Category Archives: Relationships

Fifty-something and fortunate

Found this fun essay on Salon.com about being single in one’s fifties (see link below). It’s true, I’ll admit it – when I think of all the activities and behaviors of courtship, I think they are more suited to those in their 20s and 30s. They just seem so undignified for one’s 50s.

As for the “William” in this article, I probably would have laughed, too. Poor guy šŸ˜‰

Oh, yay: Iā€™m single in my 50s – Salon.com.

Vignette from a stop light

SingleRiderI stop for a red light, and glance in the rear view mirror. A well-coiffed couple pulls up behind me in a Mercedes. He’s got the wheel in one hand, and his head in the other. She’s got a map in one hand and nothing in the other, but both hands jab the air as she talks animatedly at him. I can almost see a spray of spittle from where I sit. He rolls his eyes. She drops the map, turns on him, and talks more emphatically than before. He covers his eyes with his hand; I’m pretty sure they’re still rolling back there behind his palm. She starts making air quotes. Like, a LOT of air quotes.

I look at the wheel, here in my own hands, then turn my gaze toward the passenger side, where my purse, the groceries, a pair of binoculars, and a collection of cloth shopping bags litter the seat. The light turns green. I smile and drive on.

What, no “Aunties Day”?!? Hallmark! Por quoi?

Botanics BreakSomeday, I hope Hallmark or some entity of equal authority and importance declares an official Happy Aunties Day. Think of the revenue to be generated, the mushy commercials hawking tchotchkes, the poets plucked from the ranks of the unemployed, all penning tributes to the woman with all the disposable income. She’s been focused on spending it on the progeny of her siblings all these years. Why does no one pander to the PANKs, I wonder? Oh, that’s “Professional Aunt, No Kids” but I can’t take credit for it. I just can’t remember where I read it.

An aunt is not quite a mother, not quite a sister, not quite a friend. An aunt is an aunt. My definition of “aunt” is about refuge and breathing room.

  • If I see you maybe heading the wrong way, I won’t continually harass and try to bend you to my will. I’ll just make my point and then leave you alone. You’ll give my opinion more weight because it was delivered without the dynamics of control.
  • I won’t let you pay for anything; if you pick it up and admire it, I’m buying it for you.
  • When you come to visit me, I’ll do your laundry, twice – once when you arrive with it dirty in your suitcase, and once just before you leave, so you don’t have to do it when you get back to your crazy life.
  • I will let you sleep as much as you want. It’s your vacation.
  • I will cook! I will serve only high nutrition, low-fat food but you will not notice that it’s not junk because it’s delicious.
  • I will set a good example for you by running on the treadmill in your presence, expressing my hard-won, middle-of-the-road values through actions and by never putting up with a selfish man’s bullshit. Also, by demonstrating that life can be fabulous with or without marriage and children. Your life, your choice, nobody else’s.
  • I will hand you the car keys sans safety lecture; if the good Lord and the State of New York both saw fit to grant you a driver’s license, who am I to doubt your abilities behind the wheel?
  • I will encourage you to be better than everyone at what you do best.
  • I will make it clear to you what information I will and will not divulge to your father, BEFORE you tell me.
  • I won’t embarrass you on your Wall unless you flat out deserve it. And you know what you have to do to deserve it. So if you don’t want to be embarrassed, either block me or don’t behave that way in public! Your choice. I still love you. <3

There. Don’t aunts deserve their own official Hallmark occasion?

And don’t you wish I was YOUR aunt? šŸ™‚

The Kind Heart Will Triumph

The Kind Heart Will Triumph:
An Open Letter To A Young Girl I Know

It’s suckage when you believe that there is no one you can trust to truly have your back and never fuck with you. I think that’s what all of us want from our families, friends and lovers – the one person we can depend on not to INTENTIONALLY hurt us. I am emphasizing “intentionally” because sometimes, shit just happens. Perhaps the person does not have the necessary skills to put themselves in your place and feel what you feel. Perhaps it does not even occur to them to do so. Maybe they are not mature enough to have empathy and compassion, or maybe it was never taught to them. Maybe they are all tied up in the competition for status, for a position among the “cool” people. Maybe they are really desperate for it, they really, REALLY need it. Maybe it’s so important to their own feelings of self-worth, they cannot afford to worry about your feelings or anyone else’s. Maybe they are trying their best, but it’s YOU who isn’t being clear about what you want, what you will accept and what you will simply not tolerate insofar as their behavior toward you is concerned.

