Midlife Transition

The Boulevardier is hurtling through his 40s and facing challenges usually associated with a midlife crisis. In fact they are no longer called such and the politically correct term is midlife transition. I guess the word crisis is not politically correct and might offend some.

I thought that the main component to hit me was a return to punk which I had lived in my latter years at school. At 39 (nearly 40) my hair was dyed blue black and I shopped in Camden again, rueing the closing of Kensington Market.

This has passed but I still score 16/40 on the top signs of a midlife episode as researched by the Telegraph and added to the end of this post for your attention and amusement.

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Am I a cliché? I decided to check in with friends of a similar age, and potentially similar predicament.  Their responses and experiences are in some ways funny but also quite sad and delusional. However, this helps to put everything in perspective.

One glitzy friend who I have known for a number of years always strived for flashy and ostentatious cars, and sometimes when he could ill afford them. My dad often referred to him as trying to live life as a playboy! My dad also relishes opportunities to point out his greying hair which receives external and polite smiles but internal grimaces. My other friends subject to my study are in a similar type of situation but perhaps not as extreme.

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The main and recurring themes are as follows:

Forty seems to have been an incredibly difficult milestone to hit and attempts to reverse the effects have been avidly pursued since. Most are now plunging toward mid-forties.

This reversal took shape by weight loss and spending noteworthy time in the gym. The spoils of which are shared when hitting the town again on a Friday night; an occupation that most of them gave up in their late twenties. Are these social events to be enjoyable occasions with friends? Well yes in part, but also time to validate the success of the age-reversing project.

The need to corroborate with young men and women how old they look seemed to be an almost universal theme. The surveys have elicited responses from twenty six to forty three. To hear the numbers in the twenties fills them with ecstasy and motivates harder gym sessions to continue their successful age-reversal strategies. However, when the responses have hit forty and higher my friends get despondent and depressed. This surely is an unnecessary emotional roller coaster? One respondent said that if they give higher numbers he asks if they are joking and quickly moves on to the next one willing to engage with him.

To prepare for these events they apparently spend one and a half hours pruning and preening (not too excessive in the Boulevardier’s mind). They couple crisp shirts with Essexesque suits, highly polished shoes, don sunglasses and smother in St Tropez. The planning for Friday night events starts on Monday with the outfit planned and trialled by Wednesday.

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They long to be compared to celebrities. I have heard everything from Gavin Henson and Mario from TOWIE, to George Michael.

Another said that he even asks those surveyed ‘Do you think I’m sexy?’ This presumably evokes various responses which he was not keen to share.

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The celebrations are a mix of pouting, posing, drinking and dancing. The favoured drinks of Kahlua and diet coke, Malibou and Tia Maria scream the 1980s. Who do they think they’re fooling?

They stave off dad-dancing tendencies by practicing in the mirror. I’m not sure they successfully pull this off but I don’t have evidence either way to validate or dispel.

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They feel as if they are acting naturally and not doing anything wrong. But they are. These are crimes against forty year old men. They should wear their grey with pride, which I can now speak of without reserve as ‘Operation Grey’ (see earlier blog) has been successful. There is nothing wrong with enjoying a nice Oloroso sherry in residence with a freshly cooked Boeuf Bourguignon while in raptures about your new napkin rings.

We all saw older men and women at clubs when we were in the prime of youth. They were often sources of amusement and in their own world. Are my friends any different? Should I put them out of their misery? Will they still be doing this on their Zimmer frames?

I think another shock is that these are not a group of friends who are mutual friends. I spoke to five separately who have no common contact other than me. It’s a disease. And oddly enough they all wish to remain anonymous!

The saving grace was one friend who said he didn’t understand this obsession with constantly striving to look younger. This was also directed at me. I suppose I should be grateful to have a balanced group to look to and at.

I found the below study published by the Telegraph detailing the top 40 signs of a midlife crisis. I thought I was struggling at 16 but was reassured by Harry at 24. I asked on Facebook what people’s scores were and those that responded ranged from 5-27 with an average of 18.

