Selling a Mid-Life Crisis

10Jul15

I have a rant building up that has nothing to do with any of my regular subjects. Perhaps I have a new category, the “birthday post”, with my previous editions being: Life Lessons from Vacation (2014), Icarus (2013), and Twelve Things I Wish I’d Known Twenty Years Ago (2012) — none of these have been written on my birthday, but they were all inspired by my thoughts surrounding my birthday.

There is a car company with a commercial out for the new model year of their iconic roadster. (I’m not going to name the car company or embed the commercial because the commercial enrages me so much, but I have included a link for anyone who hasn’t yet seen it.) The outline of the commercial is, you had fun with your car when you were a teenager, then took on responsibilities and had to drive ‘responsible cars’. Now that your children have left home… or you can afford an extra car… or they’re driving themselves… or your wife divorced you for being a selfish prick, you can have the new version of the car you drove as a teenager. In short, now that you’re in your midlife crisis, buy our car. I’ve always thought of this model as a midlife crisis car, but I don’t remember them ever having been so open about it.

I’m not entirely sure why my response to the commercial is so strong. Perhaps part is because I find the rhyming cloying. It’s probably more because I’ve never defined myself by the car I drive, and I find the idea of owning a car because it’s ‘fun’ to be ridiculous. Perhaps I find this grating because I have been having a crisis in my midlife, and have been for a few years, but I know that it won’t be solved by buying a car that reminds me of when I was me.

Frankly, the idea that there is a time, “when you were you” (as the commercial has it) is laughable — particularly in reference to the high school years. I am who I am, and I like much about who I am. I would be as disoriented being a younger version of myself as the high school me would be if he suddenly found himself in my current life. Back in high school I was (like it seems everyone else is at that age) floundering, trying to figure out who I was, and not realizing that that process is one that only time can determine, and that time will continually change the answer.

At this time of year it does get hard to not think about the years I’ve spent in jobs I don’t like, that barely pay the bills (if that), and that don’t give me an opportunity to use my talents or make a contribution. It’s hard to not rethink all the choices I’ve made that have contributed to my failures, and wonder if I could have made different decisions while keeping the relationships that make my life worth living. All of that makes it difficult to remember that I do have talents, that I can make a contribution, and that I can make life better for others (and maybe for myself, too).

Even with all of that, I wouldn’t want to go back to who I was in high school, or even in college. (I was a grumpy SOB then, too, for one thing.) That said, there are aspects of myself that have softened over the years I wouldn’t mind reclaiming (the self-confidence, the competitiveness, the passions, the combativeness, the metabolism).

So, my message to the manufacturer is this: midlife crises are crises. Your car won’t fix them. Pretending it will is predatory bullshit.

P.S.: “Driver’s license… took two tries.” When I was in high school, we called those people bad drivers, it was never something to be proud of.

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