Things don't always go as we plan.
I learned this adage early, at about age 13, when my parents divorced and my world fell apart. Their divorce, and the ensuing chaos, significantly impacted my ability trust in marriage and family. I swore I'd never marry. I swore I'd never have children. I imagined instead a life of international travel and humanitarian work, somewhere in sub-Saharan Africa. Instead I got married on a cold January day in 1991.
Because we were in our 30s, my husband and I decided to start trying to have a family right away. He wanted a large family, and although I hadn't previously allowed myself to dream, I too began to yearn for a baby, or two.
Several of my friends were also trying to get pregnant. It was fun. We drank coffee together and chatted endlessly about our future babies -- they'd play together, they'd attend school together, they'd grow up together.
A Gallup Health and Well-Being Index revealed that women approaching midlife had the highest levels of stress among all age groups and genders. What's worse, according to the study, they were far more stressed out than previous generations of women, and there didn't seem to be any relief in sight.
Today's women are raising children, working, caring for aging parents, and tending to their partners (or trying to), while doing their best to remain fresh and youthful. And as a result, they often feel too stretched, too overwhelmed, too exhausted, too unappreciated, and way too weary.
A 2014 study on women and middle age found that most women began to feel invisible and dismissed in society by the time they were 50. Among the thousands of women surveyed:
When asked what contributed to their lack of self-confidence, most of the women cited things like graying hair, having to wear reading glasses, and a lack of appropriate fashion opportunities.
What a stark reality for middle-aged women! Are you wondering why these women didn't just simply dye their hair, get contacts, and go on a little shopping spree?
I've been feeling rather lost lately. I made a decision about a year ago to take a risk and pursue a passion and a life dream, and now I'm not so sure I made the right choice. Let me explain. When my son left for college two years ago I entered an existential crisis and found myself suddenly living in a vacuum, a very quiet vacuum.
And in the midst of all that silence I began to question the meaning of life, and more specifically, the meaning of my life. I questioned whether I was making a real contribution to this world, and I questioned my purpose, and whether this was all there was to life. I felt compartmentalized, somewhat irrelevant and increasingly invisible.
Last week I shared my six pet peeves about middle-aged men's online dating profiles, and I promised everyone that this week I'd focus on middle-aged women's online dating profiles. Since I'm far more familiar with men's profiles, I recruited some of my single male friends (and the Twittersphere) to help me with this post. The following list is my best attempt at summarizing the results of my informal survey, with a few of my own observations based on a bit of research I conducted myself. Disclaimer: if you're a woman between the ages of 45 and 60, living in the Chicagoland area, and I popped up on your "Viewed Me" list, I'm sorry, really. Anyway, here goes:
I have been a member of a popular online dating service for a little over a year now, and I have to say that, overall, I'm pleasantly surprised by the quality of men I've met online. While I haven't yet met "the one," I remain hopeful that eventually, I will.
Yet despite my generally positive experiences, I have come across a few (hundred) profiles that completely baffle me in a these-men-clearly-were-not-raised-with-sisters-and-can't-possibly-have-any-female-friends sort of way. Like the man who thought that selecting the username "Undertaker" was a good idea, or the guy who shot his photos in a room that clearly screamed "locked residential facility." Or, the childless man who expressed his deep desire to meet a woman with young children (preferably boys).
One of my all-time favorites though was the man who spent half his profile narrative writing about how he was still deeply in love with his ex-wife, but since she wouldn't take him back, he was forced to find love online (yay us!).
I have always worn masks. I didn't know I wore masks, but I did. I wore masks to protect myself, and to project images that I believed were more acceptable than the real me. I wore these masks so automatically, that I wasn't always aware of their existence.
Although I've willingly worn multiple masks throughout my life and have worked diligently to keep them all in place, at some point I began to question their necessity. This questioning peaked when I reached middle age and began to experience a growing sense of discontentment.
When I turned 50 I began to yearn for more honesty, more boldness, and more courage. I yearned to be more visible, more relevant, and more cohesive. I yearned to be more authentic and more transparent. I yearned to wear fewer masks. In fact, I yearned to wear no masks at all.
I love the holidays and I hate the holidays. The holidays fill me with hope, and they also fill me with despair. The holidays remind me that I am surrounded by loved ones, and they also remind me that I am far more alone in this world than I'd like to be.
The holidays are filled with family, friends, lots of pretty decorations, and baking -- lots and lots of baking. The holidays are also filled what what I like to call bullshit -- lots and lots of bullshit, at least for those of us who feel compelled to live up to some culturally (and religiously)-inspired standard of what American holidays are supposed to be about -- tables filled with happy people, feasts befitting the royal family, an abundance of presents under a $150 tree, and so on, and so on.
I had my son during Christmas break in my second year of graduate school. I decided to go back to school on the heels of a very painful divorce, which involved years of infertility, two failed In Vitro fertilizations and just as many miscarriages.
Starting graduate school represented a new direction in my life, one that did not involve any remnants of my old life. I was a bit of a hot mess during that first year of school, while at the same time enjoying my newfound freedom from a crumbling marriage that was unable to survive the rigors of daily hormone injections, weekly trips to the fertility specialist and heartache; so much heartache.
When I realized I was pregnant from a brief rebound relationship, I was stunned by the news, as well as the irony. I quickly cleaned up my act though and powered through the rest of my graduate studies, because I was certain that in no time at all, I'd be back on track.
A traditional family life was once again on the horizon (albeit with a different husband).
So I have a question for everyone who is middle-aged, single and dating. Just when was it that sexting after the first date became the new normal? At what point in our cultural evolution did it become normative practice to send a text the night after a first date, with the words "nipple" and "naked" in it? I'd really like to know the answer to this question. I am just burning with curiosity as to how this new dating ritual became mainstream so quickly.
I'd really like to know what middle-aged person was actually the first one to say "Hey, I think this is a really good idea. I mean, we've already shared a few glasses of wine and an appetizer, so why not indulge in some dirty sex talk with a naked photo chaser exchanged on our smart phones via an insecure wireless transport?"
And then once all these middle-aged men and women who are engaging in the practice of early-courtship-sexting answer me, I'd like to say this in response: "Stop it! Stop it right now! All of you! I mean it! Stop it!"
This is a blog for middle-aged women, like me, who want to live a life of increased authenticity, and greater well-being, with fewer façades, less role-playing and a lot more fun. I chose a photo with myself and my son because he is my heart.
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