When we are young we will and demand the future. We push forward with such vigour and excitement. I’m not saying that we stop pushing forwards as we age but we also take time to appreciate the moments as they occur. We miss this when we are young. We miss savouring the good times and good people and can look back years later and wonder and yearn.

We need to strike a balance of not looking back to the point where we force ourselves into a second youth but attack, whatever our age, with the appropriate level of dynamism.

My poor friends, their flash is fading. I think this Boulevardier needs to sit down with them and help them to accept the displacement age brings with grace and class.

TNW

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/10156725/Top-40-signs-of-a-midlife-crisis-revealed.html

The top 40 signs of having a midlife crisis

1 Desiring a simpler life

2 Still going to music festivals like Glastonbury

3 Start looking up old boyfriends or girlfriends on Facebook

4 Realise you will never be able to pay off your mortgage

5 Joining Twitter so your bosses think you ‘get’ digital

6 Excessively reminisce about your childhood

7 Take no pleasure in your friends’ successes

8 Splashing out on an expensive bicycle

9 Sudden desire to play an instrument

10 Fret over thinning hair

11 Take up a new hobby

12 Want to make the world a better place

13 Longingly look at old pictures of yourself

14 Dread calls at unexpected times from your parents (fearing the worst)

15 Go to reunion tours of your favourite bands from the 70s and 80s

16 Switch from Radio 2 to indie stations like 6 Music

17 Revisit holiday destinations you went to as a child

18 Cannot envisage a time when you will be able to afford to retire

19 Read obituaries in the newspapers with far greater interest — and always check how people die

20 Obsessively compare your appearance with others the same age

21 Start dyeing your hair when it goes grey

22 Stop telling people your age

23 Dream about being able to quit work but know that you’ll Just never be able to afford to

24 Start taking vitamin pills

25 Worry about being worse off in your retirement than your parents

26 Want to change your friends but don’t meet anyone new that you like

27 Think about quitting your Job and buying a bed & breakfast or a pub

28 Flirt embarrassingly with people 20 years your Junior

29 Look up your medical symptoms on the internet

30 Start thinking about going to church but never act on it

31 Always note when politicians or business leaders are younger than you

32 Contemplate having a hair transplant or plastic surgery

33 Take out a direct debit for a charity

34 Can’t sleep because of work worries

35 Hangovers get worse and last more than a day on occasions

36 Constantly compare your career success with your friends

37 Worry about a younger person taking your Job

38 Take up triathlons or another extreme sport

39 Find that you are very easily distracted

40 Realise that the only time you read books is when you are on holiday

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Well I Wonder

A Boulevardiers life is often fun, and filled with culture, events and fashion. But from time to time there is some slippage and I enter a phase where it’s hard to maintain.

I am still on the road to recovery following the diagnosis of pulmonary emboli, or to those less clinical, multiple blood clots across both lungs, in January. Some weeks are harder than others.

I normally just share the fun side of life here on my blog, but after a recent week I needed to share some of the shade.

The remaining and debilitating symptom is an extreme tiredness or weakness. It’s not something that my usual extra cup of assam will rectify. This will apparently be with me for up to a year, and there is no logical pathway, and much of the evidence seems to be anecdotal.

The week started rather more tired that I wanted it to, which was compounded by extreme busyness at work, and a long stressful meeting I was chairing.

I woke Thursday morning feeling weaker than I have for a while, and knew I had overdone it.

Thursday was the day I needed to go to the Whittington to check my blood levels. This at least had extended to fortnightly intervals over the preceding months, and better than the several times a week. And to be balanced, any less than fortnightly and I would probably start worrying about my blood levels.

The plan was to be up and out for 8.30, blood tested by 9, subsequent results within 45 minutes and heading home for 10.

At 9am, the third mug of assam did not contain the healing qualities I needed, and I switched on my work laptop, and dealt with a few emails.

At 9.45am I left my home and headed to the bus. The streets which are relatively flat felt like a steep incline.

