What I Did During My Midlife Crisis

hairy-butch-on-a-bike

Even chimps have midlife crises.

Mea culpa. I want to apologize to all the middle-aged people whom I mocked, behind their backs, for what they did during their midlife crisis. I rolled my eyes at the $60,000 kitchen renovation with a Sub Zero refrigerator and an integrated wine storage system. I snickered at the $45,000 red Cadillac sedan with French leather seats and a Bose sound system. I said “She should have had a brain implant instead of a boob job” in reference to a less than stellar co-worker who got a big cup.

I take it all back. Somewhere out there someone I know is “tsk-tsking” me for having top surgery. It is payback. What I am doing fits the profile of a midlife crisis as much as taking skydiving lessons or buying a Harley-Davidson.

Midlife can hit you hard. Particularly when you are set in your ways. Same job. Same partner. Same apartment. Same therapist. Same non-conforming butch gender stuff. And then boom, you look up and you are in uh-oh land. The land of possibilities that you did not let yourself think about every time you pulled on your Levi 501’s, buttoned your L.L. Bean flannel shirt, and laced up your Timberland boots.

It isn’t exactly like I woke up one day and suddenly realized that I was an overweight and out of shape middle-aged butch lesbian with a stack of plaid flannel shirts and a pile of construction boots. But, after I corrected my therapist and told her “I’m not a girl”, I started the long process of figuring out exactly what that sentence meant. While I was thinking, I started going to Weight Watchers, ramping up my gym work outs, and binding my chest. 

Those activities are at the top of the list of warning signs of a midlife crisis. Men try to lose weight, get in shape, and take up extreme sports. Women go to plastic surgeons (Botox, liposuction, or breast enhancements). I chose from both Column A and Column B.

Maybe it is just the guys I know, but it seems like midlife crisis hits men harder and they spend more dealing with it. Besides the “best fucking Cadillac ever” I’ve watched guys buy Crestliner fishing boats, 60-inch Samsung plasma TVs, and Rolex watches. They went for bling, so everyone else could see how cool they were. Another warning sign.

They don’t want to be bald guys with beer guts any more than I do. They want to live the good life. Even while they take out second mortgages and pension loans to do it. They want to feel good about themselves. I understand it.

If you had told me ten years ago that I would be getting top surgery, I would have told you no, I’m going to stay natural. I’ve worked everything out, I’m fine. I’m OK being butch. I’ve made my peace with it. When I was a kid I wanted to be a boy, and I fought hard to get to where I am, and it is OK.  I do what I want, I wear what I want, I’ve got a dog and a partner, I’m OK. I’m OK.

Midlife crisis kicks in when OK is no longer enough. When you can’t do the same thing over and over anymore. Somehow, in the process of repetition, it stops making sense. I was lucky. I didn’t quit my job, I didn’t leave Donna, I didn’t go to an ashram in India, I didn’t buy a convertible.

I came out again. I changed my name. I lost weight. I got back in shape. I am not starting over but I am learning to be more flexible and less judgmental. And if anyone wants to make fun of me for having top surgery, then so be it. I’ll be out shopping for new shirts.

Notes: Surgery is still scheduled for next Monday (12/8). I’ll probably take at least a week off from blogging while I recover and I’m not expecting to post any “transbucket” worthy photos. You can read about chimps with midlife crises here, and an interesting article from the Atlantic on The Real Roots of Midlife Crisis here.

44 thoughts on “What I Did During My Midlife Crisis

  1. krisalex333

    I’m not even spilling the beans about all I did during my midlife crisis – it’s too embarrassing! But top surgery is the one thing I do not regret. I’m sure you are counting the days, if not hours and minutes. 🙂

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I’ve travelled to India twice – not on a spiritual journey per se, but because I’m interested in the architecture and culture. The first time I went I came back as a pescetarian (couldn’t eat meat and still don’t). A lot of India is supposedly “dry” but some places will serve you a beer poured into a teapot and drunk out of cup and saucer. We learned to ask for “special tea”.

