Motorcycles and Madness: Tropes of the Midlife Crisis

Is the desire to get a radical haircut and dye it blue indicative of a midlife crisis? What about quitting one’s job and moving somewhere tropical? If so, I have some news for you, interweb friends. I’ve taken a number of highly reliable BuzzFeed quizzes lately all trying to guess my age. Although they’ve all been incorrect, they’ve all been consistently incorrect, guessing me to be about 10 years younger than I am. Apparently, my taste in music, television, clothing, and video games is keeping me youthful. That is great, except I don’t feel 10 years younger than I am. I feel like getting an indigo-colored Mohawk and hanging out in Key West.

The irony of being a certain age and having blue hair is not lost on me. According to Urban Dictionary (which, after, is the dictionary I consult most often) a “blue hair” is an old person whose white hair appears blue and is the only thing visible above the steering wheel of a gigantic car. There’s an episode of The Simpsons (it’s one of those blogs) where Krusty the Clown and Brooke Shields are presenting on an awards show and the cue-card joke they’re forced to read refers to them as the star of The Blue Lagoon and the blue-haired goon. Of course an incensed Krusty blurts out “My hair is green, not blue.” I feel for Krusty. I don’t want to be remembered as a blue haired goon either. Or as the star of a syrupy 80’s romance movie starring eyebrows and incest. (Fun fact—the characters from that film could legally marry each other in Indiana.)

Pop culture has a lot of representations of men of a certain age experiencing midlife crises with the requisite red convertible sports cars accompanied by blonde, bouncy second wives of questionable age-appropriateness. I’ve never actually met any of these men IRL. (I’ve known one or two who decided to go all in on a Harley-Davidson and the leather outfit, but they didn’t leave their wives for it.) Men of a certain age having a second childhood (or whatever we want to call that nonsense) seems to be a stock character for Hollywood. They’re all destined to end up like Kirk Van Houten, dating a chain-smoking barfly named Starla Starbeam who’ll eventually steal their cars. “Hey, my demo tape is in there.”

But in Hollywood, women of a certain age don’t’ have midlife crises. Instead, they’re depicted as nut-jobs. There are some pretty enjoyable films with this trope: Death Becomes Her is a hoot.  Fatal Attraction, not so much. These women have some trigger moment and then completely reject their lives and the men they’re involved with, usually by being represented as crazy for not enjoying their stifling domestic bliss.  Often, they’re depicted as wacko stalker types or bad mothers and wives. This trope isn’t new or unique to Hollywood either. Let’s not forget that the first Mrs. Rochester was locked in the attic for expressing dissatisfaction with her domestic situation so Mr. Rochester could hook up with the nanny. Am I the only one who wanted to punch Jane Eyre in the face and tell her to listen to her gut? Apparently, in the nineteenth century “widowed” was a euphemism for “I locked my wife in the attic for being depressed.” You can’t really blame the Mrs. for starting the manor house on fire. Light that match, Bertha Mason, and watch that mother burn!

So, it seems my options as a woman of a certain age are limited to witchcraft, insanity, or a life of crime. (Or all three, why not?) Given the choices, obviously I would opt for supernatural powers. Sadly, that’s not really possible and my tendency towards gender non-conformity is pushing me towards a shiny new motorcycle, which may or may not make me look like a criminal. Also, I have a new tattoo.

In summation, Thelma and Louise drove off a cliff together in a convertible, I can still see over the steering wheel of my car, and I am considering going with a nice emerald dye color to match my eyes.