Ladies first! New research on mid-life crises finds that more and more women are having them, and having them younger than our male counterparts. Women ages 35-44 were most likely to be in crisis.
That’s right, you can have a midlife crisis in your 30s. Welcome to the modern world, where everything moves faster. Supposedly the pressure on working women is so intense, we burn out a decade before men do.
What is a mid-life crisis, anyway?
The earmarks for a mid-life crisis are the same for men and women, according to the Telegraph. Typical symptoms include:
- a feeling of worthlessness
- lack of meaning
- a sense that time is running out
What’s different for women isn’t that we experience these feelings, it’s what we do about them.
While men’s mid-life crises stereotypically involve young girlfriends and fast cars, women’s tend to resemble a scene from Eat, Pray, Love. The women profiled in the Telegraph did things like start new business ventures, volunteer in the developing world, have babies and open art galleries. While some of those activities are pretty adventurous, they’re not exactly irresponsible.
Tracie at Jezebel thinks this sounds boring. She says:
…the idea that women supposedly respond to all the hairy bullshit of life by taking on different, or even bigger, responsibilities rather than allowing themselves to be selfish, as with the stereotypical male midlife crisis, really chaps my ass. It’s like every time a portion of a woman’s life is defined, the same old double standards are attached to it.
Tracie has a point. But I wonder if women aren’t really drawn to different kinds of experiences, ones with more “meaning” and responsibility attached.
I went through my own personal crisis this winter. I won’t say it was a mid-life crisis, since at 32 I’m going to insist on being too young for a mid-life anything. But it was a crisis of faith in myself, my life and my marriage. Eventually I took a sabbatical away from my home and family to get some much needed rest and get a handle on who I wanted to be.
What I did was work at my freelance writing, go running, read a lot of books, take a lot of naps. I didn’t suddenly start dating a 19-year-old or buy a sports car. I went on a quest for meaning and I found what I was looking for in simple, boring, responsible activities.
I suspect plenty of men resolve their mid-life crises this way, too, really. The problem isn’t so much that women’s crises are boring as that men are pigeonholed with an ugly stereotype. Probably a lot of people, regardless of gender, get to their mid-30s or 40s, don’t know what they’re doing with their lives, and take a little time to find out.
Have you been through this kind of crisis? What shape did it take in your life?