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Sam North

To shoot yourself or the wife? Male Menopause in action...

There’s a lot of them out there. Most often male, but not exclusively. Generally over forty and sometimes remarkably senior - either worried about being made redundant or already discarded - if they are lucky with a goodbye lump sum.

There’s so many people in their forties approaching fifty who are technologically beached and no longer economically viable that it is quite scary. Many of these people could be retrained, reskilled, but the people who have to do that are in their twenties and they can’t see the potential for it. To them talking to a 40 plus person, let alone training them, is akin to asking Noah to take over the controls of a Boeing 777.

Let's leave aside all those impending greys who are economically active, viable, physically active and never intend to give up anything or surrender anything to age - the fact is, they are not the ‘majority’. The others and there’s many of them have been cut loose by their companies, banks, factories, farms and schools. You name it as ‘downsizing’ took it’s toll and as those who remain in jobs do more and more, those without are often without the means to hook back up to the system, or can’t actually afford the computer upgrade necessary, or the phone costs of being on-line. Or may be just plain technologically illiterate through no fault of their own. Even if they do have excellent computer skills, these may be skills needed for the early 1990s and those software packages have long since stopped being used. Retrain? Fine, but what company has the time to do that, or the inclination? Human Resources is an oxymoron after all.

So that’s that out of the way. Just accept it, there’s a lot of people out there who aren’t part of the brave new media world and they feel lost and powerless. The women are going through one set of problems, the men a whole set of others. Women perhaps can get part-time work more readily and employers are more keen to take them on. Men have a long way to go before they realise that part-time is normal. Not only that, but they will be earning half or a quarter of what they used to get from full time jobs, but actually working harder.

Women, especially married women, may also have to deal with men going through an early menopause state. That whole, finding the meaning of life before it’s too late thing. In fact, the beaches are full of men and women going through this latent hippy phase. The nearer you get to fifty, the more urgent it is to start living your ‘dream’. Never mind that only the rich get to live the ‘dream’.

Every year hundreds of thousands of men and women go out in search of love before it’s gone forever or try to become the artist, photographer, writer, poet, sex champion they always thought they could be, if they hadn’t taken a job in the post office when they were young. Every man suddenly wakes up and suddenly wants a younger wife or girlfriend and every wife or girlfriend wakes up and wants a younger man with more potential than what they have (and a bit more poke). The kids can go hang.

The trouble is, there is a lot of arriving at the beach realising that you no longer look good in shorts or anything at all really. There’s only so many ways to disguise cellulite or a pot belly and baldness is never ‘cute’. The hang dog look you used to use when you were 18, forget it, now it looks pathetic.

This whole thing comes all at once. The thing with being technologically redundant and longing to be the sexual person you once were. It’s not wonderful and it's all too real. It affects men and women with good jobs as much as people with bad ones or no job at all.

Quite rational people, women of around 42 or more will quit that senior job in Creatives at JWT or Saatchi and go live in Greece with a boy of 19. They will paint or start a restaurant. It will not last. They will regret it. Men of 49 will do the same, move to Florida and set up home with some Lolita substitute or suddenly decide to come out of the closet and tear up Miami in the desperate pursuit of pleasure that only men of 49 can know. They will have left behind a wife, two kids, a great job, the best dog in the world and tell himself that they never really liked Surrey anyway.

A former partner of mine told me ‘men who can’t grow up and be ‘old’ are doomed to great unhappiness.’ But when you consider the alternative, I do have a lot of sympathy with those suddenly wanting a life free of responsibility and uniformity. Escaping isn’t entirely stupid. Being unprepared for the new life is. Not having transportable skills is really dumb.

I recall planning a life by the beach at 25. I wanted a house by the rocks, to write for a living, have the regulation blonde wife and dog and have long walks on the beaches in the evenings on the way to having excellent wine and conversation with good companions . Maybe at 10pm we’d watch the whales go by around the Cape by the light of the moon and I’d get a fax from someone to say they’d pay $25,000 for the latest feature I’d just written.

Well, I ended up by the sea, living in an old converted church, the blonde thinks I look older than George Burns and just dumped me for a younger man, the dog died; the teachers salary doesn't stretch to good wine, it’s too damn cold, even in July, to walk on the beach and the good companions live about 6000 miles away. This is a crisis waiting to happen.

It’s not just me. I get e-mails from friends all over the world now, in their forties, all going through the same thing. All of them want to change their lives, get a life, dump the old one. 'Can you look after my dog for six months or longer?’ they ask. You just know what they mean and two weeks later their partner calls to find out if you have seen him or her lately...

