How to spot a man over forty – the definitive guide

Porsche Boxster, a rear mid-engine, rear-wheel...

Porsche Boxster, a rear mid-engine, rear-wheel (RMR) drive sports car (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A little while ago I wrote a blog post about how to tell whether a woman is over 40.  But how do you tell if a man is over 40?  Easy, you say, he manifests all the signs of a mid-life crisis – he buys some ridiculous, utterly impractical 2-seater sports car, or worse a motor bike; he starts wearing a dodgy leather jacket and too-tight jeans; he flirts outrageously with girls half his age in the delusional belief that they find him attractive when in truth they find him pitiably sad.

These things may all be true or they may just be a cliché. It got me thinking however whether in fact there are some more subtle signs which herald the onset of the 40s in a man and I believe there are.  After much observation, here is my list of the signs of an impending mid-life crisis:

– Firstly, in one of Mother Nature’s more cruel jokes, men appear to lose the hair on their head and grow it elsewhere on the body. For some reason Mother Nature seems to think that men no longer need hair on their heads but instead need more hair on their backs and in their ears and noses.  I fail to see what biological reason this body hirsuteness has – perhaps it is just a sort of rough (bristly?) justice to compensate women for the decades of plucking, waxing and depilation that we have to endure. Note – the borrowing of a woman’s tweezers by a man or a sudden interest in waxing are common initial manifestations of the onset of increased body/nasal hair.

– Secondly, the onset of male hypochondria and the diminishment of the male immortality belief. In my experience this male hypochondria often stems from the over 40 health MOTs which many men undergo.  I wholeheartedly endorse such health checks but I strongly believe men should not be given access to any of the results unless absolutely necessary.  Why?  Because men who have never ever shown the remotest interest in health (believing in their immortality), the same men who dismiss all female health problems as either “something down there” or related to the “her time of the month”, suddenly become minutely interested in the details of their own health.  They pick through the smallest print of every blood test – “My phosphate level is slightly high – do you think this is serious, am I going to die?”.  In my opinion, men are best left blissfully unaware of such things, obviously with the exception of any serious illness, and only given information about their health on a need-to-know basis.

– Questioning immortality and insecurity about future health is what drives another sign of a man moving towards middle age – exercise.  I know that I am not one to speak as I frequently wear exercise kit as a way of vicariously exercising and making others believe I have exercised when I have not, but it seems men of a certain age have all the gear and absolutely no idea. They have lycra, expensive trainers and hi-vis clothing coming out of their (hairy?) ears but how often do they actually go out and exercise? Infrequent at most would be my guess.  Although, do note, there is a sizeable subset of men who after the age of 40 take exercise to extreme levels and start competing in iron man competitions and the like (you can spot these men by their eagerness to post race times etc on social networking sites).

– Another sign – falling asleep on the sofa almost every evening at a time that could not reasonably be called bedtime.   This falling asleep can happen almost immediately upon sitting down and is usually accompanied by noisy exhalations.  These narcoleptic tendencies often go hand in hand with the automatic denial the morning after that he fell asleep on the sofa the night before. Sometimes it only becomes undeniable when a man sits down to watch an episode of a programme (having slept through the previous episode) and asks “can you remember what happened in the last episode?” to which a woman replies “Yes thanks and so would you if you had been awake”.

– Watch an over 40s man’s face the next time he is told that a social engagement has been cancelled.  He will almost certainly say things like “What a shame – I was so looking forward to a huge night out” but look carefully at his face because the relief will be almost tangible, his words are just bravado.  The truth of it is that even the most hardened of male party animals secretly enjoys his nights in with a takeaway, a beer and the TV to watch (or sleep in front of…).  In fact, given the choice most over 40s men would rarely go out except for the odd night out with a few mates – the proverbial old man in the pub evening.

So there you have it – he may not buy some wildly inappropriate car or think he is impressing girls half his age but the signs will be there if you look.  The sad truth for men over 40 is that they have now entered the realm of dad-dancing-at-a-wedding and we should probably cut them a bit of slack as they come to terms with all that represents.  It cannot be easy for the male ego to admit that he is not the man he was at 21 and actually pottering around the garden centre of an afternoon is not all that bad…

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If I could turn back time…

je ne regrette rien

je ne regrette rien (Photo credit: Diana Torres tatuajes)

Imagine your life so far as a film played in front of your eyes.  Imagine you have editorial power and you could cut out or change various scenes.  What would you change?  What would I change?

