They started with sex toys. It seemed like the obvious solution. Julie thought her husband Richard’s first midlife crisis at fifty had been charming. It had only lasted two weeks and was resolved at his biannual eye exam when the optometrist had said, in more professional terms, Richard’s eyes were not gross and leaky like his older clients’. This reassurance of his vanity had been enough to hold him over for the next decade, but in the weeks following his sixtieth birthday, Richard had become desperate for some kind of change in his life. Julie’s sister had gifted him a pair of suspenders, and he was horrified that he actually really liked them. He also developed anxiety over his earlobes and if they were getting longer. Julie thought a second midlife crisis seemed a little inconvenient and excessive, but she was up to the task.
She filled her search history with ideas: BDSM for 50+, beginner sex swing, lingerie for MILFs. But the shipping was ludicrous, the outfits looked uncomfortable, and she didn’t want Richard on a ladder looking for joists to hang a swing anyway. She closed her laptop and returned to reading her third graders’ homework, at least what she could comprehend from their atrocious handwriting. She had asked them to write about their favorite holiday, and Sidney Whitmore was, as usual, the most enthusiastic. She was obsessed with St. Patrick’s Day—all the green, the four-leaf clovers, the funny way her dad acted after drinking a lot of apple juice—but especially with the silver dollars left behind by the leprechauns. Sidney’s mom even dressed up as a leprechaun for the family party they had every year, which Sidney thought was hilarious. Julie had seen Sidney’s mom on field trips. She was beautiful. Julie opened her laptop and searched sexy leprechaun lingerie, but the results were unwished-for.
“Why don’t you start golfing over at the country club? I always see old people there.” Julie was sitting at their kitchen table. It was a nice evening, so they kept the patio door open. Richard was right outside in his chair, sipping the disgusting vegetable smoothie he’d blended himself to lose ten pounds—a recipe he’d found online from someone who undoubtedly hated themself—but it wasn’t working fast enough, so he put it down at his feet and continued staring out at the fence they’d built to separate themselves from the neighbors.
“Seriously?” he asked.
“Well,” she said, “you can’t do mini golf. You’d look like a pervert.”
“Why? Because my hair is thinning?”
“Your hair is not thinning.” She paused. “Your earlobes are looking bigger though.”
The current crisis had been going on for a month. Julie read on the internet a man’s midlife crisis could last between three and ten years, and although Richard internalized most of his feelings, she didn’t have the patience. She decided they were going to find a solution by the end of the day.
Gregory Barber wrote about Hanukkah. His parents were divorced but always came to parent-teacher conferences together. Gregory looked forward to the donuts he got to eat for eight days straight. His mother would make them from scratch and his father would buy them at the store, but Gregory preferred the store-bought. He had even brought in a homemade batch for the entire class. Julie also preferred the store-bought.
“We could get a divorce,” Julie suggested. “We have no kids to disappoint.”
“As long as you take your parents.”
Julie’s parents were on the mantle, in their urns, surrounded by an infantry of Precious Moments figurines. Richard thought they looked tacky, but friends never accepted his offers to take them. He liked the figurines, though.
“What if I start hunting?” Richard asked.
“Like Bill. I could get a bird dog. He says it’s the best decision he ever made.”
“Go ahead. I’d get a lot more money from you getting shot than I would from a divorce.”
Danny Quinn wrote about Christmas, but instead of listing reasons why it was his favorite holiday, he inventoried every gift he’d gotten the previous year: an iPad, a rock tumbler, and lots of slime. Julie shook her head. Danny was always bringing his slime to school. Color-changing slime, edible slime, slime with little plastic dinosaurs. All of it had, at some point, been smeared into the classroom rug Julie had bought with her own money. She loved her students but only for six hours at a time. They often reminded her why she’d never wanted kids.
“Should we have a kid?” Julie asked.
“Yeah,” Richard laughed. “How about three?”
“Might be too late for that.” Julie had gone through menopause four years earlier at age fifty-two.
Richard and Julie had always known they’d never be parents. They could recognize they did not have the compassion to raise younger versions of themselves, and they were happy in their routines. Julie was good at her job and tutored math in the summers. Richard assistant managed the local hardware store. He knew how to answer customers’ questions, his hours were consistent, and his coworkers had learned to never make small talk with him. Having children would bring nothing but small talk with other parents.
Antonia Roberts wrote about Easter. Her family would go to church in the morning, which Antonia found to be very boring, but it also meant the end of Lent. Her family gave up television for the forty days every year, so hearing about the Resurrection for one hour was a small price to pay for a reunion with the Disney Channel.
“We could start going to church again,” Julie said. “Maybe God can help you more than I can.”
“How about I buy a motorcycle instead?” Richard asked.