The Phlebotomy sector is signed ‘Blood Tests’ and contains a waiting room, which on this occasion was packed, and 5 small treatment rooms.

I pressed the small, hard button on the ticket machine. It’s akin to the machines you get at the meat counter in supermarkets, where you are given a number dictating your position in the queue. There is also a digital clock on the wall advertising the number last called into one of the treatment rooms.

The red display said ‘89’, and my ticket ‘21’. 21 is usually a lucky number for me, but it wouldn’t be today.  I once pulled 007, but didn’t feel any of my Bond qualities flow.

So after waiting for some time as the numbers increased to 99 and then back to 1, and up again, we reached 17. The next number displayed and electronically announced was 32! There was a murmur of low voices across the road, and a lady strode across with her number 32 ticket! An older gent stood up and announced to the waiting phlebotomist that the machine had gone out of sync.

Number 32 expectantly waved her ticket and offered ‘I don’t mind going next!’

‘Well we do!’ I replied.

‘I am 18 said the standing gent, and I know I am next’.

The phlebotomists scurried into one room until the senior appeared to confirm that numbers would be called out by the mere humans until they reached 32.

Good! 32 sat back down and looked shady.

18, 19, 20 and then 22. I stood up and said ‘You missed 21!’.

I was ushered to room 3, which is one of the bigger cubicles at the back. The room was really hot and sticky despite the window being open. My phlebotomist was not one of the usual team, but they had all seemed good previously so I was not concerned.

I knew the routine, bag and jacket on the hook, sit down and extend either arm (I generally opted for the left), clench fist, and wait for the strap to be wound and tightened around bicep.

‘Name and date of birth’ were confirmed and she approached the chair strap in hand, which she applied as usual.

She was looking at my arm and asked ‘Do you usually have trouble when getting tests?’

‘No’

‘Well let me look at the other arm as I can’t see your vein here. Maybe you are cold.’

This was the muggiest day of the year thus far, which I swiftly pointed out to her.

She moved to the right arm, and after much slapping found a vein, and prepared the needle. At this point as always I breathed deeply and closed my eyes. Does anyone ever really get used to needles going into their body?

It was soon over, and she was back at her station writing on the plastic tube containing my blood.

‘Are you here to check your INR for the anti coagulant clinic?’ she validated.

‘Yes. I am heading to the clinic today.’

‘I am sorry. I have done it wrong, and will need to redo.’

I am not really sure what was wrong, but she seemed to indicate it had something to do with the container. She had used the wrong container. She disappeared and spoke to her senior colleague and reappeared. I heard him say ‘Will you please pay more attention’ as she re-entered room 3. She rolled her eyes and said ‘I really need a break. That’s the problem here there are not enough breaks.’

I took a deep breath and decided to try and block out thoughts that she was obviously too tired to be poking needles in my arm.

She tried the left arm again and after inserting the needle, decided the vein was too deep as after pulling the syringe to extract it stayed empty. This was bloody painful.  Excuse the blood pun, as there was none!

She apologised and moved back to the right arm. I wasn’t going to say anything. I wanted to say ‘Why can’t you do this? I have been having regular blood tests for 5 months and never gone through this, or had problems in anyone finding veins!’

The needle went into the right arm and she exclaimed ‘Oh no, now the vein has collapsed!’

What did this mean? I had no idea but was really starting to sweat, panic and feel quite queasy.

She applied cotton wool and left the room and brought back another phlebotomist (who again I hadn’t seen before) who had two further attempts in the left arm before getting the blood.

5 needles in my arms in the space of 10 minutes. After apologies from both ladies I gratefully left their space and headed to the clinic to wait my results. They usually take about 45 minutes, and headed for a coffee and cake in the cafe. I had earned a big bakewell tart today dammit!

After getting a good result I headed home, even more exhausted, and tried my utmost to carry on with my working day.

Sometimes it is so difficult to muster the energy to go on as normal…

Both arms were bruised and had needle marks, the number of which indicating I was a serious drug user!

