My irrepressible cousin Pompeo emails from Boston (Massachusetts, not Lincolnshire). In his early 50s, a year after his heart attack, he has reacted in the time-honoured tradition of a male mid-life crisis, and bought a 1500cc Kawasaki. Unsurprisingly, his long-suffering wife Debbie did not speak to him for a couple of days. Unfortunately, Pomp may have regarded this as more blessing than curse. He is an Italian-American of the old school.
It could have been worse: he could have run off with a woman half his age, a prospect Debbie would snort at derisively (it's the “run” bit). He could have bought a muscle car. He could even have picked up an electric guitar and started learning old Boston (the hairy group) riffs from his eight-track cartridge collection. “More than a Feeling”? Anyone?
Male mid-life crises take many forms, but are as inevitable as death and taxes. Apparently – so I'm told – the physical powers wane; gammy knees kick in; stairs puff you out; you dance … like a dad at the disco; you can't do the lotus position, let alone the camel; you are no longer the love god you thought you were; not even the Lynx effect works; and everyone, just everyone, tells you to not be embarrassing – don't hum, sing, whistle or talk to your children's schoolfriends. Those children that once worshipped you? Now, you're just a taxi service. You are the real squeezed middle: more financial responsibilities than the young, less spending power than the old. Then there's your own personal squeezed middle, the waistband. You may even have to accept that you will never play for your country at anything: OK, maybe bowls. Or darts.
Sounds grim, but there are causes for optimism: exhibit A: Ryan Giggs, on the occasion of his 1,00th professional match and another year's contract extension. But then, he got his mid-life crisis in early. Exhibit B: George Clooney, who has made salt 'n' pepper hair “gorgeous”, Exhibit C: Well, the hair hasn't started growing out of the nostrils or ears yet. Now, that's something to look forward to in our golden years. Until Monday.