I’m a 54-year-old woman, so I come with accessories.
I wear glasses and compression socks and I suspect that orthopedic shoes are not too far over my blurry horizon. I sleep with a night guard so I don’t grind my teeth, a CPAP mask so I actually breathe, and wrist braces so I don’t hyperflex my wrists during the night and inflame my tendons. I also require a pile of pillows of various shapes to be comfortable in bed as I’m not as limber as in days of yore.
My medicine cabinet is full to overflowing with both prescriptions and over the counter remedies. There are certain foods that I absolutely love but will no longer eat because I’m not willing to bear the consequences, but I keep cures for those consequences on hand in case I forget. And, oh yeah, I keep a variety of lists because I can’t always count on my memory.
It has been a life well lived, and I have no regrets. I’m about as healthy as the average American my age. You, too, will accumulate baggage as the years go by. Trust me. It’s all part of the process.
I often look over at my husband with a certain level of awe, because we hooked up later in life, and that isn’t for the faint of heart. I cannot believe he managed to look beyond this massive pile of accessories and was actually able to see me as the catch that he believes that I am. That is a unique gift indeed, and I treasure it. I will never take that for granted.
I can’t imagine how May/December romances actually work. At least when you are with someone of a similar age, the nightstands on both sides of the bed are equally overwhelmed with flotsam. We each have our accoutrements, so neither of us feels unduly burdened. The scale of life is relatively balanced, and that’s such a comfort. When you start off together in the land of accessories, you don’t have to anticipate quite as many future surprises, and on the rare occasion when a surprise comes along, it isn’t quite as big of a shock. What you see is what you get.
Those of you still in your prime won’t yet understand this, but there’s nothing quite as romantic as the sound of two CPAP masks clinking together when you kiss good night. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Have you ever noticed that everyone who is struck in the head on TV instantly gets knocked out, and then eventually recovers with no cognitive problems whatsoever? Just once, I’d like to see someone spin around and say, “Ow! What the hell?”
As a matter of fact, when’s the last time anyone ever said ow on TV? And most of the time no one dies from a head blow either, unless it’s a forensic show. (Kids, don’t try this at home.)
Another neat television trick is that you can almost always punch someone in the face and not sustain any hand injuries at all. That’s pretty convenient. It’s also not very realistic. (Not that I’ve tested the theory.)
On television, you can go through a whole host of action scenes and your hair will remain unfazed. I wish that were the case in real life. Most days, I can’t even wake up in the morning without a mirror shock experience.
And on TV, bathrooms only exist if you a) need a place to smoke a joint, b) are nervously preparing for your wedding night, or c) are part of a group of girls who are talking about boys.
On the small screen, too, CPR always works, unless, oddly enough, you’re in a hospital. Then you’re a goner. And bones are never broken in the process, which is vastly different from what occurs in real life. (And the success rate of CPR in real life is abysmal.)
I can’t say I know the success rate of love stories in the real world, but on TV, people seem to live happily ever after a ridiculous percentage of the time. We do love a happy ending.
And it seems as though everyone gets a second chance. And no one ever needs a third chance. If only we all really learned from our mistakes the first time around.
If some alien got all his intel about humanity by watching our television broadcasts, he’d have a very strange view of the planet. For example, he’d think that all men, without exception, are prone to making grand romantic gestures. Gimme a break. But, hey, three cheers to the ones who make the effort!
Sometimes nostalgia hits me like a freight train. I hadn’t thought of this place in decades, but suddenly today this little chestnut popped into my head: The Cinema and Brew in Apopka, Florida.
It was a dingy little place, tucked into the corner of a strip mall. Nothing to shout about, really. One screen. Chairs with ragged upholstery surrounding sticky tables. A counter where you could order pizza, beer, popcorn, candy, and soda.
Not the best neighborhood. Someone I distantly knew was stabbed on the sidewalk out front once. God, though, I loved that place.
The minute I turned 16 and could drive at night, I was there every single week. If I remember correctly, it only cost a dollar to get in. The manager would get really irritated with those of us who couldn’t afford to buy food. That was his only chance for profit. But since I was quiet and never caused trouble, I never got kicked out, as many of my male friends did.
The movies were often really bad. Cheech and Chong. The Porky’s franchise. Most of the time I didn’t even bother to see what was playing until I got there. Because the whole point was being there.
