Mid-life Crises are a Sign of Privilege

My sister is a funny woman. She has many talents and gifts and among them are an excellent sense of humour, turn of phrase and comic timing. Once, when were were both young, she introduced me to the concept of the mid-teen crisis. I heard the phrase first from my sister and she was ha-ha, only serious kind of funny.

It’s a real thing. All the pressures of being a teenage girl in a world of teenage boys combined with all the pressures of school life – it was a wild time back then and I can only imagine it’s become worse since I won’t tell you when. I will say I’m a lot older than she is. I have friends now who are parents to teenagers and all I can say is, good luck, cling on.

Can we talk about the male mid-life crisis? Just for a bit? The classic one – the sports car, the stupid affair, the ill-advised clothing, all the cliches. That one. It’s a gendered thing, I think. I seldom hear about women having one. It seems to be one more thing the Patriarchy arranges for its favoured sons, another indulgence, another affront.

Getting old happens for most of us gently; a slow boat to the islands on a calm summer evening. I remember coming back from Stornoway to Ullapool after a stormy week on Lewis, past the Summer Isles, past Rhue and up Loch Broom, the calm water only disturbed by the slapping bow wave of the Cal-Mac ferry. The ferry terminal came into view so slowly that it hardly seemed to move at all. I thought I would spend the rest of my life rumbling gently and quietly into port. That’s what I thought life would be like.

It’s not. There’s an old man in the mirror every morning, face crumpled like packaging on the floor of a neglected goods room. It’s all creases on the face in the glass, wrinkles and lumps and wild, wild hair. Yesterday, or it feels like yesterday anyway, yesterday the face in the mirror was smooth, almost as smooth as the water on Loch Broom was thirty years and more ago. And that’s the thing. Thirty years is a long time to be getting older.

I am definitely in the second half of my life. Another few years and I don’t think any but the most charitable would call me middle-aged. I’m still at that awkward age. I think I’ve always been at an awkward age but let me talk this one through. Were I to die next week they’d say – you’d say if you knew me – “He was still so young.” I’m too old to be a young man and granted the innocence of the young. I’m too young yet to be granted the status of elder. In other words, I’m ripe for a mid-life crisis.

The thing is that mid-life crises are a massive expression of privilege. Even taking for granted that I should somehow, some day have the status of an elder anything is a statement of privilege. I am still a middle-aged, middle-class white man. I don’t need to worry all that much about my personal safety when I’m out and about. I’ve had a very good education at the expense mostly of the state and my parents. I didn’t have to work very hard to achieve the little I have achieved. I take for granted that people will help me when I’m in trouble and by and large that is what has always happened. It’s an accident of birth. I was born at a certain time in a certain place. I’ve done nothing myself to merit special treatment. To act as if I have or to fail to acknowledge the reality of my circumstances would be an expression of privilege.

I haven’t woken up disappointed in what I have failed to achieve. I don’t think that I deserve more just because of who I am. The crisis some men go through is the realisation that they have reached forty- or fifty-something and that they will never be the man they should have been, or wanted to be, or someone else wanted them to be. They deserved more, somehow, than what they have. More money, more recognition, more success, more sex. Different sex.

That’s the root of the mid-life crisis. The old man in the mirror where the young man once was. Maybe he wants the return of the whole, huge, meandering, senseless possibilities he once could almost taste even if he never really had full possession of them. Maybe people have stopped noticing him so much. Fewer opportunities at work. Fewer sexual encounters. Falling fertility, failing potency. Aches and pains and hints of mortality. Less feeling great, more feeling just meh. Meh-ddle age.

Mid-life crises are expensive too. You need a certain income to indulge one thoroughly. You have to believe that your needs and desires are more important than those of the people around you and that is difficult to sustain when more than a thousand people are dying with or from Covid19 every single day. Staying at home, washing your hands, covering that aging face when you do venture out all militate strongly against the full expression of the middle-aged man in crisis. It’s all privilege.

I don’t think I’m immune. I have a very silly, bright orange bicycle, not a sports car. I still harbour athletic ambitions. I squeeze myself into Lycra and try to ignore the belly that wasn’t there five minutes or five years ago, depending on my state of mind. However, my wife and I made promises to one another and I’m not going to break them just because I’m feeling unreasonably mortal. Promises matter. That’s one of the things I’ve found out.

