Today, at 55 years old, Joe realizes the rest of his tomorrows will never be as good as most of his yesterdays. That epiphany catches him off guard. The immediacy of it throws him off kilter.
It wasn’t long ago that Joe felt relevant, steady, and somewhat optimistic about life, the world, and his place in it.
Now he flounders.
He’s a floundering Joe.
A man-fish swimming against the steady current of uncertainty.
“How did I not see this coming?” he mutters.
Moderately well-off, Joe is considered successful — especially in America, where success is measured by the home you own, the car you drive, and the stuff you have. In America, materialism and success are practically inseparable.
So, why does middle age feel like an existential threat to Joe? Why (with all his success) is he suddenly riddled with insecurities?
Joe’s crisis set up shop in his head when he started to understand (subconsciously) that success, as defined by society, is different from success as defined by biology and (more specifically) virility.
Virility’s relationship with success is forged by millions of years of evolution, so that shit is hardwired into the male brain. And at 55, Joe’s virility is in decline. It’s not that Joe feels less virile or even that he sees a noticeable decline. It’s more about an awareness of how others perceive him — or how others barely notice him at all.
Gone are the days of side glances from attractive strangers. Joe feels like he’s disappearing – like he’s being involuntarily airbrushed into the landscape – a crooked aging tree at the base of a mountain – a depressing reminder of his waning biological relevance.
In the face of this revelation, Joe leans into what he’s been conditioned to believe, that success is the stuff you own, the way you look, and the things you can afford. He knows he can’t un-tic the clock, but Joe has access to cash — lots and lots of cash.
So, Joe heads to the Chevy dealership downtown and purchases a shiny new sportscar. At first, he feels pretty good about himself. But the ego-boost is fleeting. Over time, squeezing in and out of his little red Corvette doesn’t turn back the clock; it just reminds Joe of the uncomfortable logistics of aging. A new car doesn’t equate to a younger you, especially if you audibly struggle when getting in and out of it. “Umph!”
Joe parks the car in his garage and rarely takes it out.
“Maybe it’s my style? Maybe I don’t have any style?” Joe says to himself in the mirror.
Joe treks off to the mall, platinum card in hand, and treats himself to a hip new wardrobe of skinny jeans and UNTUCKit shirts, somehow disregarding the obvious — that clothes always look better on the mannequin and catalog model (because neither have pot bellies or man-boobs). Joe’s clothes no longer hang on him in a fashionable way. Instead, they bring unwanted attention to what he’s desperately trying to hide. And what makes Joe think he can pull off the skinny jeans thing, like he’s Mick Jagger?
The one thing that makes Joe feel a little better is hitting the gym and changing his diet. He knows he isn’t turning any heads huffing and puffing on the Stairmaster, but he’s lost a little weight, and his mood is lighter. Even though he considers this a minor victory, he knows there’s no stopping father time from fucking with him.
Life is a conveyor belt.
As Joe begins to age-out of middle age, he decides that acceptance is the only play when it comes to aging. Acceptance leads to tranquility, which leads to confidence.
And confidence ages well.