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      1. DogDharma

        Oh, my goodness, Jamie! I’m going to have to put a lock on my keyboard, or I’ll rattle on here! My “Where Have You Been” post includes a picture of me standing in front to the Royal Pavilion in Brighton, England (UK’s equivalent of San Francisco). It was one of the royal homes that was designed with Indian architecture.

        Early in transition, I read a book by Dececco and Pattanaik called “The Man Who Was a Woman and Other Queer Tales from Hindu Lore (Haworth Gay & Lesbian Studies)” It was a timely book for my transitioning since I was very interested in Eastern thought!

        Have read about the hajjis (not to be confused with Scottish haggis!).

        Yes, indeed — send me to an ashram near the Bodh Gaya tree and serve some of that “special” tea and I’m good to go! Sadly, I’m not a pescetarian; I’m only a potato-chip-atarian. I would **love** to visit India one day, so if you have pictures, please share!

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    1. dynamitochondria

      Oh, and I jumped careers to game development and began a polyamorous lifestyle for my midlife crisis. I hope you’re as happy with your results as I am with mine.

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  2. Tea With Ess

    My parents renovated their summerhouse for 200000$ and moved in permanently. They will never get the money back from that, an could’ve built a complete new house next door for less. It’s stupid, but they are happy with it. I just hope my midlife crisis won’t be as stupid or expensive.
    I think I will exercise like mad and maybe take up a new hobby. And renovate something in the house when the kids move out.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      From what I’ve seen, I’m getting off cheap. Top surgery is a lot less expensive compared to what some people blow through in midlife (and at least I have the cash on hand and am not taking out mortgages or running up my credit cards to do it). Everyone has their priorities, but I think top surgery will make me happier than another material object like a car, boat, or big screen TV.
      We have never renovated – we paint, replace, and fix stuff on an as needed basis, and we’ve been in the apartment for 20+ years. It isn’t a home and gardens showplace, but it is home.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Thanks. At some point I want to write more about body image, weight, fat shaming, feeling comfortable, and being non-conforming (not just gender non-conforming) – but the desire (as a AFAB person) to not be judged by how I look – but to be seen as a whole. Meanwhile, off with them.

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  3. Terese Beatty

    I didn’t realize it when I began, but I guess my midlife crisis was beginning college 9.5 years ago and finishing my my graduate program last night. Tons of money, but no regrets. Will be thinking about you next week. Good luck.

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  4. MainelyButch

    I went through my first mid-life crisis at 46…it lasted 2 years. I think I am going through another one currently. This blog resonated with me, and made me think hard about this. Top surgery was the BEST part of 2014 for me! I am 3 1/2 months post op and feeling great! I think you may find yourself blogging during your recovery, it’s not so bad and you’ll be bored! It’s a great time to write I found! Good luck on the 8th! ~MB

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      The article I linked to in the Atlantic – which is totally heteronormative – discusses the “U” curve, and we are both at the age when we are starting to come out of the disappointing part of our lives (I hope).
      I think it is really difficult to manage those feelings as a gender-non-conforming/butch/queer person because there are so few options for jobs/relationships available to us compared to your average straight guy ( or straight woman). I couldn’t take a job where I had to wear “business attire” and I worked hard to protect my job at NYCT (read sucked it a lot of abuse) because I knew it was the best I could get.
      However, I feel like I am coming out of the fog, and hope that my top surgery experience will be as joyous as yours.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Thank you for your support from afar. For me, the midlife crisis has a kind of “must do this now before it is too late and I miss the chance” and a “I deserve better than this” kind of mantra to it. A PhD makes sense – maybe you will write about moving to Hungary?

