I’ve started buying expensive toys that I don’t need a decade earlier than I should. Should I just go for it and start wearing leather trousers and a ponytail?
Next time you see me, there’s a pretty solid chance I’ll have a ponytail. But you’ll know I’m coming long before that, because of my leather trousers. At first, you might think that the squeaking noise you can hear is a rusty fence, or several dozen woodland creatures suddenly setting upon each other in a frenzied battle for supremacy. But no. It’ll be my sweaty thighs, squeezed into a regrettably tight pair of leather trousers and rubbing against each other like two condoms full of crude oil.
This is inevitable. It’s fated to happen. Because, even though I’m only 33, I’m fairly sure I’m undergoing a midlife crisis.
You see, I recently bought a GoPro. For the uninitiated, a GoPro is a tiny digital camera – about the size of a matchbook – beloved in certain circles because its size and resilience makes it incredibly versatile. Bikers strap GoPros to their handlebars. Surfers pop them on the end of their boards so YouTube viewers can get a new and interesting perspective on their sport. When Felix Baumgartner made humanity’s collective sphincter shrink into a tiny black dot by jumping out of a balloon in space that time, he was covered from head to toe in GoPros.
And now I have one. I have one because I was in an airport for too long and, it turns out, like buying things that I can neither afford nor fully justify. I was going to Reykjavik, and briefly thought it’d be nice to take a waterproof camera into the Blue Lagoon. Incidentally, you probably don’t need to take a waterproof camera into the Blue Lagoon if you ever visit, because all you’ll end up with is footage of dead skin and floating toenails and German teenagers furtively giving each other handjobs in the little cave bit in the corner.
Anyway, now I’m left with this thing – used once, and possibly covered in molecules of semen belonging to someone with a much less clearly defined sense of shame than me – on my desk. I’m not a biker. I can’t surf. Realistically, the likelihood of me jumping out of a balloon in space any time soon is slim, although I don’t want to rule it out entirely because you never know. The point is, the camera is now a gleaming totem to how young and exciting I think I am, despite all the objective evidence to the contrary.
What am I going to do with it? I could strap it to my body, like Baumgartner did, and record my day for posterity, but all I’d have to show would be an eight-hour-long film about a man who procrastinates by opening the fridge every 20 minutes to see if anyone’s put any chocolate in it yet. There’d be an exciting sequence in the middle, where I rush to the letterbox and then sigh because I’ve only been sent three identical H&M catalogues addressed to my girlfriend, but that probably wouldn’t really be worth sitting through everything else for.
Make no mistake, this is definitely the start of a midlife crisis. The signs are all there. It can’t be a quarterlife crisis for two reasons. First, that’s all about the fear of becoming an adult and carving out your own path in the world. But I’ve already carved out my path in the world. It’s the path between my bed, my computer and my sofa, and the grooves are deep. Second, if I really am only a quarter of the way through my life, that means I’m going to live to be 134, and who has the energy for that? It’s much better to draw a line in the sand, assume that this will all be over by the time I’m 67 and get on with it.
I’ve yet to experience the more traditional signs of the midlife crisis, but they’re probably on their way. After all, I’ve already reached the stage where I realise that my life isn’t exciting enough to justify a GoPro. Unless I’m wrong, the next stage will be the one where I hamfistedly embark on a misguided quest to prove I’m still hip. Perhaps I’ll get an ear pierced. Perhaps I’ll self-consciously dance to Coldplay with an overbite in a kitchen full of mortified teenagers. Perhaps – and this is the one I’m really dreading – I’ll begin to identify with Dr Fox.
In a perverse way, I pride myself on being ahead of the curve. A global study of wellbeing in 2008 found that depression peaks at the age of 44, seen by many as the point when the average midlife crisis kicks in. I’m miles in front of that. By the time all my friends wise up enough to buy GoPros that they’ll never use, I’ll have moved on to the next level: blank resignation in the face of inescapable death. In your face, peers.
Some men have fun midlife crises. Some men buy flashy cars, or silly sunglasses, or take up with much younger women. Whatever it is, they’re usually oblivious to it. But not me. I’m incredibly aware of how much money I spent to remind myself that my life is grey and dull. It’s staring at me now. It’s like Poe’s raven, if the raven had a stop-motion timelapse function that I’m probably never going to find a decent use for.
I wonder where the nearest leather-trouser shop is?