January 05, 2011
Will I survive being a middle-aged white male? I turn 47 in March. I have been married 23 years and have four kids.
During the course of the past year, I have watched myself do more insane things than ever in my life, as if I were watching helplessly as some crummy B movie played out on a screen with me as central character. I’ve had a meltdown at the rostrum in a town council meeting, cursed out my local grocer over lost cold cuts, received my first-ever speeding ticket (and frankly enjoyed earning it), [and] nearly committed the big “A” word after 23 years of fidelity….My work ethic has been damned near beaten out of me by the outrageous stress level of a special project I was assigned. Heretofore I was a workaholic, so I feel I’ve lost part of my soul by becoming a slacker as a mental defense mechanism.
I am coming to realize I have become a libertine. Little else matters to me anymore than making love to my wife, eating delicious food, and playing the piano….
I have been in counseling for years and have even finally consulted a shrink whose prescriptions may not be aiding things much. My wife says I need religion, but it’s not intellectually satisfactory to me to rely on that. What can you suggest?
“Blue in the Blue Ridge
Dear Blue in the Blue Ridge,
You have to give yourself a break. Relax. The feminist movement post-1967 ruined the world and we are all still scrambling from the impact. Before feminism, men and women were allowed to be fat and fulfill only basic, gender-specific roles as the mother or the father. They did not have to be great spouses, as that was a relatively new concept.
After feminism, women have to bake cookies with their kids that they themselves will never eat because they can only be a size 2 at most, have a successful career, and be a borderline sexual deviant in the bedroom to keep their husband interested. The idealized post-feminism man, on the other hand, has to make a boatload of money, spend most of it on others, and love to work, look, and act like one of the Bond men (Sean Connery, Roger Moore, or Pierce Brosnan), be faithful in a society where the only place to escape naked breasts may be PBS, and be a hands-on dad in all their spare time.
It all sounds lovely, but it is impossible! In times of despair, think of the many husbands that came before you. Adultery was more or less expected and accepted, often with the cute little secretary during lunch to blow off some stress. Children were handed over entirely to nannies, the mother, the aunts, or the grandmother. Men were expected to know little more than their kids” birthdays.
I am not suggesting you buy a roadster and get a mistress, but be proud of what you have accomplished, because it by no means small. Lean into your new post-feminism role as a man and take a “long lunch” in a hotel with your wife, or take a sick day and play piano from morning until sunset, or take a week off and go on an exotic gastronomic tour alone. If your boss starts to notice, cut back on the self-indulgence. If your wife starts to complain, ask her if she would prefer the roadster and the mistress. You are not a rat in a maze searching for an elusive piece of cheese trying to avoid a low-amp electric shock! Try to slow down and take it all a bit less seriously. It sounds like you are doing a great job.