Well OK. Take a number. We are the late baby boomers. There’s a few million ahead of us on the same track and it’s backing up. The other weekend I was in Bath. It’s an old Roman City and still today a splendid Regency spectacle well worth a visit, even if they have let the Roman baths go to hell. Bath is where those tired of London go to. They start publishing companies, websites, teach in the University, start coffee shops, put their second family into good schools, then half way through their affair with the au pair, realise that they miss the life they hated and Bath is a small place that is unrelenting in it’s uniformity. They have built a new trap and now they have passed the fifty mark and this is it, you've got to eat it my friend. Too late.

For every one of you reading this and going through the ‘ pause’, stop and think about it a while. You have the good job (if you are lucky). OK you may not like your partner anymore, but try to remember what it was you did like about him or her, because I guarantee you’ll find someone just like them when you change. You want to go and live in the place you always wanted to go to. Visit first. Places change. Modern tourism is killing everything, old cities rebuild or decay. Beaches get crowded and empty ones probably have a nuclear reactor behind the trees now.

What are you really going to do? You have computer skills - well will the 20 year old boss want you around his loud rap music workspace? Can you take it? Or teach a language? Sure, but do you know how soul destroying teaching can be? Or running that coffee shop you always wanted to run. Have you calculated how many coffees you have to sell to make enough to pay staff and just how much paperwork there is to fill out when you hire other people? Be afraid, be very afraid. Oh yes and that great novel you wanted to write? What are the chances of a fifty year old man or women striking it lucky, or finding an agent. Of course you might end up writing and selling something academic about ‘Male Menopause in Modern Media Theory,’ but you weren’t planning on getting rich were you?

This whole ageing thing can be put in another perspective. Let’s assume that you are not one of the unfortunates with no skills, no future and no life and you can actually put this dream lifestyle into action. At fifty, you have another ten years before the heart, hips, lungs, knees, or that old neck injury from playing tennis, rugby, skiiing, do you in. Ten years to live with the mistress or the toybo. Ten years to make some money to live on for the next twenty years after that. Ten years before Nurse Ratchet straps you down at night and slips ten milligrammes of instant stun down your throat.

So make those lists. Places to go and live the life. But check they have hospitals you can afford. Find out now if they have bugs that transmit killer diseases. Oh yes, the toyboy or mistress, they only materialise if you have money. You thought it was love? Now that is a fantasy. If you are really unlucky you meet the blonde.

You need to save money now. You’ll have to share. Have you shared with anyone lately? Do know how slobby people can be? Do you even like heavy metal? If you don’t want to share with someone young, don’t whatever you do share with someone of fifty and in the same crisis mode as you. Remember why they were called the ‘odd couple’?

So where will you go with your dreams. Italy? France? Greece? USA? Will they let you in? How will you earn a living legally? Have you any idea of how bureaucratic all those places can be, with hordes of civil servants just dying to make your life a misery? In the end, begging in Tangiers isn’t ‘ nice.’ ‘Give generously, one male menopause to support’ doesn’t cut much ice there.

So there you have it. Even if you do have the skills to make yourself transportable, remember ‘Sam’s Law ’: 'The cookie jar will always be one shelf higher than you can reach'. This is similar to ‘Moores Second Law’ which states that ‘improbabilities double in achievability every two years once you are past fifty.'

It’s probable that most women can get through this stage, unless they happen to be married to the man going through it. Yetit is likely the man will survive.
Sure, the house in Surrey is gone forever, the kids hate you now and the wife never did like you much, you’d probably crawl back if she asked, but she’d hate you even more for being so weak.

So you don’t, you have another cold beer with Ronnie Biggs at the beach and discuss his prostate problems. You send glowing e-mails back to pals in the office saying what a great life you are having and they believe it because they want to. And those friends who visit you to ogle the Rio girls who wouldn’t look at them in a million years remind you that you went through this stage at thirty, and again at forty, so fifty won’t be any worse...but it will be, it will. This time you did it, you moved, you live in the shack on the beach in Rio and you know what, this time you don’t have any hair.

© Sam North 14.07. 2000 - approaching the crisis zone with alacrity.

How do you know you are going through male menopause?
1. Hormone-production levels dip.
2. You are happy with less sex - at least with the wife.
Ambition seems pointless.
4. Children have graduated.
5. Parents are dying off. You think you are next.
6. Career prospects are going backwards.
7. Your second marriage is breaking up.
8. Friends are contracting incurable diseases or you are attending
funerals than marriages.
Physical stamina is diminishing.
10. Dreams are just dreams and unrealised.

What men think is the cure:
Find a young blonde to get back their self-esteem.
What men should do: Define what makes them happy, renew connections with the present wife, pace themselves, stop worrying about the inevitable, learn to enjoy the moment. (See the blonde on the side).

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