As I seem to mention all the time these days, I am 40 years old. This seems to me just about the paradigm age for being "middle-aged."
In way, you could say I'm having a bit of a mid-life crisis, in the classic sense: I fret about my age; I feel bad that I've accomplished so little; I'm seized by stupid fantasies of life improvement. I know, I'll buy a Corvette! I'll adopt a greyhound! I'll get liposuction!
Last week Jezebel had a story about fashion designer/icon/guru Marc Jacobs and his midlife crisis. The basic elements: Marc Jacbobs has gotten into weird jewelry; Marc Jacobs has one tattoo of an M+M on his arm and another of the girl from "Poltergeist" on his back; Marc Jacobs has been to the gym and wants to pose for you, topless, ballarina-style, showing off his sexy physique. Marc Jacobs wants to say goofy things like "The new concept is to have no concept. Ha!"
Now, this is a midlife crisis. The Jezebel comments were sort of along the lines of "Ugh. What happened to him?" but I think it's way cool. The man is showing us how it's done. I, for one, am paying attention.
One of the things often said about midlife is that it's the time in life when one's thoughts start to turn toward death. This doesn't apply to me, though, because, as I mentioned before, I have always been a freak about death.
I think about the finitude of life all the time, and it never seems to me anything less than a shocking, unbelievable tragedy. I mean unbelievable in the literal sense: I almost cannot believe that this is part of the organization scheme we've got going on here. It's just too shocking.
As far as I'm ccncerned, death is the perfect dilemma for not enjoying life. When you're unhappy, it seems outrageous that, you know, life's a bitch and then you die. No second chance to work it out right the next time. When you're happy, it seems equally outrageous in a different way: what, you mean I'm just getting this all figured out and then it's going to end?? You can't be serious.
In my previous post I mentioned my apprehensiveness about reading The Diving Bell and The Butterfly, since it's a story about a man who can barely move. As I explained, there, though, I needn't have worried: the book is about a strange sort of life, not about death.
No, the book I should have been frightened to read is Philip Roth's Everyman. I just read it this week. Not only is it about death, and about dying, but it's about death and dying in a way that make them seem completely unbearable. Having come to think of Roth as one who makes the unbearable bearable, I felt the absurd emotion of betrayal on top of my ordinary unhappiness.
The "theme" of the book seems to be something like, "Everyone is going to get old and die, and it sucks so so bad. When you start getting older and closer to death it sucks even more. Way more than you expected."
Do I need this? The narrator of the book experiences a certain surprise at finding it so awful to be sick and alone at the end of his life, but is there anyone who isn't aware of the awfulness of geting older, and sicker, and finally dying?
As far as I'm can see, there is only one rational way to deal with the fact that one is going to die, and that is total denial. At least, it's the only way for me. If I think about it, I am paralyzed. If I don't, I am OK. My life is organized around finding ways to not think about it for extended periods of time.
That's why I like Marc Jacobs' mid-life crisis. This guy is having a good time, and he is obviously not thinking about death. He is doing it at no one's expense, really: there's no violence, no belittling of other people, no crabbiness.
He's just having a good time. He's an inspiration to us all. Just as a fashion guru should be. Thanks Marc!
Now if you'll excuse me I gotta go work on my abs.