As kids we are always told to “dream big,” “go for it,” “you can do whatever you want!” Looking back I can’t help but wonder what that actually meant. Career? Travel? Personal Life? All of it? Did I need to pick one area to go for?
Growing up I recall hearing things such as, “when you have a family.” Or some form of that statement such as, “when you have a husband” or “when you have kids.” I never blinked twice when this was spouted to me; I skipped off to my room and it never occurred to me that my future would be anything different than what my mother said it would be. I would have a family, I would have children, I would have a husband. Mothers are always right, right?
Fast forward, thirty years, an education, many adventures, travel, two marriages and two divorces, countless apartments, and you have me. I am not even special in this respect; women and men everywhere are like me-single, childless, and over the age of 40.
Not through any fault of her own, my mother never said, “When you are older, single/ divorced, and with no children and turning 40 you can expect your life to be__________.” As a result, I was totally unprepared for this part of my life. How did I even get here? Where is the roadmap or manual?
I must have missed the Disney film or children’s book that was the story of a happy single woman who rode her own horse and didn’t wait for one with a man on it’s back to save her. I don’t blame my mother for this until my generation this was not a subject people spoke about and they didn’t need to. It either just didn’t happen and heaven forbid that it did, no one spoke about it. Single women, single people for that matter, over 35 were not a significant part of society.
When I was little the single older woman, remember when we thought 40 was ancient, was someone’s Aunt or a friend of the family. She was the woman that people whispered and spoke about at the holiday party with a slightly tilted. You know the head tilt when you say things like, “I don’t know why she is still single, she is so great!” She drove a great car (usually a two-door), had the cool wardrobe and high heels and every once in a while showed up with a very to a slightly handsome man who generally was never seen again. She drank a bit too much now and again and always cursed because she didn’t have children and never had to learn to stop saying those words. She was cool, but it never crossed my mind that I could be her.
As a child, I never even thought about the fact that this older woman maybe had wanted to attain the traditional life that surrounded her and it just hadn’t happened that way. I just assumed that she was living a life she picked and the life she wanted, even if other adults seemed uncomfortable with it. So, of course, I wasn’t going to have that life, I was going to have a husband and a family- the whole package.
You know that saying, “life is what happens while you are making plans.” Yep, that is what happened to me. I had made plans for my life without even a second thought that it might not be what happened.
So now what? I was divorced twice by the time I was thirty-five and I am here to say that at the stroke of midnight on July 28th of this year, when I turned 40, the world did not stop turning. When I woke up on July 29th I didn’t have a big flashing light on my chest signaling to all that I was now ’40 & SINGLE…. 40 & SINGLE.’ The locust didn’t fly and the sky didn’t turn black. Instead, I threw myself a party to ensure I would be surrounded by happiness and love- it was either that or throw myself from the roof of my house. That evening I was toasted by my friends and family and couldn’t wipe the smile off my face for days. Look, do I wish that I had a great guy that I loved to kiss me as I blew out my candles or take me on a birthday trip to some romantic destination, yes I do. But I figured out long ago I was much happier doing it alone than have it with the wrong guy.
Television, where all fact and reality come from, is not helping. TV features traditional families, mixed race families, families with two moms or two dads, but what programs features the single 40 something woman where the plot isn’t her trying to find a man?
Men have this role model, they always have. The single guy role model with a really cool job; James Bond, Knight Rider, Indiana Jones, Batman, and Tom Selleck (in almost every role he has) just to name a few. They were cool, with a revolving door of beautiful women, fast cars, drinking martinis and dancing the night away.
The single female character is always sitting at home with a bottle of wine crying in her pajamas while watching a cheesy romcom movie and wondering why the woman on screen who just met the love of her life in a coffee shop isn’t her. PUKE! The only single woman I can even think of was Marry Poppins and she would leave with the change of wind and couldn’t commit, though she did has the coolest handbag in movie history!
So what can be done about this? I don’t have any clue, but I know we have to start talking about it. Fuck, we can even celebrate it! GASP. We need to start writing our own fairytales and happy endings that are anything we want-single or not. I may still be looking for my Mr. Amazing, but I finally understand that if he never comes along, I can be my own Amazing… all by myself!