On Saturday, my friend L and I spent the day walking around the breathtakingly beautiful Ft. Tryon Park, which is right near The Cloisters, a branch of the MET museum that is built to resemble a convent and houses their medieval art collection.
Strolling with L — one of those forever friends who feels like a sister–was so peaceful. So, so, so peaceful, in a high-class psychiatric-institute sort of way, especially when we stopped yakking about our tedious worldly problems and just took in the surroundings.
I know. Most women make a crack about joining a convent at some point in their lives. I hate being so predictable.
But, um, is it too late for me to join a convent? It would offer the freedom from shopping and the outside world that I so enjoyed while at camp in Maine. Mirrors are probably not plentiful and so I could age without having to notice it constantly (plus, those habits offer exceptional coverage of bodily decline–better, even, than a maxi dress.) Money wouldn’t be necessary, so I could abandon my fruitless job search. And I assume dating would be forbidden, making that a no-brainer.
Plus, I have a great aunt who was a nun, so I should be a shoo-in.
I’m the perfect candidate for a nunnery, except for a few minor issues. There’s my agnosticism, which might not sit well with the sisters. It would be tricky to pull off my half of the parenting responsibilities, and most convents don’t serve Sauvignon Blanc with dinner (or even bad Chardonnay, I’m guessing.) And–shoot--I bet they don’t have wireless.
So, yeah, scratch that idea. Maybe instead I’ll buy a membership to The Cloisters, which will allow me to wander and contemplate at my leisure and get me a discount off medieval-style goodies at the gift shop.
If you’ve sensed that I’m feeling a little negative these days, you sensed correctly. I know that negativity doesn’t help one overcome adversity–and I’m not proud of my currently cranky attitude. But it feels good to be honest and I have faith that you can take it. Plus, it’s therapeutic for me to vent and this is all about me. Hopefully, getting it out will allow some positivity back in.
Here is why I’m fed up:
Let me expand on number two, which offers more opportunities for me to shoot the snark.
You might recall that my online-dating site subscription expired in late June. Well, apparently I get six additional months free as a reward for not having snagged “someone special” during the paid 6 months. So my membership extends through the end of December. Because that feels like more of a punishment than a perk, I recently clicked on “visibility settings” and made my profile invisible. Given my super-bad attitude, I think it’s for the best.
I’ve become like the characters on Seinfeld, who dismissed members of the opposite sex for being low-talkers or close-talkers, for having a big nose, an annoying laugh, “man-hands,” or any other human flaw imaginable.
I haven’t even had the chance to be hyper-critical of anyone in person, because I’ve been ruling out guys after an email or two. I’ve avoided getting back to some of them to stop myself from responding with:
See what I mean? I wouldn’t want to date me at the moment, so I’m going to give the male population a break until I can be a nicer, more accepting person.
(Did I just hear you snicker “good luck with that?”)
So now I’m really gettin’ bloggy wit’ it, referencing studies and trying to seem cool and opinionated and stuff. Today, a press release landed right smack in my in-box and I couldn’t resist. Did you know that middle-aged-and-older men who don’t ditch their wives for younger women are actually exhibiting suicidal behavior?
A study released last month found that men who marry women between 15 and 17 years younger than they are lower their chances of dying early by a whopping 20 percent. Men decrease the risk of premature death by 11 percent if their wives are seven to nine years younger. The certifiably insane guys who opt for older women have an 11 percent higher chance of dying earlier.
Assuming that “early” in this case doesn’t mean in the morning as opposed to in the afternoon, this information really puts my mind at rest. My own separation did not involve cradle robbery, so I have no personal axe to grind. But just this past weekend I was at a Big Chill-esque dinner party. A group of us who went to college together gathered to reconnect with one another–and also to bolster the spirits of a friend whose husband recently left her for a significantly younger woman after three decades and several children.
No one said it out loud, but I suspect many of us were thinking that this woman’s husband was just one more dumb-ass middle-age cliche.
How wrong we were! I mean, this new research proves that the guy went the younger-babe route purely for health reasons, just as one might suddenly start taking fish oil or a multi-vitamin. Instead of dissing him and jumping to conclusions, we should be grateful that he didn’t have a death wish.