Or maybe – just maybe, they are incapable of empathy and compassion, regardless of their age or maturity level. Maybe some people really ARE just that shallow. Maybe some of them do not see anything beyond the clothes, the hair, the makeup, the number of friends they have, the things they own or the number of boys who are salivating after their insubstantial, plastic little selves. Maybe they are just mean girls; there are some kids who don’t want friends, they want worshippers. They don’t value love, they value notches on their belts (or worse, on their bedposts). They don’t hesitate to hurt someone if they stand to gain something from it – inflated sense of self-worth, status among peers, whatever else they might want in a moment of malice.

At your age, the power of that status-among-peers thing is not to be underestimated. It is so very craved, it turns even nice young people, people who were brought up to behave “better than that”, into glory junkies. It’s a rough time, the teen-into-mid-twenties years. Insecurity drives more friendships to ruin during this time than any other. It drives people to behave with unspeakable cruelty toward one another. It drives them to behave with unspeakable cruelty toward THEMSELVES. It drives kids to do things that are dangerous to their bodies as well as to their psyches, just so that others will stand in awe of them and think they are cool. It drives them to cut, to have sex before they are ready and it drives them to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol and do drugs. Worst of all, the craving for status among peers can drive kids to end up, at their own hands, dangling from the end of a rope or floating in a pool of their own blood.

I don’t know how any of us manage to escape the teen/young adult years with our lives. We’re all just so fucked up and so disoriented during this time, it’s a wonder we can see straight once it’s over. Certainly we all bear the scars when we emerge. We’ve learned some hard lessons about people. We’ve maybe learned to be a little more cautious about whose opinion we value, because placing a lot of stock in the wrong person’s esteem for you can turn you into someone you never had any intention of becoming, and it can make you feel like a worthless fool when they capriciously flat-leave your ass for some insignificant supposed infraction. Or maybe just because they ceased to think you were cool. They don’t really have to have a reason, do they? They just do what they want with your emotions.

[pullquote]We learn that what gives a person value is this and only this – your value is measured by how you behave toward others, particularly toward those who are less fortunate than you are.[/pullquote]

Hopefully, what we learn from all this is how to measure a person’s value, how to measure your OWN. We learn that what gives a person value is this and only this – your value is measured by how you behave toward others, particularly toward those who are less fortunate than you are. I don’t mean that just materially. I mean it emotionally too. If someone is more unhappy than you are, then they are less fortunate. When you throw that person some pixie dust, it will make their day and they will always remember you for that. They will remember that you were kind to them when they needed it the most.

Those who matter, the people who you really want on your side through thick and thin, will measure your value by HOW YOU MADE THEM FEEL. Not by what lip gloss or shoes you wore. Not by your cool phone or your car or your status as an brainiac, athlete, whatever. They will measure you by how you behaved toward them.

I’m not saying that you should eschew material things. If it makes you happy to wear cute clothes and have cool toys , then have at it. You know that I’ve never denied myself anything I really wanted. But you also know, if you’ve taken the trouble to observe, that I have a shitload of friends; people who come running to wish me a Happy Birthday, people who clamor to be the ones I come to see when I’m home on Long Island, people who sorrow with me, hold me up when I’m down, rejoice with me when I’m happy. I would one million times a million rather have them in my life than anything else. Yeah, I’d flush my smartphone for them. I would. And they know it. That’s why they’re my friends.

You will get past this time when transient, meaningless things seem to be defining you and your relationships. It will happen sooner than later, if you let it. It will, if you can muster the courage to start choosing friends from the people who maybe aren’t so “cool” by school standards but who are smart, funny, compassionate people. Kind people. People who have a heart, like you do. You will attract these people to yourself by your own behavior. If you aren’t ready to do this yet, it’s ok. It’s a lot to ask of a person in your position, and it takes practice.

Start small. I remember one time being in an amusement park with a little person, many years ago. We looked across the street and I observed that some little kid’s stuffed animal had fallen out of the stroller and was just lying there in the street. Well the little person I was with, she saw this and she rushed across the street, picked up the stuffed animal, and lovingly tucked it into the stroller to await the return of it’s young owner.

That single random act of kindness and compassion is what I remember most about who you REALLY are underneath all this horrible but apparently necessary teen angst you’ve got to go through. I have faith that sometime very soon, you will start to collect friends who will always love you, who will always have your back and never fuck with you. I have faith that your kind heart will rise up and beat back all this meaningless bullshit, and that you will grow into the kind of woman everyone wants for a friend – smart, funny, gracious toward others.

