Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Monkey business

Do men have mid-life crises? You betcha.

I'd be hard pressed to think of a male among my acquaintances who didn't run off the rails, or almost run off the rails, in his late 40s, not excluding myself. Millions of words have been written about the male mid-life crisis. A crisis of failed expectations? Diminished sexual potency? Physical vanity -- flab, pot, baldness? Boredom? Regret for the road not taken? And the reaction? A younger girlfriend? An affair? A motorcycle? A fast car? Drink? Crotchetiness?

But it passes. The cloud lifts. Fifty to seventy are generally years of rising contentedness.

Nature or nurture?

Now Andrew Oswald, a British professor of economics, reports in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences a study of 508 great apes in zoos and research centers around the world. And guess what? They go through the same mid-life crises as humans, adjusted, of course, for their shorter life spans. Confined to their cages, they presumably have few ways to act out their disenchantment, other than sulking.