It was a place to run into friends. It was also the place to hope for romance. I got my first kiss there. I also got my first unwanted kiss there. He had pizza breath and really awful body odor, and he took me by surprise. I made it quite clear that it would be a really bad idea to ever try that again. Hopefully he’s not aiming for a future in the Supreme Court.
It was also a place to go to get away from my dysfunctional home life and fantasize about being rescued. One time I was there by myself, and a really good looking guy came up to me and said, “Is this seat taken?” My heart was pounding. I said no. So he took it. Away. To another table.
Another time, a friend was supposed to meet me there, and she was running late. Finally I gave up on her entirely. So I’m sitting in the pitch black, watching the movie, and during a quiet scene, she screeches my name. It made everyone jump.
“Jeez. Over here,” I said. Everyone laughed. We all sort of felt like we were hanging out in a big living room in a low rent neighborhood.
I had forgotten how desperate I was back then. Desperate for love and friendship and acceptance. Desperate to get out of my circumstances. Desperately poor.
Still, a tiny part of me wishes I were going to the Cinema and Brew tonight, for old time’s sake. But like so many other things from my past, for better or for worse, it’s long gone.
A friend of mine turned me on to the book 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. Have I read it? No. I’m already overwhelmed without adding another book to my reading list. But the subject intrigues me quite a bit.
I have always noticed that people have very unique ways of expressing love and also of feeling loved. I think it’s important to know what signifies love to your partner, so you can express it in a way that means the most to him or her. It’s also interesting to examine what equals love to you, so that you can see when someone is expressing love to you in a way that you’re not noticing.
If your partner’s love language is touch, for example, and he touches you a lot, that’s his way of expressing love, even if your language is different. Learn to appreciate it. And touch him a lot. And tell him what means the most to you.
Here are the 5 types of love languages that Mr. Chapman has identified, in no particular order:
Acts of Service– This is the one I relate to the most. Having someone do something for me when they can see I’m overwhelmed is practically an aphrodisiac to me. Want to show me you love me? Do my laundry! My boyfriend recently went to my house and left some chicken in the fridge for me so that I wouldn’t have to make lunch for the next day, because he knew I’d be exhausted. That moved me to tears.
Quality Time– Pay attention. Listen. Focus. If you want someone to feel special, just be there.
Words of Affirmation– Some people feel most special when they hear “I love you” or “I’m proud of you.”
Physical Touch– We’re not just talking sex, here. This means hand holding, or even just resting your hand lightly on your partner’s arm.
Receiving Gifts– This isn’t about being a gold digger. This is about being really touched by the effort it takes to obtain or make the gift, and the thought you put into determining what that person would like.
This is a fascinating avenue of inquiry. If you want to know what your love language is, take the test here. You may learn quite a bit.
I don’t know if Mr. Chapman gets into this in his book, but there are also a lot of toxic “love” languages out there. Here are a few I’ve seen:
Feeding– When food equals love, it tends to bring on health issues. I’ve seen many mother’s do this. “Eat hardy!” “Did you get enough to eat?” “Let me make you your favorite cake.” It’s a form of love, I suppose, but it’s very destructive.
Jealousy– I’ll never understand people who actually enjoy it when their partner is jealous. “He must really love me if he gets that upset.” That’s not love. That’s a warped control dynamic.
Teasing– It may start off as cute and funny, but over time it can evolve into insults and cruelty. Again, not the best path to go down.
What makes you feel most loved? Let me know in the comments below!
So, tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. Hurray for love! I hope you appreciate it every day of the year. Love really is all that matters in this world, and the romantic kind is beyond compare.
Having said that, I hope you will be a bit sensitive to those of us who don’t have it in our lives. Some of us look to Valentine’s Day with a certain level of dread and resignation. It’s particularly painful for those of us who have lost loved ones. And it can be downright depressing for those of us who have given up all hope of finding someone to love. (I know you’ll be tempted to say, “You’ll find someone!” in the comments section. But the odds are equally good that I won’t. Please allow me to reside in the real world.)
For those of us in the lonely hearts’ club, your big bouquet of flowers, delivered to the office with a great deal of fanfare, is disheartening. Your chocolate makes us lose our appetite. We are happy for you, yes, but it would be nice to be able to be happy for ourselves.
And please understand that for the lovelorn, the day after Valentines is viewed simply as a great opportunity to buy chocolate on sale. We don’t rush to work in eager anticipation of hearing about your romantic dinner at the fancy restaurant, or your bed strewn with rose petals. We’re just happy to have survived the day once again.
