Desperately resorting to chemical enhancements to excite midlife romance…

Growing old can be fraught with problems. As marriages stretch beyond what used to be a lifetime, the differences between partners can often become more pronounced, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the bedroom. So what does it mean for midlife romance?

With differing sex drives, men and women have often struggled to come to terms with the ask, deny, frustration, grumpiness cycle. The grumpiness of the man becomes the reason for the denial, which increases the grumpiness to levels that can lead to affairs and / or divorce.

A friend of mine was in this exact situation. Barren months had led to calloused hands. Buying a bigger laptop hadn’t helped, nor had leaving his search history open for all to see. His wife had decided he was a boar and a bore, plus with the onset of early evening tiredness, her desire to roll naked around the room had become more of a fear.

In an attempt to break the cycle, my friend found himself inside a Boots store buying over the counter Viagra. In a slightly male way, he had decided that the problem was his ability to last. Nervously he filled out the required form, recollecting the early days of condom buying when you struggled to meet the pharmacist’s eyes as he sized you up for a night of passion.

Popping the pill with excitement

On arriving home, said friend popped his pill early, recognising his wife would soon be heading up the stairs. He followed her, complimenting her on how she looked, and sympathising with how hard she’d worked. He quoted an old song line, to which she replied “amazing” (in retrospect this could have been sarcasm) but at the time he took to be at least a thawing of the ice maiden if not quite a come on.

In other departments, either the anticipation or blue pill was doing its stuff. As he climbed into bed he felt warm, excited and up for the fight. Gently (but quite quickly as he knew it was only a small pre-sleep window) he reached out and wrapped his arms around his wife.

“You’re being very affectionate tonight,” she said suspiciously.

“I just thought how nice you looked,” he answered provocatively.

She turned over. “I think I have a serious bowel issue,” she said.

A lot went through his mind at this point, and sympathy was only one of those thoughts. His first was it was like the nuclear “no sex” escalation – I’m tired, have a headache, am sick, have bowel problem. Then, and somewhat guiltily, he enquired after the symptoms and diagnosis (google has a lot to answer for).

Sadly romantic chemicals don’t last forever in midlife romance

By the time both the symptoms and treatments had been discussed, the power of the pill was well and truly broken, proving that desire and chemicals are still no match for a determined woman.

Fortunately the diagnosis was favourable, and following a more roughage friendly diet, the wife’s health returned. My friend has four pills left from his original five, but with a new big pc and powerful video card he doesn’t see any imminent use for a midlife romance.

And that’s acceptance of middle age and the mid-life crisis. You struggle with the fact that thirty years ago you had the world at your feet, so you should be telling your middle-age self it’s like starting again from your youth.

But then as you get up to start the race your back twinges, knees hurt and hip stabs you again and again with reminders of your decline. Your addictions are harder to shake. Alcohol, tobacco, cake all become a daily battle of wills, with your body reminding you that to carry on as you are means you’ll soon be excited by daytime tv and that vision of an older person’s Ibiza is just a mirage.

So what can you do before you join the bowls club?

The dangerous minefield that is male grooming

After my experience in the Turkish barbers, it got me thinking about midlife male grooming. How much should I bother about my appearance? Isn’t midlife the time to sink into comfortable apathy rather than struggle to be trimmed, toned and trendy?

A friend of mine grew a beard. Nothing wrong with that particularly. I just thought he’d moved to shaving apathy, especially as it didn’t stop growing. At one point Santa would have been pleased to have had his bushy face hair. People in the street complimented him on it. He could have been out with a cute puppy instead of a beard, the behaviour and comments were the same.

“Oooh, that’s a gorgeous,” said one man . “Does it take much looking after?”

It may look a mess but takes a lot of work

“Can I stroke it?” asked a woman at the bar.

My friend fields all these questions with the good grace of a bloke not used to being spoken to in public. Occasionally he puts bells or lights in it, especially during the festive season, when he could be placed in the corner as some sort of novelty Christmas toy.

What did surprise me when we went away together was that what I had thought was comfortable apathy, was actually a tough regimen of care. Beard wax, beard oil, beard brush. Before emerging to face the public, that beard had had more loving attention than I had over the last twenty years at home. I was wrong. This was a man a beard grooming masterclass.

So what about me? As I’ve mentioned before, my Turkish barber has branched out into sorting my eyebrows, nasal and ear hair. My dentist is insisting on replacing old silver fillings with white ones (in case someone stares in my open mouth at some point). Bit by bit I’m being pulled into male grooming without even noticing.

I still ask for a haircut that is zero maintenance, and decline all hair products as a matter of course. That used to be because I was always about to play sport and have a shower, now it’s just an aversion reflex before I hit Costa for a cake.

Exclusive male grooming research reveals shocking truths…

I decided to do some research. Admittedly this was using my limited selection of friends, but it threw up some interesting results.

