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I've discovered a certain kind of crisis comes about when it comes to buying a car at middle age. I remember thoroughly ridiculing my elders in the 1980s as balding, rotund men went about buying either 1960s era Mustangs they never owned or the modern Corvettes they shouldn't own. "Act your age and get a Buick!" I'd say. I swore to myself while listening to Jesus Jones' "Right Here, Right Now" that this would never, ever happen to me. I would be a very practical adult, so said I, with a primary focus on efficient transportation and minimal bling. Like my grandfather.

Ha! Boy was I wrong. About everything.

While Grandpa did own a 1963 Chevy C10 Pickup (with the 3 gear steering column controlled transmission) and a small, practical 1970s-era Datsun (which he referred to by a nasty insult for the Japanese he fought in the War), he also had his own way of being very impractical. For in his garage he had a large gas-guzzling V8 sedan from GM. A car for family road trips. A Sunday service car. A deacon's car. A union boss' car. For grandpa's generation, a huge Detroit luxury car was as much a vanity as my father's strange love of Burt Reynold's Firebird Trans-Am.

Car shopping is bringing about conflicting emotions and complex decision trees. My values are up against my passions. My pragmatism is up against memories of things left undone. Now that I've test driven a few vehicles, I know for certain that the auto manufacturers know this. They are after me. They are after all of us. They are going to win.

Follow me below the fold.

As I pondered, I thought of all the vehicles I loved in my youth and how cool it would be to drive them now. A 1993 Porsche 911 would be awesome, but do I really want to be that guy? No. A 1995 Chevy Impala SS would be straight gangsta! Especially with a hot set of rims. But at my age i'd be looking more like a corrupt cop than a baller. Think Denzel from Training Day. Nah. Not the move. Those cars would have been cool to drive when I didn't have the money to drive them. Now it won't be nearly as satisfying and potentially embarassing. There's no going back, only forward.

I really don't know what I want. I do know what I don't want. I don't want to drive a car that looks practical but I want it to be practical in every way. I don't want a nerd car. I also don't want some cheap look-alike of a expensive car of the sort that Hyundai puts out. Nor do I want anything that is too youthful and cheap, as if I'm either broke or a cheapskate. I don't want anything too expensive and ridiculous, as if I'm keeping up with the Jonses on credit (like a boomer) or some of kind of blingin like the 90s throwback. Nothing worse than a guy with a nice car and an empty gas tank. I don't want anything that has to be plugged into an electrical socket. I don't want an SUV of any size. I don't want a sports car that says I'm an old guy preying on young women. I don't want a pickup truck like I'm unstatisfied with the size of my dick. I don't want anything German again because I've been there and done that. How can I possibly be satisfied?

The Italian guy at the dealership was the exact same age as me, but not married. I could tell by the way he talked he had spent plenty of time around the brothers. Not in an attempting-to-be-black way that white folks sometimes do. But in the real way ... like he talks this way all the time. I'm pleased by this, which means he is a good salesman. He didn't ask about the ages of my kids or my wife. Instead, he insisted on dividing the conversation into two parts: 1. maximum price and minimum price and 2. salespitch. I liked this approach. We came to agreement quickly because I wanted to get this over with, expecting to be as unsatisfied eventually as I was at the BMW dealership and the Volkswagen dealership and the used car dealerships of my younger years. Cars don't grow on you unless you love them and all the cars I've owned have been jilted girlfriends. Yeah, I researched this car very carefully before I came here. I sat inside it at this year's auto show. He knows it too and knows that trying to shit me is just going to make me a hard ass. Just let me do my thing.

Lincoln said they were coming after me:

Lincoln, Ford's luxury brand, is taking a somewhat novel approach to marketing its newest vehicles: Targeting Gen X consumers. Drive On's Sharon Silke Carty reports:

Normally, automakers write off Gen X buyers, since their demographic is fairly small compared with other generations, and at ages 35 to 45, they are just beginning to hit their earnings potential. But Thomais Zaremba, communications manager for Lincoln Mercury, says Gen X buyers make sense for Lincoln because it's a niche brand.

Everything that happened at the Lincoln dealership Friday seemed to fit in with this ethos. If Lincoln was looking for middle aged Xers who will not pay an arm and a leg for a luxury car, but still want to look like a grown up, they found at least one. They made me feel like I had graduated. The car seemed to fit me. Now I was about to do something more than just the simple act of buying some wheels. Hell, I don't even need a car and they seemed to know that too. This is New York!

I'm not the kind of person who regularly makes shopping out to be more than what it is. I too have had my bouts of condesension towards consumerism and consumption. But think of it like this: Some people ... some designers, some engineers, some marketing people ... a whole bunch of people earned their living figuring out how to get me to that showroom and buy so that they can earn a decent living. Perhaps that is why my parents and grandparents weren't so cynical about buying stuff. These things ... these things ... they signify something about us. Perhaps we shouldn't be so dismissive of consumerism, but instead we should take it more seriously.

I never thought as much about buying a car as I have this weekend. I'm starting to think that is a good thing.

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