– Perhaps I would have done a different degree at university.  Latin and Ancient Greek are all very well but let’s face it, they are not particularly relevant in professional terms in 2013.  People always ask me whether I speak Latin/Ancient Greek – no, I reply, they are dead languages.  Really useful. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my degree subject but I hold it partly responsible for my total lack of ability to decide on any one career. Classics is not what you would call vocational (unless you want to be a classics teacher of course) and apart from all that very worthy “it is invaluable in learning any of our modern European languages” blah (which is, by the way true), the only time I have used Latin since 1996 is when people ask me to translate inscriptions on monuments – something which I fail to do almost 100% of the time, thereby looking like not only someone who did a fairly irrelevant degree but was also not particularly good at it.

– I would have had long hair when I was a child.  Looking back at photos of me between approximately the ages of 3 and 15, I had a deeply unflattering short layered cut. My sister, who is only 20 months younger me, had very pretty long hair in plaits, bunches and the like.  Why didn’t I, you may well ask?  Well, some misguided hairdresser informed my mother that the only way to thicken up my very fine hair was to have this hideous bowl-like short hair style.  My mother, rightfully bowing to this woman’s supposed superior tonsorial knowledge, kept me shorn for the next 10 years.  Result – I’ve still got very fine hair and I’m emotionally scarred from my hideous childhood hair.

– I would have been slightly more circumspect about my teenage crushes.  Boris Becker (why o why?), Bruce Springsteen (cried when he got married for the first time???) and James Dean (he was dead for God’s sake).  OK so things have improved since then but I can’t help but feel it says something rather concerning about me that my room was a shrine to a dead man, that I fell for a middle-aged rocker and  Boris Becker…well, what can I say about that…

–  I would miss out my slightly goth stage (admittedly it was a blink and you miss it one) – purple paisley shirts, dark hair, dark mini skirt, dark tights (ripped), dark boots, dark eyeliner, dark lipstick, white face and a penchant for Jesus and the Mary Chain. It was definitely not one of my finer moments.  Although, now I come to think of it, I am not sure that my “brown suede jacket from Kensington Market” (which was second hand and stank) stage was that much better.

– I would definitely not have worked in a Harvester restaurant when I was 15 (despite making one of my best friends there). Not only did we have to face the daily humiliation of wearing a see-through brown and yellow checked outfit, but we had to ask the same mind-numbingly repetitive questions to each and every customer – “Have you been to a Harvester before?” and “Can I show you to the salad cart?”.  The tedium was only temporarily relieved when a customer found a large piece of concrete in his lancashire hotpot.

– I would have passed my driving test first time.  I know everyone says that the best drivers don’t pass first time but that is just one of those rubbish statements made up to make you feel better (along the lines of acute morning sickness is a sign of a strong pregnancy). Anyway, it is not relevant to me as I didn’t even pass second time. Admittedly going through a red light in my first test was fairly fatal to my chances and doing my 3 point turn in about 17 turns didn’t boost my chances in my second test. I eventually passed third time and this was probably only because I don’t think I saw another moving car during that test. I imagine that my chances of passing nowadays with the theory test would be slim at best. Although perhaps marginally higher than those of someone I know who when presented with a road sign of falling rocks, declared that it meant “No falling rocks allowed here”?!

– I would have taken a different career path – journalism.  Now, I would be a successful writer with best sellers to my name and the odd Airport exclusive…and as I count backward from 10, you will open your eyes at 3 and be totally awake by 1…instead of a 40 year old blogger who has tried her hand at more careers than most and who blogs about largely irrelevant issues and just doesn’t seem to be able to start that novel…

Actually, as Edith Piaf sang “non, je ne regrette rien” – all of the above have made me who I am today.  I guess it’s good to still have dreams at 40 and actually, you know what, just perhaps this is my time to start fulfilling some of those dreams.  Watch this space.