It’s not as if there’s no biology at play here either. “Aging, and losing virility, hair, muscle mass and energy,” Jackson notes, “leads him into a crisis of despair linked to death, but not entirely the same. This is a man behaving strangely.”
But again, it’s psychological despair, not a biological one. It’s the fear that a man has nothing else to look forward to but death, because he doesn’t like how his life has turned out. If you’ve failed to meet your own goals, a society’s, a spouse’s or your peers, and you’ve hit an age at which most people are celebrating those very choices, you’re naturally and understandably going to feel bad if you’re still grinding it out for nothing with the wrong partner.
Last week I was talking to one of my co-workers and I told him I had my midlife crisis already mapped out in my dreamboard. And I was just half-joking. I don't think it'll be a Prosche Panamera, or a high speed boat or a 20-something pool boy. He said he is an almost-middle-aged white cisgender, Midwestern man in academia, and therefore ready for HIS midlife crisis.
But joking aside, I think that what we know as 'midlife crisis' is nothing more than pressures we suffer from society to conform to what it's expected from us. All those impositions that we seem to take as the gospel (study, get a job, get married, get a house, have children...) are nothing more than a weight over our shoulders.
We try to updo and upstage whatever role models we've had (our grandfathers, our fathers) and there comes a moment when we realize we really are not young anymore. Hence the pool boys and the Porsche. I think that as a queer man, I have never felt the pressure to conform in the way straight men do. My pressures come from other places, mainly other gay men.
But I have never felt the need or pressure to have children or get married, like many straight men do. I've seen it in my straight and bi friends and it's almost compulsive. After a certain age, they need to have achieved some milestones, or else they're declared a 'failure' or 'unaccomplished'. I believe that's the root of the whole problem: some men start that race in high school (they need to be the jocks, the alpha males) and it continues through all their lives: they need to marry the pretty girl, get her pregnant and get a house. Then children. Then everything that comes with having to raise them (do you know how much it costs to raise and educate a child until they're eighteen?).
And there's no time for them as men. Notice how everything is focused on the outward, on the visible. How about their growth? How about their intellectual development? How about what they want? Many men do not worry about that until they're over forty. Some even later. So I can see why my coworker laughed when I told him I had my mid-life crisis dream board ready. For some men life does start at forty, but why wait?