Charlie Sheen: Mid-Life Crisis Cautionary Tale for Men?

charlie sheencharlie sheenby Aaron Traister, REDBOOK

A lot of ink has been spilled on Charlie Sheen in the last few weeks, so consider this my obligatory blog post on the subject. Most of that ink has been dedicated to questioning his sobriety and sanity, and wondering if we should laugh at, cry for, or wag our finger at the man. Many have wondered if he's bi-polar, or suffering brain damage from a life of hard drug abuse, or whether he is just playing a game with the media. I'm not qualified to answer any of those questions, but I can acknowledge what I do recognize in the midst of this bizarre public spectacle:

Among many other things, the man is struggling through the mother of all mid-life crises.

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Let's just run down a mid-life crisis check list here:

1. Constant references to his age (incidentally, it's 45)? Check.
2. Raging at his father for continuing to treat him like a child? Check.
3. Lashing out at his boss for undervaluing his talent and importance? Check.
4. Questioning the quality and worth of the work he has been asked to do in recent years? Check.
5. Surrounding himself with younger women? Check and check.
6. Acting in a reckless and immature fashion (or I should say a MORE reckless and immature fashion)? Check.
7. Trying to embrace what have long been considered personal demons? Check.
8. Letting his ego take over and making self aggrandizing statements about himself including suggesting that he is some sort of Warlock or high priest? Ok, Maybe not.

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As someone who has been going through a mild midlife crisis since roughly age 26, I recognized signs immediately. I don't think there is a single guy out there over the age of 30 who can't identify with at least one or two of the aforementioned issues Sheen seems to be grappling with. (Hopefully, most of us will never have to deal with the warlock stuff -- that brings a whole different set of baggage into the mix.)

Sheen is sort of living the dream. There is part of me that would love to give everyone who doesn't acknowledge how awesome I am the metaphorical middle finger (especially while I'm cavorting with half naked porn starlets in a palatial mansion). I don't know many guys who don't feel the same way. And that, may help explain why Charlie Sheen has achieved a level of folk hero status with some men despite his ugly history of violence toward women and his increasingly obvious mental problems. So while it maybe fun for the average guy to imagine spending a week in Charlie Sheen's shoes, seemingly free of all adult and legal responsibilities, it is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore, or compartmentalize, those uglier and more upsetting sides to this story.

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His kids are dangling in a legal and familial limbo, his job is gone along with his show (costing real people their way-less-than-$2-million-an-episode incomes), and he looks like death slightly warmed over under a heating lamp at 7-11. Ultimately, the mansion, the hookers, and the blow will cost more in the future than the millions he has today. And that's if he even gets to see that future.

It hurts my soul just thinking about putting my kids through watching me slowly destroy and possibly kill myself.

There is so much I don't understand about Charlie Sheen, from his money to his life of pampered luxury to his appalling history of violence towards women (which as Jezebel founder Anna Holmes pointed out so eloquently in the The New York Times last week, should be more than enough to disqualify any of this as entertaining) to simply what's going on in his head, that all I am left with is his body of work.

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In Platoon, Sheen captured the angst and frustration of the Vietnam era. In Wall Street he personified the greed of the 80s. And in this age of Reality TV which is essentially what his 24 hour news cycle amounts to, he's coming undone in front of the whole world. I have a feeling that like Platoon and Wall Street, it will also be a cautionary tale.

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Need help decoding odd male behavior? Redbook columnist Aaron Traister, who lives in Philadelphia with his wife and two kids, is our resident male who is happy to answer any questions you might have about the mind of a man. Either leave your questions in the comments or email him at redbook@hearst.comwith Whys Guy in the subject. Letters, emails, and comments may be edited for clarity and length.

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