What is a midlife crisis anyway?
“A midlife crisis is defined as a period of emotional turmoil in middle age, around 40 to 60 years old, characterized by a strong desire for change. While navigating change is an inevitable part of the human experience, middle age can bring unique life transitions unlike earlier and later phases in life, including an increasing awareness of mortality. Criteria for midlife crises are not well-defined and may differ from person to person, but they’re often marked by strong feelings, unhealthy coping skills and behaviour changes.”Forbes Magazine
These are some symptoms that I have clearly manifested:
- Unhealthy spending patterns (check)
- Attention to mortality (death of mother)
- Search for meaning (material success doesn’t matter anymore)
- Dramatic changes in appearance (I’ll say!)
And then what? It seems that the stereotypical reaction for a man (and it does some that it is always about men) is to go out and buy a sports car. This as a symbol of youth, of virility. I still buy my bangers on e-Bay—bet you didn’t know that e-Bay is the world’s largest car dealership. I have gotten so used to buying cars on e-Bay that I once bought one before boarding a Shanghai to London flight while I was sitting in the lounge…and when I landed at Heathrow, I just took a taxi to my car, signed the papers, and drove off.
No. It wasn’t a car that I bought to deal with the crisis of midlife. I did buy a boat though. But this was really at my wife’s prodding–so it cannot be said to be “mine”. It was a lovely old wooden motorboat. Ironically, she never wanted to go out on it. Even more ironically, it was this boat that first provided me the space to dress comfortably—I wore a bikini when I took it out, feeling total privacy, and getting comfortable with my body—to the point where I could do the same on the beach. So, I got rid of the boat. And I would say that having a “bikini body” has been a motivation for fitness and now for the main objective of this post.
In other words, material things have not figured—my midlife “crisis” has not manifested itself in a typical way. Enter D/s. The most direct manifestation of my midlife crisis was most likely my desire to finally submit to a dominatrix. A woman. In truth, I had been seeking this state of submission with every woman I have ever dated, for my whole adolescent and adult life. And now, I couldn’t hold back those feelings anymore.
And it was coming from a different place than I believe most people seek out a professional dominatrix—to satisfy kinky urges. For me it was about love. I wanted to feel love within the context of D/s, but more importantly, I wanted her to love me back. This was not a desire to have a “relationship” as we know it, but rather to become a slave, and to be loved as a slave.
Gosh, what might that look like? Scaling El Capitan or Half Dome. A kind of sheer cliff wall of near impossibility. Not just any woman, but a professional dominatrix. Not just any professional dominatrix, but a glorious one, one at the absolute top of her game. An impossible task. But after all, that’s what love will make you do…or at least the pursuit of the possibility of love.
I know that some people might think “sex slave”, what fun! But that wasn’t it. Being in service, giving through acts of service, through care, is utterly and deeply fulfilling for me. Many professional dominatrixes find service submissives a pain in the ass. It is a lot of work for them to keep track of, check up on, easier to just do things yourself.
Both of these dimensions were near impossibilities, and so it is not surprising that I failed. But in my failure I also gained tremendously. Here is what happened:
- Experienced spiritual ecstasy through play and found new purpose in life
- Let go of shame regarding sexuality for the first time in my life
- Found the courage to express my gender the way I have felt it
- Stopped some personally ineffective traits
- Accepted a childhood diagnosis of ADD and finally began dealing with it
Better than therapy, right? Except I was seeing four therapists on the regular for the entire time I was in a D/s relationship. And my therapists were right in there with me, quite literally blow-by-blow, helping me to both process what was happening to me, but also to help me align my goal and intent with my behaviour.
What was my goal? Ego death. To learn to serve without expectation or hope of return, to serve out of love, devotion, and surrender. It didn’t work. There was a divergence of needs from the dynamic…and if one thing can be said about D/s, it is a flavour enhancer…so if something isn’t going to work, it will definitely not work within a D/s relationship.
If we learn the most in life from our mistakes and losing in love is the greatest mistake of all, I stand surrounded by the collected detritus of my passing. Just as my D/s life came unstuck, my marriage has come crashing down around me. And I will say that I love with vulnerability, so it hurts every time. And I seem to be getting “better” at being vulnerable, so it hurts more each time.
