The Female Mid-Life Crisis
What happens when a suburban mom falls into a lusty affair
He disappeared then. I could tell by his Facebook posts that he was passing time with a girlfriend in the city where he lived. I was crushed. I worked out at the gym—hard, smashing myself against the treadmill—trying to forget about him as I kickboxed and sobbed. I had a lot of work to do, and I plunged through it like a wild horse. Friends thought I seemed strung out, but my husband and children noticed nothing amiss. I cooked massive dinners, kissed our sons good night, made love to my husband, no more or less passionately than ever. And then, when everyone was asleep, I'd sneak outdoors to light up one of the cigarettes I'd quit so long ago, to gaze at the moon and cry.
I was in over my head, swimming in hidden grief. In the mirror I saw what I was becoming: a caricature of a middle-aged woman, pining away for Romeo. I was the overage seductress; the jealous, weepy mistress; the character in a Latin soap opera, all lipliner and wrinkled cleavage. If he had hove into view during that time, I would have beat on his chest and pitched myself to the ground.
When Canadian psychoanalyst Elliott Jaques coined the term “midlife crisis” more than 40 years ago, he was describing a gender-neutral life stage, but it quickly became popularized as a male phenomenon. The symptoms were melancholy and boredom, followed by flashy cars, hairpieces, and running off with pretty young things. Women, it seemed, didn't need midlife crises because they already had a word for their situation at the same age: menopause, with its well-defined symptoms heralding cronehood. Females in midlife crises get depressed and gain weight. No red Maseratis for us.
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