(The research only applied to men in Denmark, but I think it’s safe to extrapolate, don’t you?)
I will probably never marry again, if only to avoid the possibility of having to tell people the marriage has ended. What a fresh hell was that.
Obviously, R and I were the first people to learn about our separation, and it was hard on both of us to absorb this news (however, please note that I suffered more). There was also a small inner circle of friends and relatives who knew what was happening early on, before we came out to the rest of the world.
Yet, despite the fact that the divorce rate in our country is famously around 50 percent, the rest of the world seemed incredulous. Shock, tears, fury and fear poured out of my assorted friends and family, who generally fell into one of these camps:
Now I’m going to do what bloggers are supposed to do, and end with a question: Have you ever had a strong reaction to the split of a couple with whom you were close?
Well, I’m back from two weeks of communal summer-camp living in Maine. Yesterday I went grocery shopping, turned on the stove and vacuumed for the first time since mid-June. I also ate two spoonfuls of peanut butter right out of the jar–which is, sadly, what qualifies as reckless abandon for me these days.
So now it’s Monday morning after a long vacation and everywhere I turn, the message is writ large: Today is the first day of the rest of your life! Only, it’s the first day for at least the third time since R left (which I guess makes it the third day of the rest of my life? I don’t know how that works.)
The first first day of the rest of my life was the one after R moved out. I awoke with a weary, yet hopeful feeling. The months leading to his departure were polluted and painful, so there was a huge sense of relief just to be done with that phase. I could start over, make a new beginning and apply other sunny, optimistic cliches to my future!
The second first day was when I turned the big 4-5 last September. I threw myself a party for the first time ever, served pink prosecco and received a pile of encouraging “You go, girl!” type birthday cards. About a month after solidly hitting middle age, I joined a dating site–and if you’ve been reading, you know how that unfolded.
Now I’m back from Maine, where I overcame some major fears (driving alone, teaching, throwing myself out of a tree, to name a few) and stability of any kind seems more elusive than ever. Yeah, yeah, it’s great to have new and transformative experiences, but this constant making lemonade from lemons is getting old.
Here’s what’s at the top of my current to-do list:
I hate Mondays.
For the past 10 days, I’ve been sequestered at an artsy all-girls sleepaway camp in Maine, where I’m running the creative-writing program. My daughters are here with me, living as the other campers do, and I gotta say that the experience is making me seriously question the whole mom-dad-kids nuclear family construct.
Here, all of our meals are planned, cooked and served to us (which makes up for the fact that they are not especially tasty.) My daughters engage in wholesome, mostly technology-free activities run by delightful, nurturing counselors, who later make them brush their teeth and go to bed. Wait–it gets even better: I see the girls several times a day and we usually hug and kiss each other. I haven’t noticed them whining or bickering, nor have I had to shop for groceries. Sadly, our camp session ends in a few days, so we’ll be packing up and leaving–but I’m planning to get off at the first exit that leads to a decent commune. It does take a village, dammit!
Another notable aspect of life here is that, except for the cook, the maintenance guy and a handful of others, this is a completely man-less zone. I am trying so hard not to become one of those droopy, unlucky-in-love types who has concluded that all men are creeps and losers. And I am not a member of the gay-and-gray generation chronicled in the recent More magazine article entitled “Over 40 and Over Men.”
(Though if you could switch teams, why wouldn’t you? No, really: Why wouldn’t you?)
Still, it’s surprisingly relaxing to take a break from Y chromosomes. It’s not so much that men are flawed, but that women behave differently in their presence. For example, since I’ve become single again, my mind goes into immediate assessment mode when men my age are around (Is he married? If not, why not? Should I care–and if I should care, do I look OK?)
Obviously, living in an all-female society comes with its own set of pressures and dynamics (remember the hell that was junior high school?), and I suppose it would be a drag if we all renounced men and our species became extinct. But in my case, this simultaneous vacation from the co-ed universe and the drudgery of daily life has been rejuvenating. In fact, I’m psyched for the day when I get to join an assisted living community.