And with really cool toys, cause that’s just how we roll šŸ˜‰

She’s home


I had that dream I always dream sometime after someone I know dies – the dream that tells me they are moving on. Sometimes it is only a matter of a few weeks until they are ready to go. Others take months.

I dreamed of Lisa. I believe it’s been three and a half months. She’s ready now. In my dream, she was alive again, returned from the dead. Well, not really. Apparently, we’d all been mistaken and she’d never really been dead to begin with. I knew that this would happen again, but it’s alright because the possibility of coming back yet again is always there.

She was wearing a plain dress with a skirt that would be good for twirling around. I hugged her, hoping she could forgive me for some transgression, and I was sorry I could not go with her.

I think of her each time I go to the beach, as though all oceans are connected, as though somehow she will come floating in towards me on the next wave.

I realize now that I’d been looking forward to being able to be friends with her instead of colleagues. I feel disappointed for myself that she died before the layoff happened. I miss her šŸ™

Sent from my Nokia N97

Not enough rocks

09022010594-North-I275-Tampa-BayWritten on Thursday September 2nd 2010

Worst. Day. EVAH.

* Drove 2 hours to Tampa. The scenery is nice, so this is not terrible, once in a while. All the way up, I kept noting to myself that this was the last time that I’d pass this way on my way to the office. There will be plenty of times that I will pass at least some of that way to get to Orlando, but I’ll never go to the office again.

08222010448-Ziplocked-Career* Surrendered laptop and 19-year career, the latter of which fit neatly into a 2 quart Ziploc bag. No, I don’t still look like that. You know when that picture was taken? Back in the early 90s, I went through chemo and my hair all fell out. I flat out refused to have my photo taken for a badge because I knew I would not always be bald. So after about a year and a half, that’s how far my hair had grown out, and I consented to having the badge photo taken. I’m guessing this was early 1995!
09022010601-Guadalajara-Cantina* Went to lunch with friends at favorite local hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant
* Thought often of Lisa, whose memorial service was held today. Only I could not go, on account of having to surrender today.
* Left office and no sooner did I get on the highway then I noticed – too late – a bazillion Florida state troopers lying in wait. Speed trap!
Traffic violation
* Cop let me off with a minuscule fine compared to what he could have – I suppose because I’ve never in my 50 year life EVER been pulled over for a moving violation before. That was really nice of him. I burst into tears when he told me and confessed that I’d been laid off today. He could not have been nicer. I think I actually said to him, “I mean, could this day get any fucking worse?”. Um, yeah…
09022010604-Sunshine-Skyway* Got home, raised garage door, was prepared to drive car in, noticed the snake was back. Yes, AGAIN – the BIG-ASS snake, not one of those little pencil snakes. This is what I get for going organic – frogs fling themselves at my lighted windows each night, anoles squeeze under the screen doors and poop all over the lanai, and snakes decide to like my house best. He wasn’t moving out of the way, either. What to do – run him down with the RAV? I did that last time. I don’t want any more bad Karma. Played with lowering and raising garage door, and he got scared and slithered off into the bushes. I bet he’ll be back.
* Got online and found that a beloved member of my cyber-parrish has died after 10+ years being acutely ill. Christi is finally free of all this earth put her through. But I can’t believe we will never pray and banter and commune together ever again. Well we will, just not here.

“Sometimes, there just aren’t enough rocks.” šŸ™

I shall practice what I preach. I told a friend today that loss happens to make space for new stuff to move in. Lost my job, lost my manager and mentor and friend Lisa, lost my perfect driving record, lost Christi… that’s an awful lot to lose. Whatever it is that’s coming, it must be huge šŸ˜Æ

Oh and I forgot to buy milk. šŸ™„

When all is crumbling

New York State Route 231 by dougtone via Flickr
New York State Route 231 by dougtone via Flickr
Autumn, 1977

There’s a parade coming down the main drag that connects the hamlet where I live to the village by the bay. Down here in the village, the main drag has long since dwindled to one lane in each direction. This morning, it’s brisk with traffic, each vehicle racing to avoid getting caught behind the barricade that’s going up at any moment.

We need to be on the other side. My practiced eye looks briefly in either direction, assessing the traffic for relative distance and speed. This is going to be cake. Taking off at a sprint, I easily cover the two lanes well before the oncoming traffic arrives. I look around. I see my two friends still huddled where I’d left them on the curb at the other side, faces drawn taught with thinly-disguised anxiety. Finally, they feel it’s safe, and they hurry across.

