What’s a guy to do when manopause strikes?
Have you had your mid-life crisis yet?
No? Oh man, you’ve got so much not to look forward to.
You know, I used to object to the phrase ‘male menopause’ because ‘menopause’ means you stop menstruating, and of course men never start. Which is half the problem if you ask me. If we started menstruating at thirteen, maybe we’d grow up a bit quicker. But in fact ‘menopause’ is quite a good analogy, although ‘manopause’ would be a better word for what happens. Actually, that’s great, ‘TM’ it right now.
In your early forties (if not before) you go through this hell called a manopause(TM). As in, you stop, and pause, and think about the man you wanted to be, and what you’ve actually become. That’s an awful thing to have to do.
When I was going through my own protracted manopause, I decided that a lack of height, youth, and athletic-ability was no barrier between me and elite beach-volleyball. During this sand-blasted and frustrating time, a coach taught me a wicked little trick.
“If the opposition is serving well,” he said, “go and ask them how they’re doing it…Man, that’s a great serve you’ve got going on there, what are you doing exactly?”
I did this a few times and it never failed. Ask someone to concentrate on what they’re doing and of course they’re going to mess it up. Same goes with adulthood. One minute you’re middling along in your average job with an okay life, next thing you start examining it and everything falls apart.
My manopause started at forty-one.
The first symptom was an inability to listen to music on the radio. Anyone who got played on the radio was younger than me and – by default of being played on the radio – more successful. Why would I want to be confronted with that when I’d never achieved anything in life, never reached my full potential and might as well have been buried at thirty-two? I write those lines now and smile, but at the time it felt very real.
Of course, the ‘bling’ factor kicks in massively during the manopause. Not that my bling is the same as yours. Mine was a strange obsession with ‘cool’ (see how mad I was?) sports and glamorous travel. Yours might be a convertible car (what the senior partner calls a ‘mid-life soft-top’) or an inappropriate blonde. A sudden urge to visit a gym, or get a tattoo, or wear clothing you can’t afford. Whatever symbolises what you thought you were going to be. Because, let’s admit it, we all thought we were going to be either Jonathan Hart or Captain Kirk or James Bond or Indiana Jones or, or, or. The list of unlikely candidates is endless.
And it really doesn’t help that whoever writes movies and TV shows clearly despises office-workers. As a result, we are portrayed as either evil in dramas, or losers in comedies, or both in both. Name a profession where you actually know what a person does all day and that’s different. Be it a bin-man or a doctor, those people are venerated in popular entertainment. The rest of us, shirts and ties, we’re just schmucks. Look at me, I work in an office, I could have done so much with my life.
I hope you’re not reading this thinking I have any advice.
I really don’t. Other, perhaps, than to recognise manopause for what it is, and grin and bear it while it lasts. It starts with
- realising you don’t really care about the meetings you go to, then moves onto
- realising no-one else does either.
- …this isn’t what I wanted.
- …is this all there is?
- …why did I just buy a Porsche?
But don’t worry. There is light at the end of the tunnel. One day you wake up and suddenly it’s all fine again. Just like that (if ‘just like that’ denotes between six and twelve months of insanity). Yes, this is all there is, but that’s all there ever was. The only difference is now you know the price of things, and you can decide if you want to pay it or not. Yes, a job/marriage/lifestyle, but maybe not this one, or maybe – all things considered – this one’s not so bad after all.
Hart, Kirk and Bond were always fantasies, and even Richard Branson thinks he could have done something more with his life.
So don’t worry, things go back to normal.
If that made you happy, you might like a daily dose of Good Men Project awesomeness delivered straight to your inbox. Once a day or once a week, your choice. Join our mailing list here.Photo: FeatheredTar/Flickr