Sunday, 19 June 2011

Could we men all stop whingeing about middle age?

There was a piece in yesterday's Times by William Leith. The link is here but due to the Times' Paywall you'd have to be a subscriber to see it. The upshot of the piece, "Is this really my face"?, is that the author is coming to terms with middle age. He's getting lines on his eyes, can see why people have "a bit of work", no longer recognises the guy in the mirror, has trouble accepting that he's not in his twenties any more.

I've read this article in a number of guises by different people and I have to say I'm fed up to the back teeth with it. William Leith - the latest of many to think he's discovering middle age before anyone else ever did - is 51. Poor bloody William - some people are even older. We all get lines, wrinkles, teeth needing work - most of us don't get paid to write about it. That's a privilege.

Actually I'm rather enjoying middle age. I went to a Madness gig on Friday and there were loads of us - the most ludicrous dad dancing ever, we were all having a brilliant time and would have been much more self-conscious 25 years ago. Experience brings you - one hopes - a steadier income and a steadier outlook than you might have had before. I'm genuinely happier than I've ever been, and don't get me started about the delight that is becoming a dad. Middle age, at the early stages at least, is treating me well.

So I disagree with Leith to an extent anyway. Nevertheless I think what really gets to me is that some of my friends are what can only be described as "female". Several are my age (46) and going through changes which are a great deal less comfortable than a bit of grey hair and the fact that your gut fills out more easily than it used to. Physical symptoms include stomach pain, heavy periods and associated iron loss, and then possible side effects from medication to stem the periods. Oh, and the inability to have kids, which will hit some harder than others. We get the clock ticking - they get an almighty bell tolling.

Not forgetting that as a society we're kind of down on women reaching middle age - especially now that there's so much emphasis on appearance and sexualisation. Women getting back to work struggle much more than a bloke with an uninterrupted career. It's better than it was when I was a kid but not where it needs to be yet.

There is of course nothing to be done about the physical stuff. The female body is what it is, it ages as it will and women pretty much have to get on with it, in the absence of any alternative.

Not us blokes, though, apparently. We go into the national press objecting to our paunches, sagging facial muscles and greying hair as if this were a disaster of epic proportions.

Personally I wish we'd just shut up about it - it beats dying prematurely, there's little physical discomfort by comparison to our female counterparts, there are plenty of compensations and quite honestly all this whining makes us look ridiculous.


  1. I'd have to agree with you on that. I'm female, 47 and it is just beginning to dawn on me that, to the rest of world, I am now invisible and uninteresting. I've always been good-looking, and I still am I think and I could pull Peter Andre if I really wanted to but the reality seems to be that I can't even pull a pint in my local pub!!
    And I am surrounded by younger women friends gleefully waving images of their first sonogram at me and I am supposed to act all "WOW!" and "Awwwww!" and like I know how they feel but I don't. All the pregnancies I've ever had miscarried. So, as a woman I am struggling to carve out a career in what is still very much a "a man's world" because it's really all I have now. Oh pooh! Now I sound really down and I bet I've made you cry. I don't mean to. I've still got my sense humour and fun and memories of the night I had with a very famous pop star in 1986!!!

  2. You shagged one of the Smurfs..?

  3. Dear Crumpets4tea - Even though I have had children (two) I am feeling the same way. I've turned 50 and it is no longer dignified/successful/acceptable to try to turn a man's head. Menopause - been there, done it but my sex drive has survived - a mixed blessing indeed. Was it Bono?


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