I have a sample size here of one. I know I’ve been lucky in lots of different ways. I think I am going some way to recognising my own privilege in all of this and that makes a destructive mid-life crisis less likely. I can only hope so, anyway.

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The Internet Is Full Of Trouble

Yet another statement of the bleedin’ obvious, I know but bear with me. Way back then, in the long ago, when the internet was all static pages of text about particle physics and Terry Pratchett, it seemed to be that it was all about having new and interesting experiences at 56 kilobytes per second, or thereabouts. One of the happiest sounds I knew was a modem handshaking with the world. I remember getting my first email account at St Andrews in about 1988 before the internet was even a thing. I know that I didn’t use it much. I saw everyone else I knew with an email account every day anyway.

I used to read stories in the Grauniad about how the internet – now it was invented – was going to change everything. We would all be able to talk to one another, there would be no more barriers to communication and it would all be simply marvellous. Well then, that turned out to be one of those wishes about which we really should have thought twice. We can now all talk at one another, there seem to be no barriers to any fucking communication and wouldn’t it be simply marvellous if some people just fucked the fuck off?

I don’t think anybody imagined that neo-Nazis would get an internet connection too. It was unanticipated as the superabundance cat pictures. Controlling the media is a basic totalitarian tactic. Our political masters would love to be able to do the same but they lack the commitment to do it in a thoroughgoing fashion. A cynic or conspiracy theorist would say either that they already do control both the media and the messages on it, or that the owners of the media already control the politicians to a greater or lesser extent.

We all know how important the internet has become. Our body politic is a cyborg now and we can’t be sure where some of the signals controlling it originate.

What prompted all of this wasn’t politics but personal relationships. I remember having an absolutely wonderful time when I was single on the internet. Looking back, I was using my privilege as a middle-class, white man but I hope I was always respectful when I went out on a date. My wife and I met on a dating site well over a decade ago, on the forums first and then in person. I don’t think we matched with one another but we got on very well when we met up so sometimes those algorithms must have been talking mince.

I don’t think things are as easy now for people. I hear horror stories from my friends on dating sites of shitty behaviour from shitty people. When I were a lad and Shep were a pup and it was all fields round here we used to view internet dating forums and the like as just an extension of the social sphere and the usual social norms would apply. There were always arseholes of course but they were small in number, easily identified and isolated and we could look after one another. No real man would ever have identified himself as “involuntarily celibate” for example. The most we would admit would be a bit of a dry spell but it was all going to be fine. We were on a dating site after all.

Now we have toxic masculinity. The things which were once private – the domestic violence, the gaslighting, the belittling, the objectification, the denigration, dehumanising – now have a public outlet. The small men doing huge damage to wives, sisters, mothers and children can share what they do with other small men.

I’m not sure what I wanted to achieve this evening. I seem to have spent the last hour or so remembering how wonderful things were in the good old days and how fucking awful things are now. The best thing about the internet now is that like minds can now connect across the world much more easily than they ever have in the past. The trouble is that that is also the worst thing about the internet.

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We Hold These Truths To Be Self-evident

I have the best friends, I really do. They’re warm and loving and generous. They share and support and we’re a bit of a mutual admiration group which would be horrible were they not admirable people. I am constantly surprised at how much we have in common. We have few arguments about anything substantive and nothing which is worth remembering or remarking upon at all.

I make a point during elections not to ignore contrary opinions. I can’t bring myself to read the Murdoch press, the Mail or the Express but I do read the Telegraph during election campaigns. For some reason, it’s not as objectionable as the rest of the Tory press. It’s the paper I would read had I gone down the Trouser Leg of Time towards Torydom.

The EU Referendum result has shaken my confidence in my fellow citizens. I think there are so many positives to our membership of the EU that outweigh the negatives. The EU is big, cumbersome, too many decisions are taken by commissioners and the Council of Ministers and the Parliament has nowhere enough power. However, EU citizens have the right of free movement within its boundaries to live and work where they please. Pooled sovereignty means that European states have less need to argue over access to resources.

Then there is peace. It’s true that there has been armed conflict in Europe since the end of the Second World War – in Cyprus and in the former Yugoslavia at the very least. However, Britain, France and Germany have stopped knocking lumps out of one another and that isn’t nothing. We are still calling each other silly names but we always will because, well just because, to be honest.

