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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Midlife Crisis

I think I had my first one at age 17.

I know. That's not midlife; but when one is born ancient, midlife crises are allowed to happen at any age.

It was at this point when I decided that for my own well-being I needed to be somewhere other than my home. So I left.

I went to a national park near my home, applied for a job which included room and board, and never went home again. I visited occasionally, and sometimes I spent the night, but I didn't live there. My sister moved into my room the week following my departure. As I had boxed up all my belongings and placed them in the rubbish bin behind our house to be burned, the room was empty. I was glad she wanted it. Weirdly, it made me feel that I didn't contaminate all that I touched if someone was able to occupy my bed when I left home.

I now lived in a dorm situation with all the other resort employees. This translated into a very large, warehouse sized room with partial walls which allowed the illusion of privacy, but no doors. I slept on a top bunk in a long row of bunk beds.

For a few days I felt uncomfortable and displaced--even a bit lonely. Then I felt absolutely free.

As no one knew me and I was the new girl (everyone else had been there for about a month when I arrived), people began to ask me questions. I was not prepared to tell them who I was--well, I wasn't prepared to tell them anything--so I made things up. I added a couple of years to my age, which inspired this type of commentary:

Someone: Really? You look like you could still be in high school.
me: Yeah, I get that all the time.
Someone: Well, I know you can't be as young as you look because you have to be 18 to get hired here.
me: Yup.

The being 18 part was true. And I wasn't. But I knew someone who knew someone who was able to secure the job for me anyway, based on the fact that I was a high school graduate and had a semester of college on my transcript. So I figured if I was going to be older, I'd be nineteen--turning twenty in September.

Then I decided I had been an exchange student to Ireland during my Junior year of high school. It wasn't glamorous, but I didn't speak any foreign languages fluently enough to convince someone I'd done an exchange anywhere else. I actually have no idea if one can even be an exchange student in Ireland. Neither did anyone else. This allowed me to tell many fabricated stories and be the center of attention, which is usually something I studiously avoid but since I was experiencing mid-life crisis, I allowed myself to try something new.

Being the center of attention also attracted a young man, oddly enough. He was loud and smiled a lot and whistled at me whenever he saw me. One of my bunk/roommates let me know how flattered I should be. And because I was going through midlife crisis, I decided I would be. So we ate meals together for a few days while he told me he was wonderful and I was lucky. And I smiled and nodded and wondered what the heck I was doing. He was 24 and working for minimum wage in the national parks. Surely someone else noticed that seemed to be a bit under-ambitious even for an outdoor enthusiast. But if anyone did, they were too busy listening to him talk about his wonderful-ness and my lucky-ness.

I was seventeen. I was going through a midlife crisis. I was a tiny bit stupid.

When Mr. Wonderful took me to a movie and tried to hold my hand, I let him. When he took me a second time and put his arm around me, I let him do that, too. When he took me a third time and started messing with the clasp of my bra, I yelled. Loudly. Right in the middle of the movie. And then I ended up on a dark road, walking back to the resort where we worked, all by myself because Mr. Wonderful called me a mean name and left me behind.

It was twenty-two miles from the movie theater to my bunk bed.

However, I'd walked long distances before and there seemed no other alternative and it was better than fighting off Mr. Wonderful.

When I'd been walking about an hour a car passed me, made a u-turn, pulled up behind me and stopped. I kept walking. I heard the door open and someone called my name. I continued walking. The car owner jogged to catch up with me and began walking beside me. He didn't say anything. We walked about a mile, then I said, "Why are you here?"

It was a young man, about 20 years old. He was slightly built and very quiet. I don't believe he had ever spoken to me before. He said, "Mr. Wonderful is my bunk/roommate. He came home angry tonight." I laughed. "I'll bet he did. He's not very nice."

Quietly, matter-of-factly, the young man said, "He's a bastard." And I agreed.

The young man told me his name and asked if I wanted a ride home. I said no. He said that was okay, and kept walking with me. After about thirty minutes I said, "Aren't you going back to your car?"

He told me he thought he'd feel better if I wasn't walking alone in the dark, and kept walking. I sighed and said, "Fine. Let's go back to your car and drive home. BUT--please do not touch me." He said, "I wouldn't dream of it."

I don't think we said anything else that night. On the long walk back to the car and the drive to the resort where we lived, we were completely silent. I was very tired.

When we got home, I said, "Thank you," and he said, "How old are you really?" and I said, "Good night."

And with that, the midlife crisis ended. I didn't recant my stories, but I did stop dating men who were seven years older than I--and who would be guilty of statutory rape in the event of any copulation. It was for their own safety--truly.

That young man never did say a whole lot, but he spent the rest of the summer with me. We ate meals together, went camping, swam in the river, went to movies (and he didn't grope me), went shopping, and sometimes we just sat on a hillside and colored in a coloring book. He mentioned that seemed more age-appropriate for me than making out and heavy petting with a 24-year-old bastard.

And then I went to college and he went on a mission and I didn't have another midlife crisis for more than a year, at which point I celebrated the crisis by getting married but not to the quiet young man.


  1. I love reading what you write! :) BTW, How do you tell if a person is an old soul?

  2. I have no idea. I suppose I use the term ironically because by the time I was twelve I had been through more crap than many people experience in a lifetime. I don't really consider myself an old soul...just never young. :-)