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  5. Lesboi

    Interesting post. It reminds me that I had a bit of a break down at 30 and ended up moving across country, leaving my girlfriend, going back to college to change careers (changed back a few years later) and getting into spirituality. I really mark that point as the beginning of my search for who I really am. It all came together at mid-life for me but I certainly wouldn’t call it a crisis. The crisis happened at 30. What I’m doing now might appear to be a mid-life crisis but it’s really just the culmination of 20 years of hard work to understand myself and live on my own terms. Anyway, I did get the sports car back when I was 40 and the big screen tv too. 🙂

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I chugged along until my mid-forties. I’ve spent a lot on travel (Donna really likes to travel) but I didn’t do any really big purchases – although I did think about them – but they were too obvious. The big thing for me was to stop chugging on auto pilot (mixed metaphor) and let myself face up to who I want to be and what I want to be doing. And as I mentioned above, even if I end up paying for surgery out-of-pocket, it won’t cost more than a basic new Harley-Davidson.

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  6. UnknownJamie

    Hehe, I’ve believed it from a young age, that the stuff people older than you say is true, there’s no avoiding it, natural life stages and such. Fudge it! I think you’re doing a great job at being you! Big daaaay coming up for you huh! Exciting!!

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Very exciting. The problem with both midlife and transgender is you get the double whammy of being doubly ridiculous (in the way that being trans is kind of publicly ridiculous, and that being middle aged and trying not to act middle aged can be ridiculous). But it beats doing nothing and trying to pretend that everything is OK.

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      1. UnknownJamie

        Well I’m not there yet, so I know I can’t understand. But there are plenty of people who were screwed beyond this point, at least you’ve been making the conscious effort the whole time, and while it may feel pretty gruesome sometimes, I can tell from your writing that you are in touch with that inner strength that pulls you through, appreciate it and never take it for granted, few are so lucky to have the curse of a gift that is self-awareness!

        Never pretend ^_^ It’s ok that it’s difficult!

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I’m excited and trying to balance the “no big deal” with the “whoa I’m really going through with this” approach. Still have to get some bendy straws.

      It will be interesting to see how people who transitioned in their twenties experience their midlife crises, and if dealing with all this stuff earlier saves them from some of worst episodes of floundering self-expression (or if they get to experience puberty 3 times).

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  7. PlainT

    Heh, I’m going through a quarter-life crisis; it’s like a midlife crisis but with less money. I think you’re on to something though: this state of being “okay” gets tiresome after a while, and it’s only a matter of time before another “crisis” is needed to re-evaluate one’s life and move past “okay”. My parents never went through a midlife crisis, but I wish they would!

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    1. PlainT

      P.S. I think they can be a really healthy thing: after years of bad habits and declining health, most midlife crises involve a change of diet and lifestyle. Yes they also involve blowing a bunch of money, but after 50ish years of hard work, with life spans what they are these days… hey why not buy something fun?

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  8. RonaFraser

    Hmm… I’m not sure I’ve had a midlife crisis yet, and I’m 47. I mean, I pretty much have a crisis every birthday… Maybe I just haven’t had the money to have a really good one! Hell, I bought a pair of $206 winter boots last week (because I needed a comfortable/warm pair for walking to work, for a change) and I waited a week before wearing them as I just wan’t convinced I should spend that much on clothing!

    Anyways, it is now past Dec 8. I hope all is well and you are recovering nicely.

    Oh, and I saw this link and I thought you might be interested: http://www.blogto.com/fashion_style/2014/12/toronto_gets_a_gender_neutral_online_clothing_store/

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Thanks for the link (and welcome back)! I deleted the other two comments so hopefully they won’t be pinging around in the blogosphere.

      I’m recovering pretty well, no pain, just tired. Tomorrow I go to get the bandages removed (they itch and chaff) and the drains pulled out (they itch and chaff) and then I expect to feel better. We’ve been making a lot of jokes about separating the “wheat from the chaff” I’m just uncomfortable and uninterested in doing much other than listen to music and read food magazines.

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