"It turns out that happiness is indeed high in youth, but declines steadily hitting rock bottom in our mid-40s - midlife crisis, anyone? Then, miraculously, our sense of happiness takes a turn for the better, increasing as we grow older."
OK, I'll come clean; I tend to use the word "grumpy' to describe myself these days. However, just because I use the word doesn't mean that I subscribe to it. In other words, I'm being a little disingenuous. There are at least two reasons (that I am consciously aware of) for this device which I casually employ;
Firstly, I live in the vain hope that family and friends will leap to their feet indignantly and shout for all the world to hear "NO! You are not at all grumpy! You're lovely and cheerful and happy!" etc., etc.... As I intimated, I'm still waiting for this to actually happen in the real world - perhaps this makes me an optimist? It no doubt makes me something with "ist" at the end of the word.
Secondly, it fits in with my life-long strategy of gently making fun of myself before anyone else gets a chance to do so. It's self-protection you see...
Thirdly (I thought I said there were two reasons? OK; we're into new territory here), I am sad to say that my countenance is somewhat ...miserable - looking. My mouth naturally turns downward at each side and I have quite a heavy brow line, so the overall effect of my face in repose is of someone frowning. Saying that I'm grumpy is a way of letting the world know that I'm aware of how I look.
Fourth (wow, really pushing the envelope now...); I find the notion of grumpy or curmudgeonly older men to be quite amusing ('Grumpy Old Men' or 'One Foot in The Grave'); I hope that I am at least a little amusing to those around me.
Leaving the reasons behind for a moment (i.e. for ever), I want to make this very strong point (please imagine me standing on a plinth in London - no nudity please - at rush hour with a loud-hailer and a huge placard):
I AM NOT UNHAPPY OR MISERABLE!!!!! I AM HAPPY!!!!
I am a little disappointed, however, that the BBC quote at the top of the page seems to be trying to perpetuate the labelling of this point in my life. Frankly, I find it just as offensive as labelling women of my age 'menopausal'.
I find that the label 'mid-life crisis' is rather glib and it stereotypes us - particularly men of this age. To me, it implies (courtesy of countless media and entertainment references) vague unhappiness and a sense of desperation - even a kind of lingering depression based on a stock-taking of one's life at some point around my age (I'm forty seven by the way).
For me, it's just not true. Have I reached middle age? Well, despite all the various parameters which exist - one American demographic measure has middle age beginning as early as thirty six (insert bloodcurdling scream here) - I suppose that I must admit that, yes, at forty seven, here I sit, a middle aged man. The term 'middle age' carries its own baggage of course, but I prefer to look on it as more of a chronological descriptor (shooting for at least ninety five before I take the big sleep) than the stereotypical term it can become.
I have no qualms about telling people my age; after all, physically I must appear to be roughly as old as I am. Thinning hair, greying beard, carrying too much weight - I suppose I fit the appearance stereotypes of some people, but that doesn't matter. What matters to me is that people understand that reaching 'middle age' is not a prerequisite for misery or unhappiness or feeling at odds with the world. People of all ages feel those things, after all.
Some things which separate me from the perceived stereotypes:
- I'm happy with my life; the past and the present.
- I don't consider myself 'stuck'.
- I'm looking forward to the future.
- I don't want to look younger than I am.
- I haven't purchased - or felt the need to purchase - a high powered cabriolet sports car.
- I don't use hair-colouring or growth products...
I guess the message is that stereotypes suck. We've all had stereotypical ideas attached to us, whether we know it or not - the vast majority of the time it doesn't matter because we never find out about most people's opinions or assumptions about us. For me it's the widely - held assumptions and prejudices which are the most destructive, obstructive and annoying.
I really hope that one day, 'middle age' simply means what it probably originally did: the approximate middle period of a person's life. Maybe I'll be an old gummer/codger by the time it does...oops...