Male mid-life crisis is going to die out, or at the very least become a lot less common.
A few decades ago, it was a cliche that in his late thirties or early forties, a man would grow a pony-tail behind his bald spot, start wearing leather trousers, buy a sports car and have an affair with a younger woman, all in a bid to recapture something he felt he’d lost or missed out on. This was understandable, because men in those days generally left home in their teens and put away “childish things”, either to go to work or university, and never went home again. They entered the world of work, marriage, fatherhood and responsibility, and wouldn’t question it at first because everyone else would be doing it. Then at some point, when they’d been doing it for about 20 years, a number of things would happen at once. They’d reach a plateau in their career and see no prospect of further advancement, their hair would start going grey or falling out, and their parents would begin needing their help to do things. It would be brought home to them forcefully that this, their one and only life, was slipping away from them, and they’d react badly.
But the world has changed. Consumerism and advertising has extended adolescence well into the thirties – it’s more socially acceptable to simply play around. In the 1980s the concept of a videogame with an 18 certificate would have been ridiculed, whereas now such things are commonplace, indeed, bestsellers. Meanwhile rampant house price inflation sees men in their twenties and thirties still living with their parents. With no jobs for life, the idea of a career plateau is laughable. People in their forties are less likely nowadays to be worrying about whether to put their parents in a home, and more likely to be trying to keep up with their tweets from Thailand or Canada or Spain.
Mid-life crisis was something that happened to men who had been forced by society to grow up quickly. But society doesn’t do that to men any more. If anything, it encourages them to behave like teenagers until they’re physically incapable of continuing. On that basis, I predict that the incidence of mid-life crisis will fall dramatically over the next decade. Bad news if you’re a Porsche dealer…