‘Tis far better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.Alfred Lord Tennyson
And yet, all of these things are wide of the mark. They are simply means of scratching an itch, nothing more. There is something bigger at play. It has to do with who I am. How I am. This is not a question of “who am I ?” or “what am I?”. I do think of a midlife crisis carrying these two questions at their core, but not for me. All of this. Every last little bit of it boils down to settling into a different state of being. It is the “how” of my life. Submission is most definitely a part of it. But I don’t need a dominatrix to submit. I have started coming out to all of my friends about being submissive, to those I am close to. And I am finding that just as gracefully as it has come up, a number of them have accepted it into our friendships.
This began as cooking for people—going over to their homes and cooking for them. That might have started as a tete-a-tete but has now morphed into the occasional dinner party. They invite the guests and I get to cook and serve and clean up. It is a small act of service, and I know that quid pro quo is wrong, but I cannot help but feel gratitude to those people who are encouraging me on my journey. My submission has also come in other forms: secretarial services, trip planning, and more recently body work, as I train to become a practitioner. A friend does not expect from you, so they are all the more delighted to receive. And their delight magnifies just how fulfilling it is to give in the first place.
Ex-Mistress felt I struggled to receive. She was right. But I don’t care anymore. My purpose in life is not to receive, but to give. A friend gave me her favourite coffee cup not so long ago. She felt that I understood it, and that I would be a good owner for it. It had a slogan on it.
“Friends are the family we choose.” And in that sense, who better than friends to give to? A kind of celebration of our bond. Am I kinking up life? I don’t think so. The people I cook for are people I love…and this is one way that I know best how to demonstrate it. To feed, to nourish, to delight.
This is all part of musing that I am not actually submissive. Nobody in my life would call me that. I am not a shrinking violet. If we are in a room together, even if I am quiet, you will know I’m there. But I am a slave. And this part of me is what brings me to serve. And the more do it, and the more people I am able to engage with in this way, the healthier it feels. It is freeing.
I had a lovely philosophical discussion with ex-Mistress about George Orwell’s famous dictum from 1984. “Freedom is slavery.” The idea that was only just forming at that time was this idea that is that the opposite holds: “Slavery is Freedom.” I felt this so deeply at lunch with a dominatrix recently. It was the first time we had met, and when the waiter came to take our orders she just ordered for me. It was a delicious moment—utterly liberating.
So, yes, there is a dominatrix in my life. One. But there are also others on the periphery that I am playing with, learning from. And this is bringing a kind of balance, an equilibrium that I was not able to find before.
There is something else. I will have a vagina. The tortuous process of meeting with gatekeepers has begun. Letters of support from psychotherapists have been obtained. Running out the clock on what is “enough time” living “out” and on hormones means that next summer, if all goes to plan, I will up-cycle my male bits into a vagina. This is not a case of “what” I am or “who” I am. I already know that I have always been a transgender person, a trans feminine person, a transgender woman born in a male body. Recognition and acceptance of that has taken so much weight and care from me.
You might ask, what is the “how” in a vagina? A shot in the dark. I have not surveyed men and women on how their genitals infect their “voice”, their worldview. But I can surely imagine that they do. Having a vagina is different than having a penis. In every way. It represents a state of mind. It is a way of thinking differently to those with penises. And for me, this has become inextricably linked with my how.
Dysphoria takes many forms, and other than faith in God, I have yet to encounter a force that runs so deeply that it is beyond compulsion, beyond desire, beyond feeling, it just is. And what that means for me is that there is no way for me to find comfort in this body, in this world, in my life, without changing this fundamental aspect of my biology. I have never accepted this appendage of mine—it is an “inconvenience” that has also given me many privileges. I have profited from those mightily…and yes, I have not “suffered” through womanhood—I am a Jane-come-lately to the party…but knowing that it will be, knowing that liberation lies ahead for me, is so deeply empowering, liberating, and calming at the same time.
And what does a vagina represent to me?
A whole new life. Who wouldn’t want to be able to experience life twice? It will be as if I have had two lives. I do not wish to, nor can I, erase the past…and it does enrich the future. It is not a do-over. It is a whole new experience. New friends, new purpose, new vigour, new joy.
I feel like I get to have a totally new everything as a result…And yes, there are things. The mystery of a vagina. The vulnerability. I am ready. The Lioness awaits.
By the way, women are just as prone to a midlife crisis as men are. That said, the midlife crisis is not an official malaise. But just in case you find yourself in the middle of one, here is what to do:
- Talk to a therapist
- Talk to your friends
- Reconnect with nature
- Eat well and exercise
- Write down your thoughts, achievements, etc
- Take steps toward a new future
Sound familiar? It’s exactly what I’ve been doing, only not every person having a midlife crisis will end up changing sex…