The Middle Aged Man and the Sea

The Old Man and the SeaThings happen down the shore. And the way it’s in my head today – as I flip through a book on basic seamanship – is that it’s sort of like having a midlife crisis. There’s a euphoric rejuvenation process, which leads to a dangerous thought process, and ultimately, to an unrealistic fantasy of your future.

Don’t feel bad, you are not the first to be beckoned by the sea sirens.

The immediate attraction of the shore is the delicious atmosphere. There is the salty air and the constant, perfect breeze. There is the unmatched feeling of swimming in the ocean under a brilliant blue sky and finding yourself tired after a day of activity rather than sitting in front of a computer. There is wearing a sweater out on a cool evening, eating fresh seafood, and an overall feeling of healthy living.

You start to feel like the least attractive person in an L.L Bean catalogue.

There are girls flitting about in the tiniest bikinis and everyone has a (momentarily) healthy tan. Then there’s looking in the mirror to see that your face has color, and you might be surprised because you haven’t just eaten Mexican or argued with your asshole neighbor. Your worry lines seem to be receding, your back doesn’t hurt as much, and you say things like ‘my legs haven’t looked this good in years.’ In short, you feel younger.

And lo, the fantasy has begun.

Your clothing choices become very beach like. You start wearing shorts and sandals everywhere, you allow yourself to be shirtless in public for the first time since your stomach stopped resembling Tom Cruise’s and started resembling Tom Arnold’s. You price a sarong in the shop and seriously consider buying it until your sister hints that you might resemble a sumo wrestler and then distracts you with a trip to the fudge shop. You add linen to your life and think that a Panama hat just makes sense.

Yes, this is essentially the beach equivalent of holding a toupee and thinking, ‘yes, yes, this will not look like a dead animal on my scalp.’

Your activity increases. You begin walking more and swimming more. You are weightless in the ocean and so you are tricked into feeling more in shape. You look up at the sky whilst back stroking in the ocean and do the math on selling your cat and stamp collection in order to buy a small tugboat.

That tugboat is your shiny red car.

Your personality changes too. You become more easygoing, you don’t mind having sand in between your toes; you accept that that’s just the way it is down the shore. You start saying things like ‘cool man,’ and ‘hey, chill,’ and you are not being ironic. You find that not being on the computer 12 hours a day agrees with you, and you leave your mobile in the room when you go swimming. You start to have internal conversations regarding ‘what life’s all about’ and making a ‘list of me priorities.’ And you start to think about leaving behind the hectic world you know for a slower, calmer, totally different way of life. You begin asking busboys about their income and look at beach houses with longing.

That beach house, my seafaring friends, is your 21-year-old blonde.

You begin to consider your future. What can you do down the shore? Why, you can teach down the shore. Of course! Why haven’t you thought of that before? There are surely people here who need advanced instruction in academic writing and English for academic purposes. You imagine your future as a tugboat captain/English teacher. You will live on the boat, catch your food every day, teach brown-skinned Mexican hostesses how to conjugate verbs and you will swim in the Atlantic and paint shark scenes.

And just when it might all happen, it’s time to go.

With each mile that passes between you and the shore, you eke back to reality. The computer misses you, there have been some good uploads on and you were really looking forward to hotdogs without sand and a day without shouting seagulls. You can’t help laughing at your silly, old self, and wondering how close you were to pulling the trigger on any of those fantastical decisions.

And you left just in time, since that captain’s hat and corncob pipe were starting to call to you.

Folks! Where and when do you have your biggest unrealistic fantasy?

  1. #1 by Amanda on August 19, 2013 - 4:29 am

    In my bed, every night I go to sleep.. 🙂 actually, every time I go on vacation, I daydream about making our new life there (Virgin Islands, Europe, the beach, etc). But I never consider it outside the realm of possibility. It could happen… At least, that’s what I tell myself at the time 🙂

  2. #2 by Lori on August 20, 2013 - 9:48 pm

    I live 5 minutes from the beach but don’t spend a lot of time there in the summer. I love it in the fall. I daydream through the minutia of my day and in all those unrealistic fantasies I’m put to the test and come out an admired hero. I’m sure that says a lot about my perception of myself (either way!). I am glad to note you wrote nothing about “socks with your sandals”. It’s the rage with middle aged male visitors to our coastal area. Luckily you seemed to have avoided that faux pas! =)

    • #3 by Damien Galeone on August 20, 2013 - 10:22 pm

      Ah yes, the admired hero fantasy. I have a bunch of those myself. I have saved Meg Ryan from Pygmy kidnappers more times than I’s like to admit. Oh, and I live in the Czech Republic, where socks and sandals are a daily fashion, so there’s a solid chance I just missed it.

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