[pullquote]If you aren’t bold, then you’re destined to stand a good, long time waiting to cross at that uncontrolled intersection. Waiting, wating… who has time for that?[/pullquote]

“OMG, I thought you’d be killed!” one of them exclaims.

“What?” comes my bewildered response. “There was plenty of time. Don’t you people know how to cross a street?”

I’d grown up in the city, where you take your crossing opportunities as they come, even on wide boulevards of four and six lanes of heavy, New York driver traffic. If you aren’t bold, then you’re destined to stand a good, long time waiting to cross at that uncontrolled intersection. Waiting, wating… who has time for that?

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

NYC Street by T. Ruette via Flickr
NYC Street by T. Ruette via Flickr

It’s a few years later, and I am on my way to see a friend perform in concert with his quartet. I am traveling from Long Island with the only other person I’m aware of who also has a ticket, but I don’t know him terribly well. He’s funny and nice company for the mass transit journey into the city. His eyes are fringed with those impossibly long guy-lashes that make every woman sigh and wonder, “Why can’t *I* have lashes like that?”

(A few years into the future, I would focus on those lashes while standing under the chupah, having random thoughts about anything and everything, just to keep myself from thinking about the reason we were standing there…)

Sweet by Maureen Lunn via Flickr
Sweet by Maureen Lunn via Flickr

He pulls the cord overhead to signal the driver. We de-bus near Lincoln Center and prepare to cross Broadway. My practiced eye looks briefly in either direction… my muscles are tensing in preparation for the sprint. Although we are not physically touching, I feel him hesitate beside me, drawn taught… Before he has a chance to balk, I grab his hand and give it an encouraging tug. We have ignition, we have liftoff, running hand in hand until we reach the opposite curb. His hand immediately releases mine, but for a while after, I can still feel the shape and the weight of it in mine. How odd…

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Otters holding hands by mindluge via Flickr
Otters holding hands by mindluge via Flickr

This had happened to me only one other time, the very first time I’d ever held hands with a boy. He was funny and his eyes were an impossible shade of blue; not even a color found in nature, I don’t think, and certainly not one I’d ever seen before or since. The first time our hands touched (accidentally-on-purpose), I’d gone directly for the interlaced fingers position, but he was having none of that and quickly shifted us instead to the palm-to-palm position. I was satisfied, pleased that he hadn’t rejected the idea of hand-holding altogether, but at random times for days after, I would suddenly experience the pleasantly terrifying sensation of his fingers filling the spaces between mine.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

A moment of many by sarahpetherbridge via Flickr
A moment of many by sarahpetherbridge via Flickr

I wanted to be pleasantly terrified. I wanted to be gifted with the experience of someone filling in all the places where I am blank. I’m not sure how, but somewhere along the way “pleasantly” and “terrified” became uncoupled; unchecked, terror fills the blank spaces with something that’s drawn taught, something that drives me to flinch from the sprint, to wait at the corner until the signal changes.

Oh, for my days of the practiced eye, the ability to assess, the exhilarated sprint, fully confident that I would reach the curb unscathed. Oh, for the days!

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Now playing – The Fray: Never Say Never

My “cougar” days, part one

IMG_0917What a ridiculous term by the way – “cougar”. šŸ™„ Where the hell did that come from? I’ve been googling around to find out how a woman who pursues relationships with younger men has come to be known as a “cougar”, but no one seems to know. I even looked up some facts about the actual feline known as “cougar”, also known as puma, panther, or mountain lion, depending on if you live in Texas, Florida or Wyoming. I found no evidence that the female cougar prefers younger male cougars for mates, but did find reference to adults being more or less solitary and meeting for one reason and one reason only – mating. Perhaps this is the basis for the terminology – hunting for a mate, then going home alone. I know, it’s a stretch, but aside from that I got nuttin’ !!!

A survey conducted by AARP asserts that 34% of women surveyed responded indicating that they were dating younger men, thereby fitting the definition of “cougar”. The survey is 6 years old at the time of this writing. Spurred on by high-profile romances such as that of Ashton Kutscher and Demi Moore, I imagine that statistic has only grown in the intervening years.

Guess what? There was a time when I fit the “cougar” definition, too. Yes, ladies and gentlemen – I was cougar before cougar was cool šŸ˜‰ I once calculated it and came up with a startling statistic – I am older than 80-something percent of all the guys I’ve ever been involved with. Age differences have ranged from 3 months all the way up to 8 years.