So please, enjoy your flowers. But could you take them home now? Thanks.
Every once in a while, my mother used to talk in her sleep. It was usually something quite silly, and I’d have fun teasing her about it the next day. She would just roll her eyes at me.
But one night, when I was about 10 years old, she said, “Oh, George…”
She said it in a husky, passionate way. This was the first time I realized that my mother had a private life all her own. It kind of rattled me.
“Ma, who’s George?” I asked her over breakfast.
“George? I don’t know any George,” she said, looking confused.
I asked her what she had been dreaming about, but she said she couldn’t remember. (Come to think of it, what else could she have said to her 10 year old daughter at that moment?)
Some stories you never get to hear all the way to the end. This was one of those. It’s probably why it stayed with me, after all these years.
Now that I’m an adult, I hope and pray that there really was a George in my mother’s life. Born in 1927, my mother was a product of her era. I strongly suspect she didn’t “get around”, as the saying goes.
She was married twice. First, to my alcoholic and physically abusive father, and then to my step-father, who weighed 400 pounds, and was a perverted pedophile. If those were the only intimacies she experienced, I feel truly sorry for her.
My mother was a beautiful woman and an amazing human being. I hope at least once in her life she had an encounter with someone equally amazing who made her feel attractive and valued and appreciated. I hope that she had reason to have a secret smile on her face every now and then, to keep her spirit warm in the emotionally sterile world in which she lived most of the time. It makes me sad that I’ll never know for sure.
Recently I’ve felt a fundamental shift inside of me—a shift away from the desperate pursuit of love, with all its disappointments and body-blows to my self-esteem. No, I haven’t given up. I’ve just lost interest.
Or perhaps it’s better to say that my interests lie elsewhere. I want to focus on improvement projects for my new home. I want to take care of my neurotic dog, who seems to hate every human being on the planet except me. I want to read more, write more, sleep more, explore more. I don’t want to have to compromise or try so freakin’ hard. I feel absolutely no need to be anyone other than who I am.
No, I’m not choosing some austere life. I’m not punishing myself, and I don’t hate men. They don’t scare me. Nor am I sexually confused. There’s absolutely no reason to feel sorry for me.
I think the assumption that you aren’t a success unless you are part of a pair is antiquated and absurd. In this day and age, women can support themselves. We can live alone. We can choose not to have children. (Hallelujah to that.)
Being single is not some cross one has to bear. It’s not a sign of damage. It’s not a problem that needs solving. It’s just a state of being. One isn’t the loneliest number. It’s just another number.
But am I lonely? Sometimes. And I’m a very passionate person, so having those needs go unmet can be more than a little frustrating. (I’m not an animal, though. I need some sort of emotional connection to scratch that particular itch.) But for the most part, to be honest, I just can’t be bothered.
Will I feel this way tomorrow? Hard to say. But right here, right now, this is how I roll.
There’s a reason I have stayed off the internet dating websites for quite some time now. I kept meeting the worst of men; the very dregs of masculinity. In fact, I’ve met so many icky men in cyberspace that I began to look at all men as icky. I decided that if I wanted to continue to function effectively in this world, it would be best if I didn’t get in the habit of looking at 49 percent of the population as pond scum.
So now I have date night with my dog. He’s not the most brilliant conversationalist, but he’s yet to taint my view of the planet. And he doesn’t mind chick flicks.
So time goes on. I rarely even think of romance anymore. It’s quite liberating, actually. I’m getting a lot done. I have fewer dust bunnies.
Then the phone rang. It was a local number that seemed vaguely familiar, so I answered it.
“Hey Barb, It’s S, from the dating website?”
“S…? Oh! S. Hi?”
Why in the hell would this guy be calling me? We went out twice. We had a great time. We hit it off, actually. But in the end, he was so self-absorbed that he expected me to be there for his drama, but when my beloved dog Blue was dying a weeks-long, horrible death, he mysteriously disappeared. In fact, he stood me up on our last date because he forgot he was getting his chest hair waxed.
No sooner had I buried Blue, but S tried contacting me again. I told him that I had been through a month of hell, and sure could have used a friend, and he was nowhere to be found, so I didn’t see friendship, let alone romance, on our horizon.
And yet, a year later, here he was on my phone.
“Sorry I haven’t gotten back to you, Barb. I just was wondering if you got the test results.”
