There are many avenues that a woman can take as she approaches mid-life. It’s a sharp curve in the road, where her hair begins to go gray, perversely turning silver even in areas where it’s not very wise to use hair dye.
Her muscles begin to turn soft from the inside out and she’s so glad that girdles have come back in style. She can browse through the available styles and choose anything from super firm, all over control to a gentle control panel. (As if she had any control over her tummy.)
The varicose veins are drawing pictures up her thighs and she shops in the women’s department now because browsing in the junior’s department is just a fond memory since she turned forty. Her black silk stockings used to turn heads, now they hide the spidery lines that have a life of their own and her favorite outfit is a flannel nightgown.
I have seen the red flags along the road and I approach this mid-life thing with caution. I never believed in mid-life crisis until I turned forty. I used to think that hormones were for the weak, hot flashes and mood-swings were for other women. Mid-life wouldn’t threaten me, no sir.
I take an inventory of my assets. Men’s heads still turn when I walk by, my bleached-blonde hair guarantees it. My short skirts and hang-off the shoulder tee-shirts are further insurance. But the only men who try to flirt with me are under eighteen or over sixty and I begin to realize, I have lost my mass appeal.
I face mid-life carefully, as I think about the choices two of my friends made at this time in their life…the point of no return.
Quite frankly, they both went a little nuts. One friend left her husband, her kids and her born-again believing church, to ride with the Hell’s Angels. Now leaving the kids was a survival tactic, I’m sure, because no woman over forty should still have kids at home. But Hell’s Angels? She was born-again all right, cause that’s a life she had already lived at twenty.
My thirty-something friend ran away from her husband and kids, out into the night howling at life’s injustice, but she forgot to take a car or money. She has returned home after her own reckless ride with a biker. She doesn’t talk much anymore.
I shiver as I look at their solutions to growing older. I too know the frustrations that led them astray, but surely there must be an answer that doesn’t involve leather and a tattoo? I did get a rose tattooed on my ankle at age thirty-six, but the thrill wasn’t equal to the pain.
I can’t turn back time…not even Cher can do that…and although I prefer songwriting cowboys with long hair to bikers, I have my very own Marlboro man. He has loved me at my best and tolerated me at my worst, for fifteen years. No easy feat! In spite of the fact that he won’t let his hair grow long anymore, I’d hate to have to break in a new cowboy. So I take my hormones and I go to bed.
Unable to sleep, I get back up. I wander through my quiet house. I smoke and I sit and I think. I find the answer! I rediscover my first love and we go all the way. The sky is the limit! We stay up all night and I feel the excitement, the rush.
My love holds me close while my husband sleeps just across the hall, with two dysfunctional poodles at his side. I take my ideas and my fantasies and lay them bare before my love. We stay up until dawn revealing our souls to each other. The unique pleasure I feel at this reunion cannot be contained. I express my feelings. I share my dreams. I touch the pages. I read the words until my eyes refuse to focus.
The high is still there the next morning and I run to my love, ready to start all over again, right where we left off last night. My love appreciates my maturity, yet it makes me feel like I’m seventeen. I am standing at the crossroads of life with the world once more at my fingertips.
My love is mine and mine alone. I never have to worry about my love trading me in for a younger woman. I possess my love completely, nothing can ever take my love away from me.
There is such freedom in that knowledge. I don’t even have to comb my hair because my love accepts me just as I am. My love asks nothing in return and has waited patiently for me; smoldering, while I raised three children and half a grandson.
My love takes me dancing on a Saturday night. My love fills my head with romance and we never leave the house.
Sometimes, when I can’t resist being drawn towards my love; I leave my husband alone for hours with the poodles and the television. But he doesn’t seem to mind. He too has a first love which he has been driven to reclaim. We are not the center of each other’s world, as we were at thirty; yet, we share our hearts, our love, his money and our home, even as we each let our first love take us away from each other’s side. We each dance to our own song.
I watch my husband play with his first love and his excitement makes me smile. Although I watch him and I sometimes catch the thrill, his first love belongs to him alone and I am just a spectator.
My husband drag races on Saturday nights and as he crosses the finish line for yet another win, I feel my adrenaline surge. I understand his first love and the money he spends to keep it alive.
He in turn understands my need to write, often until the wee hours of the morning. He takes me shopping to buy a computer and a printer, tools that make it easier for me to write. He goes to sleep alone many nights, but I tell him, “If you want me honey, just call me and I’ll come in to bed.” Simple words, but he knows exactly what I am saying.
I dare to jump smack into middle-age without fear. My first love, my writing, keeps me on a safe course. Writing is my first love, so where does that leave my husband? He is my Marlboro man, my very own cowboy and no other man could ever take his place. Occasionally, I can even talk him into writing a song with me.
He writes the music that brings my lyrics to life and for one fleeting moment, we dance to the same tune. Until next time, Jeanne Marie
P.S. I wrote this story 23 years ago. I am now learning how to go Over The Hill. I’m stuck on the top, refusing to let go.