(As an aside, I also calculated that 80-something percent of all the guys I’ve ever dated and/or married were also Jewish. Yes, we detect a pattern here. No, I haven’t really tried to analyze it. I grew up in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood in Queens, so I’m not shocked that I’ve got an affinity for Jewish guys).

I began my auspicious career as a cougar circa 1975-76. Harry was in 9th grade and I was in 10th. He was exactly my height, sandy brown hair, blue eyes, with freckles. A class-clown type, Harry really knew how to make me laugh, and he was just adorable. Soon after we met, he got his braces removed, a fact which relieved him no end. I’d privately thought that they only added to his adorableness factor.

We were both in the high school chorus, and both had 5th period free, during which time we ran errands for the people working in the guidance office. One day, the student body decided to stage a “walk out” during 5th period over some (no doubt) burning, socially relevant issue, and Harry and I decided to walk up to McDonald’s instead of hanging out in the guidance office. I guess that was our first “date”.

Soon after that, he proposed to me amidst the melee that occurs periodically each day at every high school across America – otherwise known as the break between classes. We were passing on the staircase. I was trapped in the throngs heading up, while he was heading down. There’s no stopping when you’re in the crush of humanity on the staircase in an over-crowded New York City public school. He was looking for me; he saw me and thrust something rather sharp and pointy into my hand. As the crowd swept him away, he hollered over his shoulder, “Marry me!”. I opened my hand to find a copper-colored paper clip, bent pretzel-style into the likeness of a ring. Despite the fact that the ring eventually left a greenish tattoo on my finger, I was da shit for the duration of the school year. A boy, a CUTE, nice Jewish boy (all my friends were Jewish – I was the token shiksa) had proposed. With witnesses! It seems like half the school was on that staircase during the first (but not last) proposal of my life. This is how I came to be the sensation of the 10th grade that year.

I received my first-ever kiss – with tongue! – from Harry. I suspect it was his first as well. We were riding in the back of a car driven by the senior boyfriend of one of my pals, on our way to a party. The sun was shining on a fine spring day, and the Beatles crooned All My Lovin’ as we practiced our exploratory maneuvers, entirely neck-up, on each other. Thereafter, just walking down the halls or ambling hand-in-hand down the street, one or the other of us would spontaneously burst into All My Lovin’, while the other harmonized. To this day, when I hear that song all I can think of is Harry and soft, first kisses in the warm sunshine.

When my friends threw me a girls-only Sweet 16 party, Harry and some of the guys from our crowd crashed. The hostess was my friend Denise, God rest her soul. She was rather put out, but I was delighted. They came bearing gifts. One of the boys gave me Wings At The Speed Of Sound and another Endless Summer. Only, they were LPs! You actually needed a record player to play them! These remain staples of my music collection. Harry, however, chose to come bearing jewelry. He’d petitioned his grandmother for funding and presented me with a tiny, perfect sterling silver cross. This was a grand gesture coming from a nice Jewish boy and his bubbie! šŸ˜‰ I treasured it and wore it always, even after we moved away, which ended our relationship.

Fast-forward one year, which can seem like a thousand at that age. I was a junior at my new high school and a senior asked me to accompany him to his prom. The day after the prom, we went to see a show on Broadway in NYC, and who should we bump into outside the theater but Harry. It seems a senior had asked him to the prom too, at our old high school. We were ecstatic to see one another, but that made our dates antsy, so we had to be brief. A year had made a huge difference – I could tell he was now officially WAY taller than I was, and he was even cuter, if that was possible. His parents had relocated him, too – to California. We wrote to one another a few times, but as often happens with young love, one or the other of us stopped writing and that was the end of that.

I don’t know what became of the “engagement ring”. It probably disintegrated and went to paper clip heaven. But I do know what happened to the silver cross. Fast forward another year, to the magically golden summer of 1978. Our town sponsored an outdoor summer theater workshop, and during rehearsals for a dance number, the chain I wore the cross on somehow got caught on someone else. The chain snapped and it all went flying into the night. Several people helped me look for it. We found the chain, but the cross was lost forever. I probably would have been inconsolable, had it not been the magically golden summer of 1978 and That Boy.

Oh, and the show we were doing? Fiddler On The Roof – OY! šŸ˜‰

NEXT TIME: His name was Jeremy…

Further reading: Here’s the article that inspired me to explore my inner cougar šŸ˜‰

Click to read The Cougar: Progressive or Exploitative? on BlogHer