Finding Yourself in Your 40's
Finding Yourself in Your 40's.
I turn 46 this week, but that, really, has nothing to do with this blog. It's just another odd coincidence about my recent trip to New York City in which, in the course of five hours, I engaged in deep discussions with two strangers - both women - who were planning to leave their husbands, having found themselves in their forties and decided to lose whatever that was in their fifties.
"You're a magnet," said the 50-something woman who was waiting with me for dinner in our New York hotel. "You're attracting women like us for a reason." I figured maybe it had something to do with the fresh pack of Trident gum in my purse.
We'd been drowned like rats in a torrential downpour and all we wanted was hot bean soup and a warm bed. But, somehow, we ended up talking to each other. And though she was from Colorado and I from Vermont, we eventually learned that her older sister knew, possibly dated, my husband Charlie in Cleveland. Such is the nature of Cleveland.
She was in New York for a "Mama Gena" conference that I mistakenly associated with a Papa Gino, the pizzeria franchise, until she set me straight. No. Mama Gena was a women's empowerment moment and she was attending to hear Christiane Northrup, author of The Secret Pleasures of Menopause, a book she happened to be holding while waiting for her soup. Look, in a million years I would not go carrying around a book about the pleasure of menopause. Then again, I wasn't enthralled, as she clearly was.
She so reminded me of the other woman I'd met on the train down, a vibrant blond public servant who was headed to New York to visit friends and who was pretty sure she was going to leave her demanding, controlling husband ASAP. Having whipped herself into shape in the past couple of years, she was running marathons and exercising her newfound strength while her husband remained at home, griping. He was, in short, a drag.
"I'm sick of not being happy every day," she told me. "I want to come home and be greeted by a smile, instead of a complaint."
Ooookay. The thing is, I totally understood this. Recently, in my casual group of 50-something girlfriends, three have recently left their husbands for similar reasons. Two others found out their husbands were having affairs while another is getting remarried after her own husband met his soul mate on a hospital psych ward. Life is stranger than fiction.
It's as if once the kids are grown and out of the house, women feel like they can drop the facade of the concerned soccer mom, get on that motorcycle and let it all hang out. Some might claim this is the classic midlife crisis, but my friends would balk. According to them, they've tolerated men who were boring/verbally abusive/alcoholic and they got sick of it. Nor is it the upswing and down swing of emotions caused by menopause. Just because they're throwing off the covers at night does not mean they're nuts. In fact, if you talk to them, they're free at last.
The problem is they've left behind a few clueless men. Just the other day, while I was deep on deadline, my hair in a ponytail and sneakers on my feet, I was trying to avoid human contact at the local grocery store when the husband - or, rather, new ex husband - of one of my friends cornered me in frozen foods.
"You don't have to go the other way," he said, pain etched on his face. "I'm not pariah."
Of course he wasn't pariah. In fact, he was a very nice guy. The kind of guy who assumed that life after the kids left would be easy. Early, quiet dinners with low cholesterol food. Perhaps reading books by the fire afterward. A movie on Saturday nights followed by a stint of weekly sex. Dogs. Bird feeders. Lectures at the nature center detailing the nesting habits of Great Horned Owls. Discussions about the New York Times op-ed pieces. The occasional brunch and glorious Sunday nap.
But my friend, his ex wife, didn't want that. She wanted to dance and travel and feel crazy sexy again. Hence the disconnect.
So what's the answer? As the population ages and lifestyles improve, will women automatically seek their "second lives" after their childbearing years? Not me. I have to say, that the brunch and bird feeders and dogs hold great appeal. As do, I must admit, that glorious Sunday nap.
What say you?