“No way. Your earlobes might swing back and cause an accident.”
Julie grabbed her laptop again and searched how to solve a man’s midlife crisis. “This says we need couples counseling. Barb and Jerry did that, remember?”
“And look where they are now,” Richard said.
“New Jersey,” she realized. “Why don’t you start jogging? You could be running marathons by this time next year.”
He turned to look at his wife. “Why haven’t you had a crisis? What’s wrong with you?”
“Women don’t get a crisis. We suffer enough. Menopause was a gift.” Julie rested her chin in her hand and shrugged. “I’m just perfect.”
Richard rolled his eyes and turned back to the yard. He picked up his green slop and took a sip. Julie set the homework aside, grabbed an empty glass from the cabinet, then went out to the patio to sit next to her husband. She held out the glass to him and he poured her half the smoothie. She tasted it and gagged.
“You’re perfect too,” Julie said, “by association. I wouldn’t have married a loser.”
Richard leaned his head back and groaned. “I wasn’t a loser when you married me.”
“No, but you were kind of a douche.”
He smiled. And then they were silent until the obnoxious flock of Canadian geese flew over their house, right on schedule after the sun went down.
“Let’s get married again,” Richard said, almost whispering so the geese couldn’t eavesdrop.
Julie paused. “What?”
“A vow renewal, or whatever. You know, like those people do.”
“We don’t know anyone who’s done that.”
“Come on, hun. Give me something here. Prove to me you won’t marry a loser.”
“That’s desperate,” Julie said.
“Yes.” Richard sniffed his smoothie. “It is.”
A smaller flock of geese flew by. The stragglers.
“I’m serious, though,” Richard said. “Let’s do it. It’ll be thirty-four years.”
“Doing it for our thirty-fifth would make more sense.”
“No it wouldn’t. It’s just a number.”
“Says the man having a crisis because he turned sixty.” She drank the smoothie. “How much spinach did you put in this? Jesus Christ.”
“Like a few handfuls?” He sipped his and winced. “Marry me again, Jul.”
They talked about it, and the idea began to grow on them. Julie would get a new dress, Richard would go to the tailor and get fitted for a suit, and they’d both go to the jeweler in town and pick out new wedding bands. They’d ask their artsy neighbor to design invitations on the computer but hoped the neighbor wouldn’t expect to be invited. And then they sidetracked to make a list of everyone they wouldn’t invite.
“Barb and Jerry can’t come,” Julie said.
“If it’s not on their little Facebook they wouldn’t find out anyway.”
“True. What about Libby?”
“No way. If Libby comes then we’d have to invite my cousin.”
“He wouldn’t come if it’s not an open bar.”
“No one would come if it’s not an open bar.”
They realized they liked the idea of no one coming, so they decided there’d be no reception, only the ceremony.
“But what’s the point of the dress if no one’s going to see me in it?” Julie asked.
“I’ll see you in it.”
“I don’t care about you, though.”
“The priest will see you in it.”
“That’s weird. Just us and the priest?”
“You’re right,” Richard agreed. “No priest.”
And slowly their ideas fell apart. There was no point in dressing up if it was just going to be the two of them; they liked their current wedding bands and didn’t want to waste money on new ones; and they wouldn’t need invitations if no one was invited. They began to think a second wedding would be a little inconvenient and excessive.
“I kind of hated our wedding day anyway,” Julie said.
“All we did was walk around and say hello to people.”
“Waste of money.”
They sat for a while longer, trying to finish their smoothies but never seeming to get close to the bottom of their glasses. From over the fence, the neighbors’ kids could be heard stampeding out of the house and into the yard—to eat dirt or throw iPads at each other or whatever kids did unsupervised.
“I wish we could soundproof that fence,” Richard said.
“There’s probably some room in the wedding budget for that.”
Richard went to take another drink but stopped himself. “Two more years. Then I’m done. I’m retiring.”
Julie hadn’t dared bring up retirement during their conversation. It had been a sensitive topic for Richard ever since the first crisis when he noticed he couldn’t lift the heavier boxes at work anymore.
“Okay,” she said.
“And when you’re done teaching, we’ll move somewhere nice.”
“Where there’s no kids.”
“Just old people,” he said.
One of the girls from over the fence screamed. She was always screaming for nothing.
“So will you be done teaching soon?” Richard asked.
“When your crisis ends in three to ten years. I need work to escape you and your old man problems.” She got up from her chair to finish reading her kids’ homework. She thought the next day at school she’d ask them what they want to be when they grow up—as more inspiration for Richard. “At least until you find a hobby that’s not golf.” Julie leaned down and kissed him on the cheek. “Do you love me?”
“I do,” he said. “Do you love me?”
And then Richard grabbed her half of the smoothie and dumped it, along with his, into the bushes.