I'm reviving my Aging Naked blog after an almost-two year hiatus. Why did I stop? I'm not really sure...I moved and got really busy. Also, the election happened and suddenly the plight of middle-aged women, living an authentic life, the travails of online dating and my heartbreak over empty nesting, seemed a bit trivial. But lately, I've been feeling to urge to write again and to share my various epiphanies, even if some of them seem rather mundane compared to the fate of our dying democracy. I had to be reminded though of why I started this blog in the first place—why I felt it was important to bare my soul to strangers—my middle-aged, empty-nesting, very single soul.
So I reflected, and this is what I came up with:
When I hit middle-age and looked around me, and I sensed something was up. I'd been told for years that these would be the best years of my life, but I wasn't getting that feeling. I knew some middle-aged women who seemed to be doing okay, but most of the women I knew appeared to be going through the motions only, telling themselves they should be happier than they actually were. The truth was though, that they weren't, happy that is. But why? Many of these women, including myself, had relatively good lives, so what was all the angst about?
For me personally, I dreaded empty nesting and despite having a good career, and many interests and hobbies, I sensed my identity leave right along with my son. There was wide open space out there, and I could finally have a bit more freedom and flexibility in my life, more opportunities, perhaps even an overnight guest! But I didn’t feel happy about the increased space in my life. Actually, it terrified me.
I felt sadness, fear and a whole lot of emptiness. All that wide open space may as well have the Mohave Desert (or Death Valley), because it just made me feel insignificant, as if it was going to gobble me up at its first opportunity. And my response? To hide under a pile of blankets as often as life would allow. And, to start asking a lot of questions:
Did other midlife women feel as lost as I did?
I wondered if perhaps women between the ages of 45 and 65 (most sociologists' definition of middle-age, thank god) were caught in a sort of temporal shift that would take another few generations to work itself out.
Boomer women were raised in the feminist era. We had Helen Reddy melodically telling us that we could roar because we were women, and we had the Enjoli woman on television telling us that we really could have it all—a career, a happy marriage, crispy bacon, and really strong perfume. And yet, despite having a myriad of very ambitious plans for their futures, most of my friends quit their jobs when they got married, and settled into nice traditional lives, raising children, playing Bunco, and volunteering at their kids' schools.
And those who didn't, those who kept working, such as myself? Well, it's not like we got much of a break. We may have worked full time, but we still did all of the other stuff too—housework, cooking, schlepping the kids around, helping our husbands or partners (if we had one), often taking care of aging parents, and some of us with very little help.
Feminism promised us far more than it has (as of yet) delivered—in many respects, we're caught between two eras: the era of tradition and the era of gender equality. I'm not exactly sure where we are in the process of this evolution, but I'm certain we haven’t yet arrived (just ask Sheryl Sandberg, she'll back me up on this, I'm sure).
So what do we do in the meantime? The best we can; that’s all anyone (including ourselves) can expect from us. Sometimes that's a lot, and sometimes it's simply climbing out from under the blankets...
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I'm an educator, author, blogger, artist and mom. I came up with the idea of my Aging Naked blog when I hit 50 and my need to be more transparent and authentic overcame my fear of being more transparent and authentic. I'm on a journey, and love the idea of it being a collective one, so let me know if you're here, and feel free share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.
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