Most were supportive of their men taking more care of themselves, but straying too far from the core areas (nails, hair) suggested a wandering eye and lustful mind. Moisturiser was ranked as a key red flag, due to its connections with a desire to look younger (and hence attractive to younger models). Hair dyeing was for divorcees or soon to be divorcees only. Gym work was fine, as long as it still left a suitably tubby outline and you did it when the pensioners were in.

Not the grooming look you're after
Not the look you want

Anything suggested by a man’s other half was fine. Anything suggested by anyone not their other half – big red flag. One friend described how he bought himself a new floral shirt on the recommendation of a female friend. Each time he wore it he was virtually accused of sleeping with the woman. Suffice to say it doesn’t get many outings.

Midlife male grooming is a minefield. Too little and you end up like Campo from Last of the Summer Wine with people offering you their seat on the train. Too much and you terrify young girls with your bizarre teen-dad look, whilst making your wife think you’re playing away with the woman next door.

Seems like the Turkish barbers might have it right after all. Excess hair trimmed all round. Job done.

Secretly daydreaming in meetings part of evolutionary make-up

Humans have always had meetings. Often dull meetings, but meetings nonetheless. Since cavemen sat around fires discussing wall paintings, people have loved to gather, talk and daydream. In large corporations it is part of the culture. More than that, it’s part of our evolutionary instinct, like over-eating and binge drinking.

We’re told that humans need to conserve energy by minimising effort, a hangover from our calorie-scarce past. It is so much easier to have a meeting than to think of a new idea, write a document or make something useful. Think of the calories actually doing something might burn, and the fatigue that might set in! Today people gather in offices in the hope that one of the group will make the kill (or sensible decision), so all attendees can agree it was a good use of time without having to expend any effort.

Vital attendees at the meeting

Have a speaker who can lead the daydreamers and messagers to a decision in a dull meeting
Always good to have a Speaker

The key to any good meeting is to have at least one Speaker. Speakers claim to hate meetings as nothing gets decided and other people don’t participate. Speakers are vocal. They can deliver monologues that monopolise the time, getting their decisions agreed through apathy rather than excitement. In the end, it is the fact that Speakers exist that makes businesses move forward. Without them the group would have to expend too much energy, debate too long and conclude without direction. Brexit anyone?

Frequently I have sat in meetings with ten or more people squashed into a room. If the time was divided equally each attendee would get about six minutes air time in your average meeting hour. Only it didn’t work like that. A couple of Speakers would dominate the hour. So what was everyone else doing? Listening? Taking notes? It turns out none of these.

Before I was made redundant, I spoke to a few managers about what they did in a meeting.

“I daydream,” said one honest individual. “I spend my time thinking about my life outside work, sometimes straying on to some fantasy about someone else if the meeting is really dull. It’s surprising who becomes attractive at the end of a long day. As long as I nod occasionally or offer my agreement to a point, no one realises I’ve not been listening at all.”

Another was equally blunt. “Messaging. Sometimes messaging people in the room, sometimes not. Obviously if it was just a phone meeting I’d be on tetris or something, but in the room you have to look busy.”

The technology people bring to meetings is partly to blame. When I started out I used to create beautiful doodles that wouldn’t have looked out of place in the Tate Modern. Nowadays laptops and phones mean people can do those low brain-power tasks like typing emojis, without looking as if they’re completely disengaged.

Interestingly it’s in our genes to zone out…

Office bingo
Office bingo

However engaging the disengaged goes against all our genetic make up. Those ice-breakers, post-it sessions, votes which are all part of making people involved, only serve to make them desperate to sit by the window so they can watch the weather pass by. Why do you think buzz-word bingo was invented? Not to add billions to the value of the company that’s for sure.

In nature, hunting pack animals like ourselves often live in groups dominated by one or two individuals (the Speakers). We’re going against that instinct, but it requires energy and effort which many people don’t want to expend. Meetings serve to reinforce the importance and decision making power of the Speaker. They feel encouraged, empowered and energised to drive things forward.

So the question is, when you attend a meeting, what are you actually doing? Speaking? Or simply imagining yourself with a cold beer in a sunspot while someone else makes the decision for you. It’s not your fault though, it’s evolution. Ways to break that cycle require effort and energy. Cake anyone?

Eye Candy – An Opticians Life

He knew what he wanted to be when he grew up, but everyone persuaded him it wasn’t a good idea to be a hairdresser. A career as an optician looked appealing when viewed through the lens of an outdated physics lab. Undaunted this young hero broke onto the scene spectacularly, testing eyes right and left.



Unfortunately, no one warned him of how working with the old and infirm in Bridport, two children and a house held together by sellotape would take its toll over the years. Step by inglorious step he aged, until his summers became one long seat on the beach waiting for the next round of fish and chips to come his way.




The descent of a fine man was complete…