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Andropause: A midlife dramedy

By RICARDO PAMINTUAN Published Feb 13, 2024 5:00 am

I was enjoying a nice lunch at Little Tokyo with my family one weekend when, in the middle of slurping my ramen, I reached for the hand fan in my man bag and began to rapidly cool myself. I had earlier finished a glass of water and a can of pineapple juice. My wife and kids gave me strangely amused looks, for they were not feeling warm at all.

As I sat there nursing my ramen and noticing it wasn’t the first time since the pandemic ended that I was feeling hot, thirsty, and cantankerous, I mused on the mysteries of life and remembered a topic I had only previously laughed about: andropause, or, as I affectionately call it, a midlife dramedy.

At 50-something, I find myself in the throes of andropause, a phase of life that’s like puberty’s rebellious older brother: less acne, more existential crises; less drinking, more prescription meds; less stamina, more spa time. Now, ladies, before you roll your eyes and dismiss this as another man’s attempt at sympathy, let me assure you, andropause is as real as mistaking the TV remote for your smartphone. I am not making this up as a masculine equivalent of menopause. Come to think of it, shouldn’t “men”-opause apply more aptly to, well, men? It’s a wild ride, and I’m here to share the chuckles and chortles from the frontlines of this hormonal hurricane.

First off, let’s address the elephant in the room: the infamous dad bod. Ah, the six-pack abs I only ever dreamed of and saw in other men (and women) have maintained their well-rounded character for the past three decades.

I’ve become intimately acquainted with the concept of gravity, with my body incredibly defying the laws of physics, where my belly expands with each meal even as my gums recede. It’s the yin and yang of middle age—I try to convince myself that I can still develop an Olympic swimmer’s physique, yet quickly give in to gustatory hankerings at mere visual and olfactory cues.

In the midst of andropause, there’s a peculiar joy in embracing the quirks and idiosyncrasies that come with age.

When I tried to work out at a gym, each session became a battleground of wills. The weights stared back at me, mocking my feeble attempts to bench press what I could have lifted effortlessly during the time when I was lighter than the weights. I’ve developed some interest in (senior or sciatica) yoga, not for any spiritual benefits, but as a strategic method to avoid throwing my back out when attempting to pick up my dog.

Dad bod inevitably leads to that subject most men dread: diet. Andropause brings about a peculiar kind of wistfulness where I find myself reminiscing about the “good old days” when I could down an entire pizza and a liter of Coke, or a Big Mac meal with fries, soda and milkshake, without giving a hoot or a second thought. Buffets were arenas for testing one’s mettle against a variety of treats: man vs. food, where man must always win. Now buffets are more feared than desired, especially for dinner.

Trying to balance on the yoga mat feels more like a tightrope act. Hoping for cheers, not face-plants!

Secondly, andropause has an insidious face that results in unaffected psychological turmoil. One minute, I’m being nostalgic about the golden age before computers, the internet, and mobile phones; the next, I’m debating the rationale behind Taylor Swift’s incalculable celebrity vis-à-vis her calculable (yet mind-boggling) wealth. On Monday, I rant and swear to the heavens in my self-expression of road rage but come Wednesday my sense of compassion even extends to the workplace stray cats facing deportation due to their unrestrained procreation.

Andropause even manages to make every minor inconvenience feel like a cosmic conspiracy. Forget about the midlife crisis sports car or big bike; I gave up on those long ago for safety reasons (translation: I’m scared of my wife).

Sometimes, the mere sight of discarded water bottles or food packaging at our village basketball court will make me see red and rouse my thirst for litterbug blood. During these manic episodes, I dare not buy food at a drive-thru lest the service crew makes the mistake of letting me repeat my order or worse, getting my order wrong.

Let’s not forget the sleepless nights. Gone are the days of tossing and turning because of youthful excitement or a thrilling new romance. Instead, it’s more of “I shouldn’t have ordered that after-dinner coffee” or “I ate too much,” or “this new show on Netflix is totally worth bingeing on,” or “my body’s sore from that one-hour walk.”

Nights without sleep: thoughts wander, dreams tease, and secrets unfold in the quiet chaos.

Getting an early sleep doesn’t always mean a successful eight-hour slumber, either. Waking up in the middle of the night is always necessary to take a leak or to get that much-needed glass of water (which only makes me want to pee again a couple of hours later). Of course, Gen Xers (or older) will probably see the silver lining behind this since it is reportedly good for the heart.

Now let’s talk about fashion. It’s a delicate dance between wanting to stay hip (and youthful) and desperately clutching onto the last shreds of dignity. In my head, I can still rock the latest trends displayed by skinny Korean actors, but in the mirror, all I can see is a formless mass clad in an outfit that rightfully belongs on a mannequin.

To add insult to injury, somewhere in the background, my wife and daughter will be snickering at my vain attempts at vanity. I mean, if I can’t bend over comfortably to tie my shoes or even to ride the car, should I really try to squeeze into a shirt or pair of pants that effectively cuts off my blood circulation?

Speaking of children, they become the unwitting recipients of our middle-aged wisdom. Picture this: Over a family meal, I’m imparting profound life lessons based on my experiences (for the nth time) while struggling to find my cellphone, which is just charging atop the nearby commode. It’s like Confucius meets Homer Simpson. The kids nod along, either out of respect or sheer amusement or to shut me up—it’s hard to tell.

Surely, middle-aged men can take on new hobbies, like old dogs learning new tricks. I’ve been teaching my left hand to write. Unfortunately, it’s just as stubborn as my right, and the results of my efforts have been discouraging at best. I tried to learn another language that would be beneficial for my work, but after three failed first-day attempts, I gave up on it altogether, convinced I could still speak other languages on my own if I really tried.

I used to believe I was a decent enough guitar player who could have had a successful musical career, but when I recently tried playing again, the singing beggar at the cemetery sounded much better.

In the midst of andropause, there’s a peculiar joy in embracing the quirks and idiosyncrasies that come with age. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’ll never fully understand the intricacies of the latest tech, or that younger generations can memorize all that abbreviated text language but not the 10 Commandments or the Bill of Rights, or that many emojis remain a mysterious, hieroglyphic language. Believe me, I try to keep up, and my kids are quite the teachers.

I could go on and on, sharing the misadventures of my close friends similarly coping with the comedic symphony of midlife mishaps.

It’s a time when life’s absurdities take center stage, and laughter becomes the elixir that helps us navigate the maze of gray hair, dad jokes, and questionable fashion choices. While I accept this is a part of the life cycle, I still try to adapt to the future. After all, becoming older doesn’t mean it’s okay to be left behind by the times.