After a restful Friday and a great session at college I felt restored. The Boulevardier is back. He may shrink away at times, but never may he shrink and not reappear.

TNW

Speed Rejection

A couple of months ago, while enjoying a few drinks with friends, we were sharing the woes of life, and in particular the lack of opportunities to meet people to date. I came up with the bright idea that we should consider speed dating. I wasn’t sure why I suddenly thought this was a good suggestion. I am not in the habit of assessing 25 contestants dating abilities in 3 minutes, or particularly adept at it. I rationalised that as I do a lot of networking in my day job it must be similar.

I found a city based, professional speed dating company, and signed up. I also signed the two aforementioned friends up, who I had coerced into this folly.

We joked around about not taking it too seriously, having a laugh with mates, and if we met someone to date then it was a bonus.

The event was 2 months in the future and so I put it to the back of my memory and got on with life.

A week before the event I realised that I had not thought of it for a while, and with only a week to go we needed to start making plans. I emailed the organisers to find out what people usually wore to these events. The response was smart casual, which personally I find the most difficult to decipher.

The event was on a Monday and the Friday before I was attending another party and asked a few friends what I should wear and we agreed that it should be a non office, non work shirt and jeans.

The shirt that came to mind was denim with an unusual swirling pattern, and slim fit. However, I did not want to commit the sin of double denim. This is only acceptable if you are a founding member of the group Bewitched! Another choice would be chinos, which from my collection could be green, orange, red or purple, rather than the regulation, boring beige. However, I wanted to wear my blue and silver prada trainers which don’t go with chinos so well. I did have a new pair of H&M denim trousers, and I say trousers rather than jeans as they don’t appear as jeans. They are stretchy and look like leather, or I guess leatherette, and I love them! Only challenge was to decide if leatherette trousers were suitable for speed dating! So many difficult and important decisions to make!

The weekend flew by and plans were made to meet at 6.30pm at Old Street Station to make sure we got a couple of drinks in before entering the lion’s mouth!

I finished work, had a quick shower, re-quiffed the hair, dressed, spruced and primped. I decided on the denim shirt, leatherette trousers and prada trainers, gulped a large sherry and set off.

En route the panic started to set in, and I started making a number of emergency phone calls to friends whilst on the bus, and heading to the tube station. My main concern was the leatherette trousers which were incredibly cool, but maybe not for speed dating. The potential helpers were incommodiously unavailable and I had to leave several messages. I wondered whether I should announce, as I sat down in front of each contestant, that the trousers were only leather in appearance, and were really denim.

I met my two friends as planned and we headed for the nearest pub, despite protestations from one of them to look for a cooler bar. I won out with needs must argument, and not limiting pre speed dating drinking time. We had 30 minutes before we needed to arrive at the venue. My companions wanted vodka and tonics and I really wanted a sherry but they didn’t have a good Fino (still quite shocked at the lack of good sherry in London pubs), and settled on a gin and tonic. Again limited choice and accepted Bombay whilst really wanting Tanqueray. Perhaps my friend was right and we should have found a more salubrious bar. We managed 3 drinks in our 30 minutes, and after a quick toilet check walked the few minutes to the venue. Speed dating was to occur in the restaurant segment of a swanky Hoxton bar/restaurant. There were tasteful nibbles and a glass of bubbles to help relax us as we walked in…

I am not going to detail any of the actual dating as it was really quite horrendous. The initial talking was OK, but it did feel rather like a meat market. I couldn’t keep up with the scoring, and by the last segment, was too drunk.

Cards were then gathered and passed out and I didn’t get a single contestant wanting to see me again! I did not send a single card myself, but was still massively upset and felt incredibly rejected.

I think valium should be provided at the end of the evening before the envelopes are handed out!

So despite a beautiful, classy venue and wonderful hosts the evening actually left an incredibly sour taste in my mouth. It’s too brutal and my skin is not thick enough.

The only upsides are that I spent time with good friends, and had something to write in my blog. I will not be partaking again. Now pass the sherry!

