GENDER TALK: Uncovering what they call midlife crisis

Sunday June 2 2019


By Jackson Biko

Common notions of what midlife is supposed to be like are ridiculous.

One day over lunch, last week, for no reason at all, I Googled what midlife crisis is. Result: “It’s a loss of self-confidence and feeling of anxiety or disappointment that can occur in early middle age.” Hmm.

I then Googled symptoms: buying a sports car, drastic change in habits, mood swings, impulsive decision-making, shifts in sleeping habits, obsession with appearance, disconnecting with old friends and replacing them with younger ones, feeling tied down, thoughts of death, leaving a spouse, having an affair, listless and bored …” It went on and on.

I think I would like to be aware if I’m undergoing the crisis, but given that I’m not disappointed or anxious of my life now, it’s highly improbable that it’s hit me. Yet. But I found these symptoms ridiculous.

Let’s see: Buying a sports car. This is a question of finances. Let’s be honest, very few 27-year-olds will be able to afford a Sh20 million sports car.

But if you gave them that money, they would most likely buy a sports car. I would drive a sports car now if I had that kind of money, something black with a long hood. But not loud. Doesn’t mean I’m suffering from midlife, does it?


Mood swings: You need to drive in in the city to experience mood swings. You leave the house happy and then suddenly someone in a bigger car, driving on the wrong side, and lights blinking, tries to push you off the road because they are in government.

Then your mood is ruined for the next 30 minutes. Midlife crisis? I don’t think so, just impunity. Or those M-Pesa agent ladies who have a way of messing up your day with their attitude. Midlife? Nope, just bad manners.

Impulsive decision-making: I’m terrible with money. If I’m in traffic and a hawker comes to my window and says “this tennis rack kills mosquitoes”, I will believe him and buy it.

There is this chain of Japanese stores called Miniso. Everybody who walks in there is suffering from midlife crisis, because they will buy what they don’t need. Midlife crisis? I doubt.

Shifts in sleeping habits: Oh, don’t get me started. I often wake up at 3am and just stare into darkness. Or read a book. Lately, I have been sleeping late (11pm), something that never used to happen.

Sleeping habits depend on so many things — stress, the bed, the city, the person sleeping next to you and what they ate that night, the kind of neighbours you have … it’s not midlife crisis.

Obsession with appearance: Sometimes as I walk past a shop in town I will look at my reflection on the shop window. Maybe even wink a little sometimes if I’m in a great mood. Is that an obsession with one’s appearance? Am I suffering from midlife crisis?

Disconnecting with old friends and replacing them with younger ones: Sometimes what “old friends” want to do is drag you to one of those bars where you sit on plastic chairs and shout, “Kajembe, kwani leo hii nyama yako ni ngumu aje?” You can’t do this every weekend.

Sometimes you want to know how the other side lives. Midlife? I ’m a writer, it’s necessary.

Feeling tied down: Same job for six years. Same house for five years. Same car for five years. Same spouse for 15 years.

Same music in the car from Nairobi to Kisumu. Same, same, same. Come on, don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for questioning sameness. It’s not midlife, it’s wanting change.

Thoughts of death: When I was in high school, I always prayed that my mother doesn’t die while I’m still in school. I was scared of it.

Because then we would all fail in life. When she died seven years ago, I started thinking of death, but in a very defiant way.

Have a crisis-free weekend.