These things all seem so obvious to me and obviously good. I can’t imagine a world in which free travel, shared resources, peaceful international relations, tarriff-free trade and all the rest would be perceived as not good enough but 17.4 million Britons decided that was exactly the case.

I think it’s a stupid decision. It’s small-minded, short-sighted, fearful and daft. However, it’s the decision the majority of those voting came to on the day and that’s democracy. I can’t respect it because I think it’s small-minded, short-sighted, et cetera, et cetera but I can accept it because it’s that’s how democracy works. Whether the leave campaign would accept it had it been the other way around is a matter for bitter conjecture but still, I’m not living in that reality. This one is bad enough.

The Government is quietly tearing itself to bits. The Opposition is loudly tearing itself to bits. The Union is on its last legs and there isn’t a credible voice speaking for it. In fact, there wasn’t a credible voice speaking for the EU during the referendum campaign. David Cameron’s opinion on Europe couldn’t carry enough weight within his own party so he had to appeal to the rest of the nation. The rest of the nation took one look and said “Nah, stuff him.” From being the Man Who Fucked A Dead Pig, he has become The Man Who Fucked The Country. All political careers end in failure, few end in quite this scale of disaster.

The rest of the Tory Remain campaign was passionless. Actually, that’s true of the Remain campaign in general. There was nobody putting forward a conviction case for our continued membership with a vigour equal to the arseholes on the other side. The lying arseholes. The screaming, duplicitous, devious, wantonly destructive arseholes.

Boris Johnson is a man who would lob bricks through windows for the joy of hearing glass break. Whatever charm he once held in his sub-Wodehousian public persona has gone. We’re left with the liar who lied not to save another’s feelings but to further his own objectives. ¬£350m a week for the NHS, remember?

I hope Theresa May gives him the kicking he so richly deserves. I then hope that she loses the next general election to someone with more of a sense of society but that’s another battle.

I can’t talk about that cunt Farage without calling the cunt a cunt. Probably best I don’t mention the cunt at all.


Still, he lied or benefited from lies and he’s always been an odious little toad of a man, the sort to drop his fag end into his pint pot at the end of the night and leave it for someone else to clean up after him. And don’t get me started on his fucking Nazi propaganda poster.

Nor was there much passion from the Labour benches unless you were Kate Hoey or Frank Field. There wasn’t much passion from Frank Field either but you get more passion from bladderwrack at low tide than you do from Frank Field ever. Nobody put the Left’s case for the EU with the same strength that Michael Fucking Gove put against it.

And the LibDems, my poor old Liberal Democratic Party, were invisible. I saw two LibDem In signs on Queen Edith’s Way in Cambridge last week which was more than I’ve seen of Tim Farron since Christmas.

The Stronger In campaign was a sorry, gutless affair, it truly was. There didn’t seem to be a true believer among them. Ask a Leave campaigner why they wanted to leave and you’d get an immediate, emphatic, response – wrong and misguided, of course, based on lies and half-truths – but full-throated. Nothing similar seemed to come from the Remain campaign.

So, here we are. The weekend after the debacle before and we’re picking up the pieces the best we can. At least that cunt Farage isn’t getting his feet under the negotiating table. Apparently, there isn’t a rush to leave the EU. Boris doesn’t seem too bothered about it now. He just wants to be Prime Minister. The thing is, we need a skilled and dedicated negotiator in charge who will secure the best possible exit terms. Boris is not that man, not even close. Neither is IDS or John Redwood (I fucking saw John Redwood on telly yesterday, that’s how awful things are!) or Michael Gove or that bloke who wants to break up the BBC when he isn’t visiting prostitutes. None of them are.

The Leave campaign has won and doesn’t really know what to do now. Even if it did know what to do, it couldn’t do it because there aren’t enough skilled staff in the civil service to carry out the hard work. We haven’t needed them because the EU did all that stuff like trade negotiations. Basically, we’re fucked. We’re lost up Shit Creek without a paddle, canoe, or adequate protective clothing and the buggers who have left us here can’t get us out without help. The only people capable of helping us are the very people they want to separate us from.

It’s all been so very, very unnecessary. And just to cheer you up, tomorrow is Monday.