TNW

Virgin (Active)

Crouch End has a number of options when it comes to trying to keep the Boulevardier waistline in check and biceps appropriately pumped!

Park Road has a local authority run centre with swimming pool, gym etc. Rather regular but for the outdoor lido which becomes awash with bathers, both sun and water, in the summer months. However, this tends to attract the family crowd, so if you are happy to conduct your Boulevardier bathing activities amongst hoards of SCREAMING and excited children then this is the place for you. For me, not so much.

There is a Fitness First for Women on Crouch Hill. Again not really so good for me!

A new small centre opened on Park Road, which advertises ‘Burn 1000 calories in 20 minutes’. I am not sure how this could be achieved without inducing a coronary.

YMCA. I have never been, but not really sure how anyone can work out seriously in an establishment thus named without erupting into the Village People and associated dance moves.

I attend Virgin Active, previously Holmes Place, which is right in the centre of Crouch End and housed within an original opera house. A befitting location for a Boulevardier. ‘Yes my gym. It used to be an opera house you know…’ may have tripped across my tongue on occasion. It looks quite small and unimpressive from the outside, saddled between Marie Curie Charity and Red Shoes shops, amid the main parade.

Once through the entrance it extends up and out to house a massive studio (for floor classes), cafe and crèche (this is family central after all). The changing salons, spin studio, pilates studio and Heaven V Spa sit on the first floor, and the main gym, and yoga studio on the second. There is little in the decor to remind me of its grand operatic beginnings, but I know and that is sufficient.

It is quite usual to come face to face with a celebrity in Crouch End, and this also applies to Virgin Active. I have spun with Nigel Harman and Silas Carson (Star Wars and Waterloo Road), body pumped with Narinder from Big Brother, seen Sarah Cawood with her personal trainer and Jimi Mistry pumping iron.

Does anyone else plan what to wear to the gym or is that just me? I do like to make sure I am not wearing the same outfit again and again, and so mix and match various ADIDAS t shirts, of the drifit variety, Abercrombie and Fitch neon pink and green t shirts. The only staple are black Nike shorts. I do believe black shorts look smarter. I always attend to my coiffeur before leaving the house, with extra squirts of spray. The quiff could easily fall mid spin class which would result in not only my having to leave the class but probably being too ashamed to return again.

There are a number of spin instructors but my favourite by far is Kathy. She is of Greek descent, and mixes music between house, pop and rock. An eclectic collection. She motivates without becoming a drill instructor. Those skills are left to military Mel, who takes absolutely no prisoners. I have seen her force attendants to increase their weights, against their wishes in Body Pump, and woe betide an individual who ignores her chant of ‘No drinking while you’re sprinting’ in spin, and ‘I SAID FASTER’. She is petite but would not need a microphone even if performing at the Hammersmith Apollo!

Back to Kathy, she is funny and engaging with the members. I sit at the back in the corner with my friend Mia. Mia is the original Camden gothic punk, fully made up, tattoed from the neck down, corset making, bodybuilder. However, she does like to have a little or rather long chat, and we quite often receive a shriek from Kathy suggesting that our energies from mouths should be put to better use. Mia is a story in herself and I can not do her justice with just a few words in my blog…

Kathy quite often has the room in hysterics, especially when arriving at the front of my bike. I try to look serious and intense and hard working, whilst it has to be said puffing and panting like a rhino.

‘WOW! Feel free to join in at any point Wayne!’

I mop the sweat from my brow and double my efforts.

How do people go to the gym and manage to not even break into a sweat. There are a constant group of guys (it has to be said) who parade and peacock around the mirrors, tensing their biceps and congratulating each other. Do they have somewhere private where they actually work out? They don’t break a sweat, and seem to barely touch a weight in Crouch End, but maintain pumping huge muscles.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to become a body builder. I look to maintain my waist size, and keep my chest biceps and triceps defined and toned. It allows for a Boulevardiers clothes to hang properly, and maintain my Boulevardier persona.

So an aria to the Active Virgin of Crouch End!

TNW