“Oh. Did I call the wrong Barbara? Oh! I remember you. You were, like, 70, and lived in Shoreline?”
“I used to live in Shoreline, yes, but I’m 52.” (Bitch!)
Why was I even talking to this guy? I bet he couldn’t even remember my hair color. But then, I slow down to look at traffic accidents, too.
“Oh, definitely the wrong Barbara, then. This Barbara is only a friend, and she got some medical tests done two weeks ago, and I was just wondering how they went. But, hey, I remember you were, like, a really, really good kisser, Barb.”
“Um, yeah. Well… take me off your contacts list, will you, S? We wouldn’t want this mistake to happen again.”
I remembered something last night that I hadn’t thought of in years. I went to travel agency school! I had recently gotten my Bachelor’s Degree in Spanish and Latin American Studies, and my Associates in Sociology, and it was becoming increasingly obvious, to my horror, that I was not going to be able to do a thing with either one of them.
So I got it into my head that one of those fly-by-night train-you-for-a-career-in-next-to-no-time schools was the answer to my problems. And hey, I absolutely LOVE to travel. I adore everything about it. And travel agents get cool perks like free trips to Madrid and things like that. Sounded good to me! Sign me up!
What those career schools don’t tell you is that their goal is not to get you a career. Their goal is to prey on your desire for a career in order to separate you from your money. Don’t believe me? Ask the admissions office for placement statistics for their graduates. I guarantee you, they won’t provide them.
Regardless. I attended that school faithfully, graduated with honors and then… never got a job in the travel industry. You see, by the time I showed up, that industry was already dying. Computers were starting to rear their ugly heads, and now everyone makes their own reservations. When’s the last time you even saw a travel agency? They’re as rare as hen’s teeth.
I did get an interview with Eastern Airlines. They even flew me first class to Miami. That was the first, and probably last time I’ll ever fly first class, unfortunately. But it’s a good thing I didn’t get the job, because Eastern Airlines went belly up about 6 months later.
I seem to do that a lot– Hop onto a trend when it’s already on its downhill slide. I got 8 tracks when everyone was already moving on to cassettes, and cassettes when everyone was getting CDs, and now I have all these CDs that I never listen to, taking up space in my closet. I also went to Dental Lab Technology School and got a third degree at a time when labs are starting to automate. I’m off trend in romance, too, falling for guys who are either not ready or no longer interested or were never interested in the first place. I’ve also made a lot of friends who turned out not to be friends. That hurts like hell.
False starts suck. While you are backtracking, you’re also experiencing a sort of mini mourning period. Then you have to gather your strength to start over. That isn’t so bad when you’re young and you think there will always be a new opportunity just waiting for you, but as you get older, you realize that isn’t always the case, and even if it is, you only have so much energy and time and money to start fresh. And you therefore start to get a little gun shy.
Learning when to go for it and when to listen to your voice of reason and give something a pass is a fine art that seems to elude me. I think moving from Florida to Seattle was my last big hurrah. But I don’t want to turn into one of those people who does less and less until one day I wake up on the couch with daytime television blaring in my ear, a room full of cats, and a serious lack of Vitamin D. That would be tragic.
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About two years ago, I was getting out of my car and heading to work when this guy walked past and remarked that I have the coolest job on earth. And I do. Bridgetending is unique and fun and (usually) stress-free. I can’t imagine doing anything else.
But, work, schmerk. This guy was good looking, age appropriate, and interested in me! I thought about him the rest of the day. I figured we’d cross paths again, and if we did, I’d come up with a way to give him my number. So I started looking for him.
I looked for him for months to no avail. I was kicking myself for not giving him contact info at that first encounter. I’m just not that quick on the uptake. Things have to percolate. You know?
Fast forward to the present. I’m getting out of my car again, and there he is. He said it was really good to see me again and that he’d seen me through the window a lot. Neither one of us had a pen, and my name isn’t easy to remember, and my boss was shouting out the window to me, so time was rather short. So I told him about my daily blog, saying I’d love his feedback on it. I repeated “The View from a Drawbridge” to him several times, and sent out a silent prayer that he won’t forget and will follow through.
Who knows. Maybe he’s reading this right now. If so, for the love of GOD, use my contact form on my blog’s front page to say hello!!!
Barring that, I’m thinking of making a sign with my blog’s name and putting it on the side of my car. What do you think, guys? Too stalker-ish? Too desperate?
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