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Archive for Monday, June 18, 2012

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River City Jules: The Male Midlife Crisis

June 18, 2012

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“Every man will go through a midlife crisis. They either bring home a new car or a new woman,” I clearly remember my grandmother, Mama, telling me throughout most of my adult life. “Boy, was I happy when your grandfather came home in a red sports car!”

I, too, breathed a sigh of relief when my husband pimped out his Grand Prix with racing stripes on the sides and hood for his 40th birthday.

It wasn’t until talking recently with my brothers and sister, though, that I realized the significance of our dad’s brief fling with his beloved Mazda RX-7.

If Mama’s theory was correct, Dad hit his midlife crisis at 35. With two daughters in grade school and twin sons at home, I imagine Dad, a former prom king, was beginning to feel the taunting sting of time’s rapid passing.

Somewhere between attending parent-teacher conferences and mowing the lawn, Dad’s inner rock star burst free of its suburban shackles and led him to the nearest Mazda dealer, where he bought a shiny blue sports car with two bucket seats and zero room for children.

Mom approved whole-heartedly. After all, her own mother’s famous words had confirmed that this was the best-case scenario as Dad crossed the natural bridge from “Night Fever” to “Turn that racket down and get off my lawn!”

And as a side benefit, on special occasions during which she would heat up TV dinners and call a babysitter just before instructing us to go straight to bed after “Fantasy Island,” Mom could ditch the white station wagon and, simultaneously, her four (beautiful) children for a night.

But the RX-7 had some drawbacks. For one, my former college football-playing father, at 6-foot-2 and 240 pounds, had to neatly and carefully origami-fold himself to fit in the driver’s seat.

And, while bringing out the wild and crazy side of his youth gone by was certainly fun, he racked up three tickets within a two-week span, a problem he never experienced in the old Chevy.

And then there were those four (beautiful) kids. Dad tried to prove to Mom once during a bout with buyer’s remorse that the car was family friendly by cramming all of us in for a drive around the block. I sat in the front seat, Kari laid down in the hatch, and Philip and Michael sat on the 2-inch plastic strip across the center of the car Dad had convinced them was the back seat.

“Where are the seat belts?” they asked.

“Stop asking questions,” Dad replied as he started the engine.

In the end, the RX-7 was replaced by a ‘65 Oldsmobile Mom affectionately named “The Armpit” after its interior aroma.

But not even a two-year sentence with the armpit could crush Dad’s “steeze” (that’s style and ease, for you squares). And to this day he remains, to me, the coolest dad a girl could ever hope for.

(For my dad, and for all dads for whom one day is not enough to celebrate.)

— Julie Dunlap can be reached at go@ljworld.com.

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