the better friends you are with someone, the worse of a person you can be toward them.
“I don’t feel like you’re taking my MLC seriously,” he responded. At that moment, I realized the severity of the situation. If you’re planning on saying “midlife crisis” so much that you can save yourself a significant amount of time by acronyming it, you probably need your friends to act more like friends, and less like the people who used to draw anatomical diagrams with Sharpies on your face when you’d been drinking too much. (Note to our children when they’re old enough to read this: Drinking too much warm milk.)
“Let’s catch up on the phone soon. If that doesn’t sound like a plan, you could always just purchase a car with eight cylinders,” I replied.
I recently bumped into an acquaintance from college who overachieved on his own midlife crisis by purchasing a car with 12 cylinders. That’s at least 50% more cylinders than the average fragile male psyche requires.
“You know, there are 12 cylinders in there,” he said, pointing at the hood.
“What a colossal waste of gas,” I thought.
“Cool car,” I said. I had to be nice, since we weren’t really friends.
When Josh and I finally caught up on the phone the next day, he said, “Remember when we used to complain about having a quarter-life crisis?”
A quarter-life crisis happens when you worry about getting a job after you graduate. A third-life crisis follows shortly thereafter, when you worry about getting married, having kids or how you’re going to avoid doing either one.
I didn’t have the heart to tell Josh, who is gainfully employed, happily married and frantically child-rearing, that once you’ve weathered the 1/4- and 1/3-life crises, any subsequent crises must be of the midlife variety, since we’ve run out of denominators greater than two. Nobody has a two-fifths-life crisis.
Really, though, I have a hard time mustering sympathy for anyone who gets well into their 30s without even a hint a bald spot, as Josh has done.
“I lost my job,” a friend will say.
“But you have a full head of hair,” I will reply, as if this evens things out.
As a small group of friends drove to lunch last week, our friend Judi commented from the backseat, “Nice haircut, Mike,” which was clearly a setup for a punchline.
“Thanks,” I said, bracing myself.
“You can barely see the combover anymore,” she said.
As someone who has been ever-vigilant about striking down proto-combovers when they appear in the bathroom mirror, I took great umbrage at the suggestion that I’d ever let one take root. Still, as my hair continues its great migration from my head down to my shoulders, I am developing a new understanding for how Giulianiesque cranial situations occur. A couple more hairs jump the part every day, innocently enough. Repeat this process for years or decades, though, and your ear becomes the only thing stopping your part from sliding right off your head altogether.
The good news for Josh is that even though he got no sympathy from me due to his unfair follicular advantages, his crisis appears to be short-lived.
“Everything’s fine. I’m just stressed out at work, but that should get better in the next few weeks,” he said.
If not, he can always count on a little extra support from his friends. And if that doesn’t work, there’s always the possibility of a toupee and a facelift.
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