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It’s Not Acceptable. It’s Just Not Acceptable

I read Sam Lewsey’s recent blog post with a mixture of sadness and and anger. I’m sorry to bring my own blog back with what is going to be a long fucking rant about what is wrong with my fellow man. Maybe the next one will be about cake and kittens.

Now that the weather is warmer and we’re seeing a little more skin than we’ve been used to of late, it seems that some of my fellow men have forgotten how to behave. They really need to join the Don’t Be A Cunt Club. It’s easy. There are only two rules. Rule 1: don’t be a cunt. Rule 2a: learn to read. Rule 2b: pay very close attention to Rule 1. If you wouldn’t say something to your mother or sister, you don’t say it to random women on the street.

I’ve been reminded of the existence of The Everyday Sexism Project which exists to catalogue and chronicle the experiences of women every living day. Reading the entries ought to make any thinking human being reconsider their behaviour. Women should feel empowered not to put up with this sort of shit all the time and men, well they really need to stop and think for a moment before they pass that comment or whistle or do whatever their penis is telling them to do.

It’s about power, of course. It’s always been about power and you need to feel that you have some power in order to challenge whatever source of oppression is around. When you do, whether you’re a man or a woman, you’re going to be told that you’re humourless, that you need to lighten up. Worse, if you’re a woman you could be told that you’re frigid. Yes, of course she must hate sex because she doesn’t like being propositioned in Tesco’s when she’s looking for some fish fingers and a bag of frozen peas. She’s in the freezer section because that’s where women go when they don’t want to have sex. Fuckwitted men who behave like this towards women have such a high opinion of themselves that they must believe that all women must want them all the time. Unbefuckinglieveable.

(Alternatively, the men must have the sneaking suspicion that their wives, girlfriends or – who knows, maybe sheep and dogs? – furiously finish themselves off manually after the men have cum three strokes in again, the women all the time cursing themselves for getting involved in the first place. The men must look down at that sad little piece of gristle lying in their hand as they take a piss in the middle of the night and wonder why it all goes wrong every time they open their sorry, sorry mouths. And nothing will ever make sense to them, ever, ever, ever.)

I must find the article again where I read that a lot of homophobia comes about because the sort of arsehole men I’m talking about here believe that gay men treat all men in the same way that those arsehole men treat women.

Some people, women as well as men, will blame the woman for acting or dressing provocatively. This is of course patent bullshit. Men have for hundreds of thousands of years looked for signs of sexual availability in women and acted when they think they’ve seen them. However, you’d think that in 2016 a woman would be able to go for a run on a sunny day and not get chased around like a mallard duck on a pondful of drakes. She might look a bit hot and sweaty but she didn’t get that way because she wants a booty call. Being human in the Twenty-first Century surely means being more than a collection of evolved behaviours. We must have learned to be more than just that.

Further, if a woman were to out with no knickers on and one tit hanging out of her top, she still wouldn’t be asking for it. You could question her tailoring but no more than that. There is a problem with the male gaze. We still haven’t evolved behaviourally much beyond the savannah times I mentioned above.

It comes down to this: she doesn’t want to have sex with you. You might think she looks hot but she just wants to do what she’s doing and not get the hassle. She’s not going to suddenly want to have sex with you because you say something to her. She really won’t want to have sex with you now because she’s already heard four other blokes say more or less the same thing to her in the last thirty minutes. She didn’t want to have sex with any of them either.

Dude, go off somewhere private and have sex with yourself. You obviously need to wank and nobody else wants to see you wank, no matter what that video you were watching on the internet last night might have suggested.

There is a rather excellent book called Take It as a Compliment. One of my clients publishes it so if you buy it from a bookshop, I might get a few pennies. Each time a man makes a woman feel less than she is, it’s not a compliment. Each time a woman has to brace herself to pass a building site (sorry for the cliche, but it’s one of the most male places I can think of) or psych herself up for a night out because of the comments and gropes and all the other shit¬† that go down every time she goes out the door, then we’re all diminished. We all lose out.

Life should be about exploration, sharing and joy. Experiences like Sam’s sucked a little joy out of the world and not just for her. That joy can never be recovered. Her friends can rally round her and we all have but we’ve all lost something because some arsehole saw a bit of leg and thought he’d like a piece of it.

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